How does a data layer work?

November 17, 2015 | By

datalayers

In a recent post about BlueConic Connections, our esteemed VP of Marketing, Ms. Cory Munchbach and I had some fun talking about a few tag management Connections BlueConic published this year, which got me thinking, as I do from time to time, about data layers (#nerdalert).

I am a long-time fan of the data layer — a superfan, you might say.

Let’s start with the basics: what IS a data layer?

It’s easy enough to say that a data layer is a set of contextual metadata about content being consumed and the user accessing said content. Clearly – I just did it! But what does a data layer really do? Consider that many digital marketing shops today still lack a common language between marketing and IT/web developers. The closest thing for many might be tracking URLs…not exactly an up and coming utility.

A data layer closes that translation gap between marketing and IT. It is both a set of baseline data requirements for all things digital marketing, as well as a consideration point during development/QA processes. When applications, sites, and pages are being developed or modified, the data layer pre-establishes what data are important. Developers/QA can easily understand whether they’ve appropriately surfaced data, because of the shared specification that is inherent in the data layer. Meanwhile, marketing/analytics know exactly where to find needed data. No more intense digging sessions, or post-release back-and-forth to get data that should have been there from the start. It’s a win-win!

What’s your digital dataset?

By defining a data layer, your IT/marketing/analytics organizations align on the types of data from which your digital dataset will be based. You can define a digital dataset with or without a data layer, but when it comes time to collect data, there is no better way to ensure the lasting success of your program than to have marketing and IT align on two things: 1) what data are important, and 2) how to capture that data.

For some, it used to be the case that analytics was a stage of the development cycle. “What do you need to track?” IT might say. Specific tracking requirements might have been developed by marketing on a project-by-project basis. Now, for the cream of the crop organizations, it is simply understood that there are data that are important to marketing and analytics in specific situations, and these should be published to a data layer and maintained for consistency. It’s just standard protocol. Nobody likes an asterisk, a flat-lined chart, or worse…lost revenue!

How BlueConic can interact with data layers

Our customer data platform (CDP) is primed to make unique sense of your data layers. How does it do that? Data collection in BlueConic is defined through an interface and is capable of populating user profiles with attributes pulled from a number of sources: URLs, cookies, JavaScript variables, meta tags, on-page content, and APIs to other platforms to name a few. And BlueConic isn’t just jamming a value from one of those places into users’ profiles; you can build engagement scores and interest rankings off these values to really hone in on the interests and intent of users at various stages of the user lifecycle. Whether your data layer is a JavaScript object, or a server-side layer that dynamically populates meta tags and element attributes, BlueConic wants to read from it.

With tag management connections, data can also be pushed from BlueConic into data layers whether that data came from our data collection engine or from other integrated platforms (CRM, ESP, etc.).

 

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