The Truth About Tag Management and Page Performance

Time and time again I’m confronted with two client questions:

While it’s easy to be sympathetic to a client’s concerns about site performance, it often feels like DTM has the potential to become a scapegoat for badly performing, poorly coded websites. This is unfair for a number of reasons, but mostly because clients are usually asking the wrong questions.

For an example, let’s take a quick look at a DTM demo page. This site has a pretty good mix of HTML/CSS, plenty of JavaScript, and lots of images. We tested the site and this is what we came up with:

As you can see, the JavaScript code accounts for about a third of the page requests. This includes both the DTM code and all other JS instances – basically anything interactive. The rest of it is mostly HTML/CSS and images. The tracking code itself is a very small part of the overall page performance in this instance.

Of course, it’s always good practice to make sure that your tracking code is optimized to the fullest, but it’s just as crucial to take a good, long look at all of the content on your site. HTML/CSS, images, and video – everything has an impact. Philip Allen at Search Discovery recently wrote a much more detailed analysis of this, which you can read here.

A lot of the sites I come across on a daily basis are still using at least some outdated code from many years ago. A solutions-based IT department can be very wary of overhauling the underlying code, especially for a site that’s not technically broken. It’s safer (and let’s face it: easier) to just pile on some new code, add a few modern touches, and call it a day. Your SEO guy and your CMS guy never even have to meet. Yet proof of the damage this can cause can easily be found using a mobile browser.

With about a third of website traffic now coming from mobile devices, the problem gets bigger and bigger every year. All of those difficult to dismiss pop-ups and broken videos do absolutely nothing to endear a potential customer to you or to your product.

The rise of responsive design has helped this a little, but only for companies that place load-time and important content above flashy design tricks. Using an HTML5 video player doesn’t help much if your customer still needs to sit through a 20 second load time with a 50mb connection.

Needless to say, the small bit of JavaScript necessary for a (powerful, infinitely useful) DTM deployment is not the problem, nor is it the solution. The old programming adage “garbage in, garbage out” will always apply.

So, what’s the solution? It’s both the simplest and hardest of things: cooperation. It’s absolutely imperative to make sure that each and every IT person is focused on speed, efficiency, and standards-compliant coding with an eye for seamless user experience on every device. Make sure any outside vendors are integrating with the code, not just piling on and leaving the cleanup to someone else.

In short, the answer isn’t always easy – page speed is affected by a number of factors. If you take all of the tracking code that you currently have on your site and simply cut and paste it into DTM (or any TMS for that matter), you’re not going to see any performance increase – that’s just not how it works. However, by making effective use of the native features of DTM alongside smart some coding choices, you can easily achieve the performance gains you’ve been looking for.