In this (long) post, I will walk you through a real case example of tag auditing with WASP. Some aspects are quite technical, but tag implementation, and furthermore the quality assurance of those tags, is often neglected. Yet, tag quality as a direct correlation with your ability to provide insight and business recommendations!
Even if you are not a technical person, read on, I'll hold your hand along the way :)
Debugging: the traditional wayAlthough I receive ton of positive feedback, I also got some skeptics people arguing that using "debuggers" (for example, Firebug) and "proxy debuggers" (for example, Charles Proxy), or even simple "web bug" checkers or parsers that looks at the page source code to see if the tag strings are there is sufficient.
They simply can't see the value WASP is providing!
Note: I'm mentioning Firebug and Charles Proxy because they are good tools and they have their place in the web analyst/web implementation specialists arsenal.
http://www.webtrendslive.com/dcsabcdefghijklmnop1234dcs.gif?&dcsdat=1232652422330 &dcssip=www.somesite.com&dcsuri=/dir/subdir/subsubdir &dcsqry=%3FOpenDocument&LID=RONav0008&WT.cg_n=NewsMedia; &WT.cg_s=PAC;&WT.tz=-5&WT.bh=14&WT.ul=en-US&WT.cd=32 &WT.sr=1680x1050&WT.jo=Yes&WT.ti=ABC:%20Public%20Awareness%20Campaign:%20ABC%20ABC%20Case%20Studies%20&%20Marketing%20Statistics:%20ABC%20ABC &WT.js=Yes&WT.jv=1.5&WT.bs=1019x770&WT.fi=Yes&WT.fv=10.0 &WT.vt_f_tlh=1232684821&WT.vt_sid=18.104.22.168-3063823040.29981510.1232684716744 &WT.co_f=22.214.171.124-3063823040.29981510
The challengeWithout looking at the solution below, if I told you that:
- The tags are firing since I can see the URL flying by in a proxy debugger
- Data is being collected since I can view my reports online
All elements of the solution are shown above in the page tag and the collecting URL, and although I can't show you the WebTrends report, I can assure you I'm getting data in my reports.
The solution, in shortSome pages use titles with the ampersand (&) character (yes, as shown in the obscure tag URL shown above!). The page title is automatically passed to WebTrends via the "WT.ti" parameter. The problem is this character should be encoded/escaped. Otherwise it will break the URL terminology WebTrends is expecting and likely result in shortened page titles report or even plain rejection of this data. You would likely miss some data, but not all, since some pages titles do not use the & character! Thus, you still gets reports with some data...
WASP Pro crawlerThe sidebar view is excellent for seeing the tags in the context of your browsing session. But for deeper analysis of site tags, using WASP Pro crawler feature is a must. It will start from a given location, typically your home page, and visit each links of your site and gather the detailed information about the tags.
A snapshot of the built-in Data Browser is shown bellow. I have removed most of the information and kept only a few columns, but you can see some HTML Titles and how they have been populated to the WT.ti variable. While a couple of them are fine fine since the "&" character was correctly escaped in the title, some others are cut off.
The data browser is specifically built to make it easier to view all tags, sort or filter their values. This makes it very easy for quick perusing of the crawl result. Of course, you can also export the results to a CSV file to play with the data in Excel, or even to XML if you ever need to integrate the crawl results into another system.
Abstract from Webtrends documentationFuture releases of WASP will include data validation rules so each value sent will be checked against acceptable characters and length rules. In order to do so, I need the vendors to provide detailed information about the acceptable values for their tags, as shown in the WebTrends installation guide abstract bellow:
Certain characters can cause problems when used in query parameter values. For example, for a WebTrends query parameter assignment of WT.ti="The Gettysburg Address"; SDC writes the following value to the log file:
&WT.ti=The Gettysburg Address
The space characters in this value cause problems because the space character is used to separate fields within a log file. The solution is to URL encode all query parameter values. URL encoding means replacing certain characters with their hexadecimal equivalents of the form %XX where % is the escaping character and XX is the character’s numeric ASCII value. URL encoded characters are properly rendered in WebTrends reports.
Continuing with this example, the URL-encoded form is as follows:
Note that space characters have been replaced by %20.
The tag URL encodes the following characters: tab, space, #, &, +, ?, ", \, and non-breaking spaces. These characters are defined in the regular expression list. The regular expression list contains regular expressions to search for, and the corresponding %XX replacement strings. Regular expression properties are used as arguments to the string.replace method. The tag URL encodes parameter values by passing them as arguments into the dcsEscape function.
ConclusionThere is absolutely no way other methods would have helped you spot this kind of issue. I don't have to convince anyone that good analytics start with good data. You could spend countless hours, even days, trying to find a problem like this one (and many others of the same type!), while you could be spending time doing useful analysis and providing insight & recommendations to improve your business.
Go ahead, give a try at the free version of WASP, or get the WASP for Analyst or WASP Pro licences. Visit WebAnalyticsSolutionProfiler.com now!