Tips for Optimizing Third-Party Tags to Speed Up Your Website
While website performance is usually the purview of IT, marketing plays a major role in how fast a site loads. All the great online campaigns and social media plug-ins marketers put on their sites come at a price — each one contributes to slower site performance, largely due to tags. Tags are pieces of code put on your website every time you implement a new campaign (e.g., advertising, paid search, affiliate marketing, etc.). Tags help you track the performance of online campaigns, but they also cause latency on your site.
Overcoming latency isn't just about satisfying impatient shoppers. Research shows that a two second to three second delay in page speed can result in a substantial loss of sales. Slow-loading pages also impact your search engine optimization efforts, as Google now factors speed into its page rankings. The slower your site, the lower your natural search ranking.
Once a tag is put on your site, it’s often forgotten and ends up living there permanently. To combat this, some marketers take the drastic step of simply taking all tags off their site or significantly reducing them. According to a recent survey from TagMan, a provider of tag management systems, 35 percent of respondents said they take this approach. But when you take a tag off, you lose the ability to measure the value of your campaigns.
Too many tags aren't actually the problem. The real problem is that tags aren't handled, stored and loaded properly. Optimizing tags rather than removing them altogether is the best way to get faster loading times. This enables you to still capture all the useful data that tags provide.
Below are three tips for how you can optimize tags, leading to better site performance and a more streamlined experience for your visitors without losing sales or valuable data.
1. Give tag management a "Like." Working with web performance monitoring firm Catchpoint, TagMan recently ran some tests and discovered Facebook's like button adds an additional .2 seconds to page load times. This may not seem like a lot of time, but when it's added to the load times for other tags on a site, the results can actually be a few seconds.
We know from studies that a few extra seconds for your page to load can mean a loss in sales, not to mention the repeat business that just left your site. It’s no surprise then that analyst groups like Forrester Research are now recommending tag management systems as a way to mitigate page weight-related issues created by website tags.
2. Work from the top down. Don’t make your visitors wait by loading tags at the bottom first. Always start with tags that are above the fold so the portion of the page viewable to visitors loads more quickly. This is true not only for tags being loaded, but all the properties on your site — images, content and otherwise.
3. Relevance is key. When you load all the tags on a page — even those that are irrelevant to the visitor — you not only slow down the page but also ignore all the data you may already have on that visitor. For example, you don’t need to load an affiliate tag if a visitor came to your site from an email. Or if a visitor is searching for a low-margin product, you probably don’t need to load live chat. Aligning the tags you serve with visitor data improves results.
Tags will continue to play a critical role in the digital marketplace for the foreseeable future, and their numbers will only increase over time. The key is to optimize tags, not remove them, so your tracking data isn’t lost and your site pages don’t lag.
Paul Cook is founder and CEO of TagMan, a provider of tag management systems. Paul can be reached at email@example.com.