What is a data layer?

  • Posted: 31st October 2019
Infographic displaying data flow for the data layer blog

What is a data layer? If you work in the digital world, you have probably heard the term ‘data layer,’ but you might be wondering what exactly it means. In simple terms, data layers are a tool for controlling the data that your website collects to offer insights into user behavior. Data layers can make your website’s operations more efficient and reliable by compiling data from disparate sources in one place. In other words, a data layer is a list of all your business’ website requirements in formats that can be understood by everyone – from your IT team to your client.

Most analytics packages collect data by default, but it can be of limited utility if left unsorted and spread across multiple services. Using a data layer allows you to combine the information recorded by various tracking tools that may already be in place on a site, such as Google Analytics and Facebook pixels.

As a result, data layers help you build a more detailed image of your users so you can learn how they use your website, quantify the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, and ultimately make more informed marketing decisions.

How do data layers work?

Hopefully we’ve now answered, ‘What is a data layer?’ But how do they work?

A data layer acts as a single point of reference for the data collected by a tag management system. It collates this information and passes it to other programs which package it for easier analysis. In short, it lets you specify the exact information you want to collect about how visitors use your website.

The data that the website reports can be highly granular, allowing websites and online stores to measure the success of individual pages, products, and whole categories. It’s still easy to process, however, as a data layer passes the raw data to analytics tools and applications for interpretation by decision-makers.

Another benefit of tag managers – such as Google Tag Manager – is that they speed up the deployment of marketing tags. This is because they offer a straightforward interface for making changes to collection parameters. Once the web design team have implemented the data object, a marketing team can easily make changes on their own. Further, due to its simplicity, a data layer doesn’t slow page rendering.

Why does your business need a data layer?

The data layer helps you take ownership of your most valuable asset – your user data.

Third-party vendors which support your business each have their own data-collection requirements, and without a data layer, your data could be divided across multiple services. A data layer allows you to centralize and quickly adapt your collection requirements, putting you back in control.

A well-defined and managed data layer offers a host of other benefits. For instance, companies can set up a governance policy around the data layer to establish expectations about data collection. Your company can also define and name the data categories it works with, standardizing them across the business. Because changing tags is so simple, you can also ensure your marketing strategies remain nimble by collecting the right information at the right time. The simplicity of editing tags also means that anyone in the organization can make changes, allowing developers can focus on more complex tasks.

Want to learn more?

Your website likely already has access to a wealth of data about its users across a wide variety of channels. As certified Tealium solution partners, we can help you manage and leverage this data using Tealium’s Universal Data Hub. We’re also proud to be certified Adobe Marketing Cloud providers – specializing in Adobe Campaign – and a Salesforce Marketing Cloud partner. If you’re looking for experts on all things tag management and data layers, you’ve come to the right place.

To learn more about what data layers are, and our consultancy services, get in contact with one of our certified experts today.


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