5 Tagging Mistakes That Waste eCommerce Ad Spend (and How To Fix Them)

Tired of chasing down error with your marketing tags and pixels? Learn what to look out for and how to fix.

5 Tagging Mistakes That Waste eCommerce Ad Spend (and How To Fix Them)

Brad Redding

Brad Redding is the Founder & CEO of Elevar. Specializing in analytics, tracking, GTM, and conversion optimization.

When onboarding a new paid acquisition partner, one of the first steps they take is reviewing your conversion tracking for Facebook, AdWords, etc.

Then they get to work implementing and scaling your acquisition strategy.

The thinking is “conversion tracking is good to go, time to scale up your spend”.

Then over time what generally happens is one of two things:

  1. Minimal review of conversion tracking across all pixel events (e.g. add to cart, purchases). It’s assumed they all “work”.
  2. Daily quality control of pixel and conversion tracking looking for 100% accuracy and trying to answer the “why” when events don’t align between channels.

Both of these limit the overall effectiveness of your paid acquisition efforts through $$ or time wasted.

Conversion tracking and event tagging for your marketing tags is a delicate balance between marketing and technical teams.

And unfortunately things tend to just break – randomly!

After working with thousands of brands like Rothys, Vuori, Beard Club, and Foursigmatic we’ve learned what to monitor to keep campaigns running at peak capacity.

Below I showcase the top 5 tagging mistakes that we see leading to wasted ad spend for eCommerce marketers.

Plus you’ll learn tips on how to fix these mistakes and mitigate errors going unnoticed in the future.

Mistake # 1: Duplicate (or Lack Of) Conversion Tags

Duplicates can happen many different ways:

  1. Multiple apps sending conversions to the same place. An example is the native Shopify <> Google Shopping App & having conversion script in the thank you page settings.
  2. Hard coded tags + tags running in GTM.
  3. Conversions are sent on page reloads vs. only the first page. This results in inflated ROAS reporting across campaigns, especially for platforms that aren’t smart enough to de-dupe orders.

The opposite of duplicate tracking is NO conversion tracking which is easy to verify in each platform through purchase events.

Don’t drive yourself crazy matching up to GA transactions though – remember to verify each platform’s attribution setting (vs. GA last-click).

Here’s a guide on why GA and AdWords conversions don’t match up.

Mistake # 2: Mismatched Product Catalog IDs Between The Tag and Platform (ex. FB pixel vs catalog)

Every marketing channel that executes product remarketing ads requires the following:

  1. The tag to send a product ID
  2. The catalog uploaded to that marketing channel to have a product ID.

These need to be the same ID in order for the logic to work that displays the right product to the customer.

When these don’t match then customers won’t see the product you expect them to.

And trust me – this is easy to get wrong with the amount of unique IDs that Shopify has for a product:

SKU vs product ID vs variant ID vs shopify_US_111111_111111

Here’s a hypothetical example if I added headphones to my cart but saw the earbuds instead:

Remarketing Example

The Facebook pixel helper will show you if your catalog IDs don’t match.

Otherwise you can verify the catalog IDs inside of each platform. Then work back to your tag sending these events like product view and add to carts to ensure they are sending the right ID.

Mistake # 3: Lack of Custom Behavior Event Tracking

Chances are you have standard tracking set up across your site like pageviews, add to carts, and purchases.

However, if you are driving traffic to custom landing pages then these don’t tell the whole story.

Picture this scenario regarding 2 different users that “bounce” after viewing one page on your website:

  1. One user spends 3 minutes AND watches a video on this landing page
  2. The other user spends 10 seconds and exits.

Think user #1 is more valuable to remarket to?

Heck yeah!

Want to see this in action? Click on the Facebook Pixel helper Chrome Extension (if you have it installed). You’ll see the time on page events we have firing on this website.

Check out this quick guide on how to setup this exact Facebook time on page event tracking.

If you don’t have custom event tracking setup then you are losing out on the opportunity to use behavior to drive intent signals for your remarketing audiences.

Want this done for you? We offer this exact type of custom event tracking in many of our plans.

Mistake # 4: Undefined Variables In Your Tags

This is a problem that doesn’t typically surface as errors in platforms. It’s what we call a ghost error.

Your tags – like a purchase conversion – could be firing as expected. However the conversions might be missing data used in audience creation, reporting, etc

For example: let’s say you have an AdWords audience created for anyone who buys from a gender category of “Mens” and you’ve created lookalike audiences from this.

If this category no longer passes “Men” with the purchase conversion and is instead undefined, then this audience will slowly decline over time.

The worst part is you won’t receive an error from AdWords on this.

Auditing the unique property data sent from your tags to rules used in audience creation is a must.

Mistake # 5: Conversion Tag Firing on Non-Purchase Pages

This is especially costly if you are using automated bidding on platforms like AdWords which will cause conversions to skyrocket.

And if automated bidding is enabled optimizing for conversions, then Google may increase your spend like crazy!

We see this happen more on non-purchase events like product views or add to carts. However it has happened with purchases though.

This is a scenario when comparing purchases across platforms is helpful to look for major outliers.

Now that you’ve learned our top 5 mistakes, learn our tips on how to mitigate the impact these have on your campaigns.

How To Prevent Tagging Mistakes

Tip #1: Use Google Tag Manager for Managing Your Tags

GTM makes it easy for anyone – including non-technical users – to implement and manage all of your marketing tags in a single place.

It’s great for:

  1. Adding new tags
  2. Removing tags without the need for developers
  3. Controlling the sort order of these tags…so you have your most important scripts firing first and can move others later to help manage site speed

If you have a mix of tags in theme code, admin settings, and GTM then you are likely impacted by one of the mistakes above.

If anything GTM helps keep your marketing tags organized.

Tip # 2: Validate Purchase Conversions

Ask your marketing team to check all platforms and confirm that you do not have purchase conversion tags firing twice.

You can use the Facebook Pixel Helper and GA Tag Assistant Chrome Extensions to help with the validation of events that do indeed trigger.

Additionally, have them send you a list of all URL’s that the purchase conversions are triggering on. These can be found in most ad platforms like AdWords and Facebook.

The URLs should be your purchase thank you page only (in most cases).

You can also pull conversions in some platforms by total purchase value to look for outliers.

In this video I show how to QA your tags in GTM:

Tip # 3: Marketing Tag Cheatsheet / Playbook

Unsure of what events are firing on what channels?

It’s important to have a general playbook for your marketing tags.

It can be as simple as an excel document that lists all of your marketing tags by channel. Plus all of the events that need to execute on the site.

You can make a copy of ours here.

Then go through the process of auditing each channel tag and verifying:

  1. The tag fires on the right pages
  2. It has the right data included in it like revenue, SKU, etc.

You can use Chrome Extensions like Google Tag Assistant, Facebook Pixel Helper, Pinterest Tag Helper, Snapchat Pixel Helper, etc. to help validate this data by channel.

Tip # 4: Use Elevar’s GTM Event Builder to Help Build Custom Events

Elevar has a free Chrome Extension that allows you to point and click on your website to create custom tags and triggers for Google Tag Manager.

For example you can create events for

  • People watching a video
  • Downloading a PDF
  • Clicking on UGC
  • Comparing products
  • etc.

These tags and triggers are then automatically imported to GTM. You can then use as a trigger for a custom Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat, etc tag.

For AdWords users => Google Analytics makes it easy create audiences (e.g. people who watched a video) and sync this audience to AdWords in your property settings > audiences.

See how it works in action:

Tip # 5: Implement Tag Monitoring

If you follow tip # 1 of using Google Tag Manager for marketing tag management then you are halfway there to implementing tag monitoring.

Chances are you’ve heard of other monitoring tools like Pingdom or other general website monitoring for uptime, site speed, etc.

However your marketing tags are just as important to monitor so your marketing team doesn’t need to waste time manually checking tags daily.

Facebook is one of the only channels that has a built-in custom alerts feature that you can configure to notify you of drastic changes:

facebook automated rules

However you’ll then need to chase down the source of the error.

Elevar has three built in monitoring templates in Google Tag Manager that can be configured to monitor all of your marketing tags and data contained within these.

Revenue variable breaks?

Category stops passing data in the purchase tag?

Once monitoring is configured you can “set it and forget it”.

Tags break. It’s part of rapid development and changes to your website.

But instead of waiting days or weeks to discover these errors you’ll know immediately when something breaks.

If you’re interested in learning more about Elevar’s tag monitoring you can watch a quick demo or book a call with us here.

What To Do Next

If you are a do-it-yourself person then use the resources we’ve shared above – like the tag cheatsheet – and begin auditing your tags and conversion tracking.

You can also install our free GTM Event Builder Chrome Extension to help with event tracking.

If you are more of a “done for you” type then check out our plans that can manage all of this for you.

Plans start less than $100/month – check them out here.

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