We've all been there. You take the time to set up your advertising account flawlessly and then install your tracking codes and wait. You wait to find out if you did it correctly. There is a delay in reporting so at this point you may think the only thing you can do is wait.

It's unfortunate that the data is delayed. With all the recent moves towards automated bidding strategies in web advertising, conversions play a key role in everything. Just like you, we all want to know right away if our conversion tracking is working properly. However, for many, waiting is all they can do.  And, if it turns out that your tracking tags are not configured properly, you probably painfully repeat the process.

Even though we've all had this problem, it's not one we need to keep re-living. Using some clever software and establishing some production checks will provide the reassurance you are looking for (while you are setting it up.)

Find the tools to help you with your marketing stack

Martech, a wordplay on ‘marketing technology,’ refers to all kinds of stuff like machine learning and analysis tools. Essentially, it's everything technology used to empower marketing. The ‘martech stack’ refers to how all your marketing systems are plugged into each other. For an example of what the best in the world are doing, check out the 2020 martech stack awards.

In your case (and in most cases), the stack is relatively simple – you use Google Tag Manager or Gtag and probably a Facebook Pixel.

This means you have a simple website with Analytics, some advertising, and you probably keep an eye on SEO.

Your stack is Google and/or Facebook Ads -> Analytics -> Ad Bidding -> Conversions, or a close variant of that.

Essentially, you are focused on making a positive ROI and keeping it positive with a little bit of intuition and not a lot of data analysis. For these reasons you probably use smart bidding or conversion 'optimization' to help you run your advertising campaigns.

In your case (and in mine) we don't want to mess up conversion tracking. I once set up a campaign with conversion tracking and a CPA of $50 only to find pageviews were firing off conversions and it cost me thousands of dollars in a day. I learned the lesson for all of us.

Forgot about tracking tags?

If you have a typical setup, there is nothing worse than feeding incorrect conversion information to the ad platform. If you have installed two different Google Analytics tracking tags on one website, for example, there is a chance that conversion or an event will be missed. If your tracking codes are up, you can’t automate sweet f* all (aka SFA).

To make sure you set up tracking tags correctly, grab the following three tools and install them into your browser. You’re going to want to use Chrome (or a chromium variant), unfortunately, because Firefox won’t work.

  • Tag Assistant lets you validate, diagnose, and troubleshoot issues with your Google Analytics implementation in real-time. This way, you don’t need to do it the hard way and comb through the data layer.
  • Pixel Helper for Facebook will verify your pixel is working properly, troubleshoot common errors, and improve pixel performance. It’s designed very well. Google should learn a thing or two from them. This one is the sexiest tool of the bunch and very easy to understand.
  • UET Tag Helper by Microsoft is like the ugly duckling of the bunch, but with all the recent moves Microsoft has been making, I hope that they grow into a beautiful swan. But this tag helper sucks at the moment… but grab it anyway.
  • Tag Manager Assistant lets you change the data layer

Note - for tag analysis, use Chrome. Firefox has great privacy settings but some of the tools required for effective analysis don't play well with it. Chrome seems to let everything through and all these apps are available in the Chrome store for free

You can stack your tracking tools in your browser of choice and pin them in the top right. Click the little plugin-looking symbol then the thumbtack "pins" like below.
Download the extensions and then go to Options -> Extensions and enable them. In Chrome you can pin them to the top right like this.

After you have them pinned, follow the instructions to turn them on and check them out.  Go to some of your favourite sites and take a look at how they have their setup.

Tag Manager

You would be surprised how many companies there are in the web design world that ineffectively set up tags.

The tools are free to use and help you ensure your tracking tags are implemented correctly. 

After you've oriented yourself to the tools a bit, check out your own website and see what you find.

Tag Manager shows these tags are installed correctly and cleanly

Google is evolving Tag Assistant. We've worked with the Beta version a lot lately, and it's pretty good. The concepts and UI are similar, but keep your eyes open to shift to always-on options for debugging soon.  I expect Facebook will follow similarly as Google and Facebook are neck and neck in the space.

Pixel Helper

In Canada and the US, Facebook has really jumped to the forefront of digital advertising.  Q1 2020 – Lots of people transitioned to digital life and started isolating themselves at home. Facebook has improved its ad platform over the years, but nothing like what we see now. With Facebook, you have much more granular control on "who" you target where Google has historically been about "where" you place your ads. Both have come a long way.  Needless to say, you should install a Facebook pixel if you do digital marketing.

You can test your pixel and event firing at the same time. Depending on how you set up your privacy settings, you can automatically populate microdata and other data passed to Facebook.

UET Tag Helper

This one is easy. Install it, and you will see if your UET (Microsoft) tags are installed correctly.  They should look like this:

Not much to go wrong here. It's either on or off.

Troubleshooting

If your tracking is not working correctly, then you are operating with bad information. If you are using any conversion optimization machine learning (like Google Ad's CPA bidding), your bidding will underperform.

Takeaway – That's quite an improvement.

These three tools will help you confirm your setup is robust and correctly set up. It's important to consider your privacy policy when implementing this type of tracking because there is a lot of user data fed into the super corporations. If you are concerned about your own privacy, I recommend that you start by using Firefox, but that's only a start. As advertisers and business owners, we need to generate business, and tracking people is one way we can master the four Ps. Also, many consumers favour convenience over privacy anyway. Just make sure you notify them.