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Apr. 27, 2017 03:00 AM
Performance Is Directly Tied to Third-Party Tags
By Dawn Parzych, Catchpoint and Samrah Khan, Instart Logic
Today’s digital world has placed a premium on the user experience. Users have become incredibly demanding, willing and able to head to a competitor’s site if just three seconds of latency occur during their time on your site. Such high demand puts web performance at the forefront of your business strategy.
Web performance consists of three main pillars: speed, reliability, and availability. Each is as important as the other; these factors are all vulnerable to the growing complexity of modern websites. Third parties are more prevalent on websites than ever, and each third party represents its own layer of complexity. In order for your website to be running at optimal performance, each third party you’re including must be operating at its maximum efficiency to avoid risking a user experience degradation.
Sounds simple, right? Well, consider this: a look at a third-party requests breakdown by industry in 2016 reveals that banking sites, which are reported to have the lowest third-party presence, average over 62 requests on their homepage. Media sites average over 281 third-party requests — that’s 281 layers of your website that are completely vulnerable to performance hazards.
Third-party components range vary widely in type and purpose; from marketing tags to ad servers to DNS and CDN providers, all of these third parties play a critical role in the functioning and differentiation of your website. So if you can’t afford to let any of these components go, it’s crucial to follow a regimented process to assessing and optimizing your third-party components.
Here are six tips that can help you manage your site’s performance and ensure your brand and profits are protected:
1. Website construction
The way your website is built plays a significant role in its performance, particularly when it’s involving third parties. There are a number of construction techniques that will help minimize the effect of these components on your overall performance, one of which is asynchronous loading. When tags load asynchronously, it means the amount of time it takes for each tag to load doesn’t have impact on first-party content loading, and forces them to load after document complete. So, for example, if an ad is no loading properly on a page, your users can still interact with the page as if it were complete, regardless of how long it takes for that ad to load.
2. SLA management
The bad news: you can’t avoid 100% of the performance issues associated with third-party tags. The good news: this is where SLAs come into play. An SLA, or service-level agreement, is essentially a performance contract in which both parties have agreed to acceptable levels of performance based on particular metrics, and if those levels are not met, the third party will be held accountable. In order to ensure your SLAs are being met, you have to monitor your performance using an analytics tool that will allow you to dissect the data and pinpoint the culprit of an issue.
3. Tag assessment
It’s important to remember that not all tags are absolute requirements for your website to function. While some tags bring marketing value, or add to user experience, if they negatively affect performance in any way, you should consider removing them. Make tag assessments a regular part of your routine and ask yourself if the tags on your site are
- meeting performance standards and
- contributing to your user experience and business objectives in a positive manner.
These assessments will allow you to identify the tags that can be removed, ultimately decreasing your site’s size and complexity and improving performance.
4. Tag management systems
Oddly enough, one of the best ways to deal with the complexity of third-party components is by deploying a third-party tag management system. Tags can block your page from loading and increase the potential for site instability. Tag management systems take a lot of the burden of third parties off your shoulders by allowing you ensure all of your tags are loading asynchronously, after document complete, and giving you the power to quickly disable those that are not. This is a great way to control the third-party tags and minimize impact on the site. Figure out if a client- or server-side tag manager is right for your site.
5. Contingency plans
As tough as it may be to admit, failures will always be part of performance. It’s impossible to ensure that all of your tags are running properly at all times. For this reason, you should always have a contingency plan in place for when the inevitable strikes. This could include redundancies to cover any gaps should an infrastructure provider go down, or even something as simple as a clear communication strategy to make sure your users are aware of the issue and that you’re working to resolve it.
6. Right solution for application delivery
Modern applications are hybrid in nature, so even if you follow all the measures above, the applications are still rich and heavy compared to five years ago. Third-party tags like A/B testing, RUM, or others are critical components of enterprise applications. Optimizing these tags via a good tag manager is a step in right direction, but still not enough. Select an application delivery service that not only has a CDN component, but also offers content optimizations and visibility into the end point. The ability to intercept the third-party code on the page and optimize it for delivery allows for faster page speed. This can help create a better user experience, something some CDNs cannot provide. If needed, negotiate specific page speed SLAs to ensure optimal performance.
In a nutshell, the benefits of using third-party tags outweigh the risks as long as you are aware of their presence and take the right measures to monitor their performance. Construct your website for ease of managing changes, choose the tag manager most suitable for your needs, and pick the application delivery service that will have maximum effect on web and mobile performance. Last, but not least, use a monitoring tool that will continuously monitor your application page speed, and alert you when your site is not meeting the standards set forth.
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