The Danger in Poor Data Quality

March 18, 2015 - Ensighten

“Inflation is a disease, a dangerous and sometimes fatal disease, a disease that if not checked in time can destroy a society.”
–Milton Friedman

Here’s a scenario.

ObservePoint Data  InflationSix months ago, your company rolled out a completely new version of their web app.  Product management claims the rollout has been a great success, customer feedback has been positive, and they’re now pushing to sunset the old version. As the analyst, you’ve been asked for some reports including total visitor sessions for the new version vs. the old version over the last month. You dutifully log in to your web analytics tool and pull some reports, and start building the comparison.

You are surprised by the numbers. It seems that sessions for the old version aren’t as low as they ought to be in comparison to the new version. Total visits are lower, but only slightly. And a few other key metrics are higher! You look at a few other reports, and unfortunately, the numbers don’t support Product management’s recommendation.

You present your findings and recommend against sunsetting the old version for now because the metrics show that it’s still being used quite heavily. Product management glares at you from across the table.


What’s going on?

In a recent omnibus audit including 200 of the top Internet Retail web sites, ObservePoint found that across the board, data quality problems are rampant. Missing data, data inflation, and data leakage are experienced by even the most sophisticated digital marketers.

One lesser-known data quality problem - data inflation - is exactly what it sounds like: digital data that is reported inaccurately high. Inflation can affect web analytics data such as traffic counts, advertising data such as clicks and impressions, sales attribution data, or a variety of important metrics. And as the data gets passed into other systems throughout your marketing technology stack, the effects of the inflation are magnified. The cause of this digital data inflation is duplicate tags.


Duplicate tags inflate data

When more than one instance of a tag fires on a page, data inflation happens. Each time a tag fires, something gets counted, and when a tag fires more than once, the thing is being counted more than once as well.


Common causes of data inflation

Tags can be coded to multiple places on a page, transposed from other pages, or duplicated in some other way. This can happen when new tags are deployed, but old tags are not removed.

Our omnibus audit uncovered sophisticated web sites that used the best technologies, yet duplicate tags existed for some digital measurement tools.

Due to the sheer number of code modifications to digital properties all tag deployments erode, decay, and fall out of compliance with the initial “clean” deployment over time.

Our research finds that the best digital marketers deploy Tag Management Solutions (TMS), such as Ensighten, alongside our enterprise Data Quality Assurance Platform. The agility, integration, and optimization provided by Ensighten, alongside automated rules validation, alerting, and global scalability in the ObservePoint platform ensure that the engine driving digital marketing is performing at its peak.

Maintaining accurate tagging while being agile is ultimately your responsibility as a digital marketer; ObservePoint and Ensighten make that possible.


You must be vigilant against inflation

ObservePoint Data Inflation AnalyticsIf you visit our offices, you’ll probably hear someone say “The only thing that’s worse than missing data is bad data.” This shared conviction is why Rob Seolas and I started ObservePoint.

The scenario at the beginning of this article is a true story. After the fact, we were asked to audit the sites in question. We found that the old product pages had 300-500% data inflation caused by duplicate tags, which led us to believe that the company’s new product release was probably a poorly-measured success.

Unfortunately, this knowledge wasn’t available at the moment the data was being used. Executives made a revenue-impacting decision, based on bad data.

We developed ObservePoint to actively monitor and improve data quality for leading companies. ObservePoint gives you vision into tag deployments comprehensively across your digital properties, collects data from all variables, allows you to build business rules based on variables, and prevents data loss due to tagging errors. And we’re the only company that’s completely focused on Data Quality Assurance for digital marketers.

Bottom line: whatever you do, don’t stake your good reputation on bad data.


About ObservePoint

ObservePoint is the pioneer and industry leader in Data Quality Assurance. ObservePoint ensures that data collection across digital marketing channels is implemented correctly and actively performs tests to find reporting mistakes, duplicate tags, data leakage and page errors. Without any code to deploy, ObservePoint delivers alerts real-time, to help you make better decisions on your big data.


Recommended next steps:

You’ve reached the end of The Danger in Poor Data Quality, but this is only the beginning. If you’re wondering where to go from here, check out these recommended next steps:

  1. Visit the resource library. White papers, webinars, case studies, product information and more.
  2. Request a demo. See the Ensighten open marketing platform for yourself.