Third-party scripts are handy marketing tools that can be added to your website and connect information to outside vendors. The most common purpose of these scripts is to provide tracking in a centralized platform. For example, adding a Facebook script to your website can help you track ad conversions on your website through Facebook’s interface.
While these scripts can generate valuable information for marketers, they should be carefully evaluated before implemented by a development team due to site performance optimization and regulations.
What kinds of valuable information can third-party scripts track?
User level data
Third-party scripts are frequently used for tracking behavior at the user level. While Google Analytics excels at showing paths for groups of people, software from another vendor can show you what an individual does on your website. For instance, Mixpanel can assign an ID to each user and tell you which pages they visited, which buttons they clicked, and more. If you get a contact form from Sarah, you will be able to see what device Sarah used, how she found your website, and what web pages she viewed at what times.
Heatmaps and recordings
Scripts can help you track other types of site behavior as well. A heat map will show you what parts of your page get the most activity in a visual format. Furthermore, heat map software like Hotjar will also record individual site sessions.
Ad pixels can associate conversion data with ad sources, campaigns, and even keywords. While adding UTM parameters to links can help you track in Google Analytics, a third-party script can help your ad platform use conversion data to optimize your campaigns automatically.
What are the downsides of third-party scripts?
Site performance hits
Adding third-party scripts to your website is a huge contributor to slow side speed. In fact, performance optimization tests have shown that removing third-party scripts altogether can significantly boost your page speed scores in GTMetrix.
As both mobile and desktop site speed become a larger part of Google’s ranking algorithm, a fast site becomes a huge piece of your SEO strategy.
When scripts are necessary to track progress, loading them through Google Tag Manager can help. Simply pause and unpause scripts as they are needed, so you are never loading all of them at once. This way, only a few scripts at a time will be affecting your website performance.
Regulations / GDPR
For global businesses, GDPR creates regulations with third-party scripts, making it illegal to harvest user data without first getting permission. If you are concerned about whether or not you are GDPR compliant, try this guide.
Likewise, CCPA has brought the same regulations to California. Even businesses who are operating solely within the country will now have to provide verifications before capturing user data.
Are third-party scripts worth it?
Evaluating whether or not it’s worth it to load a script on your website will depend on your marketing goals. As a rule of thumb, only capture data if you plan on using it for decision-making.
Here are some good scenarios to add scripts:
- You are GDPR and CCPA compliant, requesting user verification before loading third-party scripts.
- You want to reduce the bounce rate of a page, so you add a heatmap script for one month to collect data. Then, use this data to adjust design.
- You are running a Linkedin campaign to get e-book downloads for three months, then you will collect these leads for followup.
- You need call tracking information on your website indefinitely to measure call sources and decide where to invest your budget.
Here are some scenarios where you should consider pausing:
- You have a Facebook tracking pixel on your website, but you don’t plan on running a Facebook campaign for a few months.
- You are tracking form data in multiple locations.
- You are tracking user behavior but already know where your leads come from, where it makes sense to invest money, and how people are finding you.
All in all, a few third-party scripts can be worth the performance hit if they provide information that will grow your business. The more scripts you use, the bigger a performance hit you will face! Try to fully utilize your tools so you can add as few scripts as possible while gathering the data you need.