Are Tags Making Us Lazy Marketers?

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed that I have been railing a bit about excessive tagging on web sites. I wrote a post about tagging being out of control back in November – you can read that here. What I’ve been pondering this week as I am aggravated by the continued bloated tagging is – is this technology making marketers lazy?

Walk with me down this path for a minute…

I feel like the invention of marketing/advertising/targeting tags have been a true double-edged sword. On the one hand, when used respectfully, they can be a fantastic way to keep your message in front of a potential customer who has not quite made up his or her mind. That part is really cool. Utilizing technology to better server more relevant ads to people can only be a good thing, right? Well, like most technological advances, some entities have taken a cool and useful thing and duplicated it into oblivion, taking a once useful tool and turning it into a public nuisance. What is the result of this bludgeoning? Ad blockers are being adopted at light speed.

In my original piece, I talked about taking a hard look at what you really, really need to do with tagging. I stand by all of my original points. The excessive tagging is starting to feel to me like a non-strategy strategy – the old “throw the spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks” approach to marketing. I hate that approach to marketing. Client deserve so much better. By slapping what often seems like every available tag on a web site we are doing clients a tremendous disservice. First of all for the real impact these tags have on their web site’s performance and therefore the oh-so-delicate first impression with a potential customer. And secondly I’d venture to guess that many of these initiatives are not being tracked, managed or evaluated in any type of strategic manner.

I see how unmanaged some “managed” paid search accounts are, and those are often only running AdWords. I have absolutely no trouble imaging that sites running 50+ tags have no idea what most of those tags are even there for and if they are being successful at what their purpose is. But hey, I guess some marketers are comfortable with this approach? They must be because I am seeing it what feels like everywhere lately.

Reasons I Imagine This Happens

Scenario 1

Client: AdWords is getting so expensive, you need to find other places for us to show up online.

Response: Tag the ever-loving hell out of the client site and send them nifty reports showing their increased “reach”.

Why This Is Terrible: Clients need to have their message in front of people who are reasonably likely to either purchase or move on down into their funnel. Be deliberate.

Scenario 2

Client: We hear retargeting is where it’s at – we need to start doing that.

Response: Tag the ever-loving hell out of the client site and watch with glee as they start seeing their ads show up on and other “major” sites and think you’re awesome for it.

Why This Is Terrible: Retargeting can definitely be where it’s at, but like all marketing initiatives, it should be done with some type of plan and stated goals.

Scenario 3

Client: Company X (their hated rival) is using all of these super cool tags on their site. We can’t let them be doing stuff we’re not.

Response: Tag the ever-loving hell out of the client site and be silently grateful when they email you to say they now see their own ads on other web sites and not just Company X’s.

Why This Is Terrible: Just because a competitor is doing something does not (a) mean it is a good idea in general or (b) that it is a good idea for the client specifically. You have no idea of something a competitor is doing is ACTUALLY PROVIDING RESULTS FOR THEM, only that they are doing it.

Is This Lazy Marketing?

I am going to go out on a limb here and say largely, yes it is. I know I am not alone in my love of data when it comes to paid search professionals. I know many of you geek out as intensely as I do when there is finally enough data to start analyzing how a new initiative is performing. But, I am finding it really hard to believe that the speed with which these tags have gone from a few on most sites (I’d say generally more like 5 or fewer tags, plus an Analytics tag) as the norm to easily having 30, 40 or 50+ tags running on a single page has happened with the kind of consideration and strategic evaluation I like to do for a client before recommending and definitely before implementing new things.

To me it is like running a Google Display Network campaign with wildly broad targeting and never, ever looking at a placement report. On the surface the numbers might look impressive (for reach) but dig deeper and you might find that a substantial portion of it is complete junk. And that, my friends, is lazy. So is tagging without deliberate strategy or reasons for doing so.

Can we stop the madness and get back to working a system that, as unsexy as it can be, is designed to replicate the good and jettison the bad when it comes to available tools, outlets and formats for our clients?  And it does so methodically, based on statistically significant data? Pretty please can we?

In the meantime, I will continue to tweet to major offenders in the hope that if enough people bring it up, maybe it will revert to a more reasonable level.

What about you? Are you running a ton of tags for any of your clients? How is it actually performing for them? I’d love to know, because I obviously don’t do it. If I’m missing the boat, please do let me know. Sound off in the comments or hit me up on Twitter (@NeptuneMoon).

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