Tags go by a lot of different names in the tech world. Trackers, beacons, and pixels all mean the same thing: a snippet of code added to a site to collect and send information.

    Easy to set up, they provide important information for the website owners and their third parties, enabling companies to give users the personalized experience that they have come to expect.

    However, the very thing that companies use to help grow their business could actually be chasing their customers away.

    Many organizations fail to understand the concept of “tag bloat” and how it could be hurting their business. Having too many tags can cost both users and money.

    Are your tags bringing down your potential sales? Here's what you need to know about tag bloat, how to do a website performance analysis and what to do if you find out you're bloated.

    How Bloated Are We?

    The modern internet is an age of unprecedented communication and data exchange. Tags rose to prominence in the 90s, along with the explosion of the internet. However, the landscape of tags and tag management has continued to evolve. Now that companies harness the information for web pages that convert, tags continue to improve by tracking with even better efficiency.

    The most common use of tags is for marketing purposes. Trackers are a critical part of finding, bringing in, and drawing back potential customers. Content management systems, customer relationship management platforms, and marketing automation tools all rely on data gleaned from tags.

    Pingdom recently surveyed 50 news sites to get a general sense of how businesses and website owners were using tags. They also wanted to show how this would impact their business.

    They found that the average site had 43 tags, and 42% had between 30 and 49. The most frequent type of trackers were analytics trackers like Google Analytics. They also found that of the 298 different kinds of tags they identified, 225 were for on-site advertising.

    When it comes to tags, there is no shortage of options and plenty of ways to improve advertising. However, could it be too much of a good thing?

    The Problem with Tags

    While tags can help grow your business, they could also hurt your website numbers if used too often. Here are some of the impacts tag bloat can have on your website or analytics:

    Increased Latency

    Pingdom found in their study above that when trackers were disabled, 76% of the websites surveyed took 3 seconds or less to load. However, that number jumped to over 9 seconds with the tags added.

    While it may seem harmless, the 6.77-second increase is significant. Users have come to expect that pages will load almost instantly and have limited patience for those that do not. About 47% of consumers expect a page to load in two seconds or less. Those that don’t live up to this expectation will quickly lose business: 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.

    That six-second increase could be costing each of those webpages the majority of the people who would come to their page.

    Even the behemoth Amazon feels financial pain every time they lose a fraction of a second. That’s why they decided to see the effect of a slow page over a decade ago. They found that even 100 milliseconds of latency cost 1% of sales.

    Ten years later, the gap between load time and sales loss has only increased. A 2017 study found that that same 100ms delay hurt conversion rates by 7%. Users' need for the fastest possible loading time only continues to grow each year.

    Speed counts for sales, and even a fraction of a second means a significant drop in customers. Businesses that weigh down their pages with tags will end up losing more conversions and potential customers.

    Inaccurate Analytics

    The more tags you have, the more confusing it can be to manage them all. When trying to keep track of 15, 20, and 40-plus tags, it's easy to miss broken, missing, and duplicate ones.

    These mistakes can cause inaccurate reports that give misleading numbers. Data is only as good as the insights that it imparts. Without accurate information, businesses won’t be able to lead and predict with confidence.

    Compromised Security

    Misplaced and faulty tags could also give organizations more information than they want or need. Proper analytics have safeguards in place to protect individual customer data. It avoids personal information that businesses don't want to collect, such as email address, SSN, or other sensitive data. However, misplaced tags could accidentally track this information, which would leave them open to liability.

    Faulty tags also leave businesses open to malicious data hacks, which continue to rise. Compromised data is a major expense for most companies. In fact, the average data breach costs $8.19 million in 2019. Mistakes in tag management could be costly if businesses are not careful about the information that they receive and store.

    Damaged SEO

    Search engines are the lifeblood of many companies. If potential customers cannot find your website in searches related to your business, your sales will likely take a hit. Too many tags could hurt rankings on Google and other search engines.

    Google has repeatedly warned, even back in 2010, that tracking speed will affect rankings. Users are also more likely to bounce back if they have to wait longer than 3 seconds, which further damages your page ranking on Google and other search engines.

    Although Google has never specifically mentioned tags as a factor in their algorithms, site speed definitely impacts SEO.

    How to Run A Performance Analyses to See if You’re Bloated

    An analysis is critical to make sure that tags are not hurting your web page. There are many free tools online that allow you to check on the performance of your webpage. They enable businesses to see the weaknesses in their pages that affect how easily customers can access their website.

    Many of these performance analyses pages will give a performance grade, load time, and suggestions on how owners can improve their website.

    Below, we compared various websites to give an idea of how websites stack up based on their trackers. We used Pingdom to analyze sites at multiple grades.

    New York Post Website Performance

    In the study from Pingdom, they identified New York Post as having one of the most tag-laden news sites online. As a result, their performance grading for their website was a D. Load time clocked in at 5.31 seconds, which is far over the three seconds when customers leave.

    News is a fast-paced industry, and marketers will often need to change the page to fit the latest information and improve readership. With 85 documented tags, though, it's likely to take developers a significant amount of time to make even the slightest change.

    The Guardian Website Performance

    In contrast to the New York Post, The Guardian utilizes far fewer tags. Consequently, their loading time has significant improvements. At 1.32 seconds, they are under the maximum of 2 seconds that users would like to wait. Not only are their users are far more likely to stay on the page and continue into their websites, but their expectations are exceeded. Exceeded expectations bode well for organizations that need to make a favorable impression on clients.

    USAA Website Performance

    In comparison to both news sites, the banking website USAA does not overload its web page with tags. As a result, their loading time is an impressive 759 milliseconds.

    To succeed in banking, organizations must earn their clients' trust. A page overloaded with tags and taking too much time to load will not leave potential customers happy with a bank. With more at stake to gain customer trust, USAA didn't weigh down their website with trackers. As a result, their page was graded extremely high.

    How Many Tags Are Too Many?

    There is no hard-and-fast rule to decide how many tags are too many. Although The Guardian had less slow down than New York Post, they were still far behind USAA because of the trackers that they did use.

    The best number of tags to as few as possible to get the information you need. Instead of comparing numbers of trackers against the competition, perform an analysis to see the speed of your page. The speed should be a gauge of whether your page is overloaded. Keep in mind that you lose sales sales for every 100 milliseconds in delay.

    The Solution to Tag Bloat

    If you find that tags are bogging down your website performance, there are various solutions that you could take. Some leaders decide to use tag management software or asynchronous loading to help speed up their sites and get more sales. Others may choose to integrate trackers with the help of a third party.

    But when every millisecond matters, these methods may still leave a lag that hurts business. Plus, they do not protect businesses from the vulnerabilities innate in the outsourcing of data to a third party. Considering the passage of GDPR and CCPA and the expense of data breaches, some companies can’t afford to take that kind of security risk.

    The solution, fortunately, isn’t to stop using analytics tools that can help you better serve customers. It’s to re-integrate tags from client-side to server-side with technology that reduces page latency and operates in a private cloud to avoid data loss or breach. Server-side tags don’t bog down your website—and data within your control is subject to your rules, meaning you can avoid duplicates and inaccuracies.

    User behavior tracking isn’t going anywhere. Those who can creatively tag events while keeping their website from tag bloat will likely lead the way in analytics, user experience, and revenue.

    Interested in how MetaRouter can speed up your website and keep you from our data breach? Send us a message. We’d love to chat!

    Kayly Lange

    Written by Kayly Lange