Zombie Tags – What’s Lurking on Your Site?

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

With Halloween right around the corner, there are all kinds of things out there meant to give you a little scare. Ghosts, witches, and goblins all ready to surprise you at any moment. But what if I told you the most terrifying thing could be something you aren’t even aware of? What if there is something lingering, waiting, possibly already causing havoc in your life?


Zombie gif

With the proliferation of all sorts of digital technology, there are thousands of widgets, plug-ins, data aggregators, analytics platforms, ad technology platforms, personalization engines, and A/B testing tools that you can add to your website. Throw in Tag Management Systems and it is easier than ever to get these up and running on your site.

While it is great to be able to try out all different types of technology, any time you are implementing new code on your site, there is potential for harm. This includes all of the tags being implemented for the shiny new marketing tool guaranteeing conversion rate bliss. 

Tags are the little snippets of JavaScript that need to be added to your site to power all the marketing and advertising platforms you use. Each has a specific purpose as understood by the marketing and ad operations functions.

But what happens when a trial with a new potential partner is over? Or when Suzie, who was heading the personalization initiative, moves on to another position? A lot of times, while the platforms are no longer in use by your team, the tags will get left behind on your site.

These tags that you are leaving behind can add up to have a large effect on both the performance and security of your website.

By their very nature, tags are being used to capture information about your users and then tell a 3rd party platform to perform some sort of action, be that aggregating the data or delivering something back to the site for the visitor to view. This creates a type of portal to your website and your site’s users. While the behavior of the Living Tags on your site (those of your partners and trusted vendors) is hopefully being actively monitored and any issues addressed, Zombie Tags are playing by a completely different set of rules. Visitor data could be leaked with 3rd parties profiting from your audience data, conflicting calls could affect site analytics, and all that activity is placing unnecessary load on visitor’s browsers.

From the site performance perspective, it can be even scarier. According to this Infographic from Kissmetrics, “A 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions”. Considering that even tags loading asynchronously on a page can increase page latency by a second or more, a handful of Zombie Tags on your site can end up eating your bottom line along with your brains.

While the undead tags potentially lurking on your site can be terrifying, all of the worry and potential harm can be avoided with a strong Tag Management Policy and active audits of your website. Proactively monitoring what tags are loading on your site, the data they are collecting, and how they are loading goes a long way. Being able to compare what’s actually happening to what should be happening as laid out in your Tag Policy is even better.

This ongoing checking can be done manually by the QA department or whoever is managing your tag deployment. There are also a number of scanning solutions on the market to give you insight as to what tags are loading on the site. Or, if you want to go even a step further, ongoing live tag monitoring is possible with our Tag Inspector Real-time capabilities. 

Just remember to shine some light on those dark corners of your website to see if any undead tags are lurking. *The Walking Dead Spoiler Alert* You don’t want to end up like Glenn this past week, potentially eaten by zombies before the Holiday Season.


Originally Published On October 27, 2015
July 20, 2017