An online business attempting to scale faces seemingly endless challenges, not the least of which includes building, maintaining and growing its online marketing infrastructure.
Much like an untended garden, the complexity of a retailer’s online marketing technology can quickly become overgrown. Loading up on the coolest new stuff seems easy, but it’s much more challenging to figure out which technology is really driving ROI and which is worth eliminating.
It’s important to have a framework for deciding which vendors you really need, and to continually optimize the various marketing technologies that powers your site. Just doing a one-time marketing technology audit simply won’t cut it.
For a rapidly scaling online business, a proper framework for making decisions about what tech to incorporate into your site will provide the stability to keep it secure, user experience high, and conversions coming in. Hopefully this guide to nailing your online marketing infrastructure is a valuable first step.
A Structure for Managing Vendors
There are more than 3,500 marketing technology vendors out there. That’s a gigantic buffet of tech to satisfy any need you might have. However, there are negatives associated with the underlying code that powers this tech (frequently called tags or trackers); they can leave a site vulnerable to data leakage, cause site performance and security issues, and lead to excessive page load times – all of which are tied to lower conversions.
The goal should be to identify the three measures to determine whether a tag belongs on your site: intrusiveness, stability, and architecture.
Intrusiveness is the measure of how much risk a given tag exposes a website to and, in particular, how the tag collects information about users and how much data is collected. Additionally, it’s important to consider how problematic the tag is to deploy versus other tags, and how it interacts with existing and future technology.
A tag’s stability – understanding that there will always be exposure to new risks – refers to how consistently and reliably it achieves the desired results. This means the technology performs as advertised, without negatively impacting the site’s performance or speed.
A tag’s architecture refers to whether it can be added in a way that will balance the tag’s benefits and risks. Assuming a stable environment on the website and an acceptable level of intrusiveness, the architecture is simply whether the tag can be added as needed or demands special implementation, synchronicity, or page detail specifications. Basically, can you deploy the tag or are there hurdles?
Now that you have a working approval system for vetting vendors, the next challenge is to categorize them. While that may seem simple, it’s not.
The problem with attempting to systematically categorize these technologies is that often a single vendor will offer a number of services and products. For example, AppNexus has tags that facilitate data aggregation, data onboarding, analytics, ad optimization, mobile advertising, private ad exchanging, data supply, and display advertising.
Maintaining a complete understanding of the technologies on a growing website is critical to serving users, keeping the site secure and protecting the privacy of customers. In order to better categorize various vendors, we’ve created a repository of Vendor Technology Categories as well as a useful infographic that illustrates a simplified view of a wide range of tracking technologies that sit between the publisher and the advertiser.
These categories are important because, although you may have a relationship with a retargeter, the retargeter might have agreements with a data aggregator, an ad exchange, an attribution platform, a compliance technology, and a data mapping solution. Because of tag redirects, these technologies now sit on your website and access your audience data. Not knowing what these technologies do can be ruinous to your infrastructure and users.
Vigilance During Periods of Growth
The hardest, and at times most complex question to answer in this dynamic market is “how much of this stuff do I actually need?”
This doesn’t only mean the technical side of a tag, but also gaining insight into revenue models. “Free” sharing services provide a useful example. You need to familiarize yourself with the contract, know what data the vendor is collecting and who they are sharing it with. If a deal for a free piece of technology seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Scott Meyer is CEO and Founder of Ghostery.