Why Didn’t You Check With Us First?
It’s usually obvious that your first step to analytics happiness would be talking to your analytics person, team, or agency, depending on your scale and situation. There is one exception I see a lot, though, when people are working with advertising agencies. And, it’s not an unreasonable one in the slightest. After all, if an ad agency is going to do your campaign reporting for you, why would you bug the analytics team to look at this first? We just need to add the tags the agency sends over, it will take us a few minutes.
Not quite. A lot can go wrong with this kind of ask.
What Goes Wrong
The agency running the campaign generally has no idea how your analytics are set up, and it’s almost never a matter of just sticking the tags in. It’s like telling a mechanic who hasn’t seen your car about the weird noise it makes and buying the part they recommend, then asking your regular mechanic to install it without telling them what is wrong with the car. Depending on the complexity of the part, the complexity of the situation, and blind luck, your car could be in the shop for a while, and you might end up with a surprising bill.
Similarly, your tracking might not be in place by the time you need it, or even be feasible from a technical standpoint.
There’s a whole team, if not a whole organization, of people asking for analytics help and functionality improvement. Anything you need just for your channel/campaign is hard to make time for against asks that improve capabilities across channels/campaigns. Giving the analytics team a chance to understand your goals and challenges with you means they can fit that into the rest of the organization’s needs and strategy, then build a solution in that framework. If the first time I hear about something is tagging instructions from an agency, it’s an abstract mystery competing for attention with more clearly motivated requests.
Less, or No, Consistency
Different agencies, different channels with the same agency, even different channels in your own organization, each supplying their own highly specific tagging requirements without asking analytics for guidance, makes a big mess. You end up with lots of duplication of effort and ongoing data inconsistency that makes comparison very difficult and report automation largely impossible.
But You Just Tell Us To Get the Tags From the Agency Anyway
I know, a lot of the time, when you ask us about this stuff, we ask you to have the agency send over tags. Sometimes, the chat we have with you gives us all we need to know: This is something simple, and we really can just drop in the tags. A lot of the time, based on what we learned from you about what you need to do, and what we know about tags for that channel, we know that we’ll be able to figure it out in a reasonable time frame. In some cases, literally the only part of the tags that we use as is are account or event ids, and we push the information in a totally different way.
The tag examples have value, but it’s the context you provide that makes this work.
If the analytics team knows what you want to achieve and how the agency wants to do it, we can usually figure out something that works. If we just have tagging instructions with nothing but “can you add this for the new campaign” as context, we’re going to ask why. It’s one of our more annoying habits, but we need to figure out if what we are being asked to do is going to do what you think it will, without doing anything you haven’t predicted.
Good Analytics Pros Ask Why a Lot
I’m not the originator of that idea, but I can’t for the life of me remember where I heard it. I’ll gladly update with a source if someone can help me remember in the comments.
It’s very true: we might ask you why several times, and again, we aren’t just being difficult. We need to see how this fits into the bigger organizational and analytics picture so that we can line it up with other priorities, or why it deserves special attention as its own priority.
Remember that it’s like talking to developers in IT, or any other skilled professional: they should not need to be told how to do things. You might tell a surgeon about allergies, your medical history, current condition: what and why type information that you know best. If you tell a surgeon how to do your appendectomy, you are being ridiculous. If you don’t trust the surgeon to know how to do it, you need to find a different surgeon, not hope you can walk them through it.
The same goes for your analytics team and tagging. We figure out how to tag all kinds of stuff, all day long, for our entire careers. The part we need help with is understanding what you are doing and why.
That understanding is a key requirement of helping you with reports and analyses that really unlock insight.