Does your job require you to wear multiple hats? If your job sits anywhere in the intersecting spheres of multi-channel analytics and digital marketing, then the chances are high. When focusing on so many things at once- managing vendor tags/pixels, analytics tools, user interaction tracking, JS debugging/page testing, etc. - it's crucial you use the right tools for the job. The good news is that, in most cases, your best tool remains the same: your browser. In this blog I will outline the most effective & time-saving browser extensions for web analytics pros.
Choosing the Right Browser
All modern browsers are handy toolboxes for developers and analytics pros, sporting "lite" versions of functionality you could buy in the form of 10 specialized tools. A lot of pros are content with these basic toolboxes; to me, that’s like buying a regular, used car for "Fast and the Furious" street racing – you need nitrous and rims to be taken seriously.
Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are your Porsche 911 and Ferrari F430 Scuderia; they were made to be souped-up, boasting the most robust add-on ecosystems. Beefing up your browser functionality lets you turn pages into playgrounds, while seeing exactly what users see.
The Top Browser Extensions for Web Analytics Pros
In no specific order, here are the most effective browser extensions you should be using...
There’s an irony with Ghostery – it’s marketed as a privacy tool to help people detect and block invasive web bugs and advertising, yet it’s one of the most useful tools for people working in the industries who create those.
Besides the incredible multi-browser support, Ghostery provides a perfect amount of information passively, showing at a glance for each page load:
It’s also optimized for the things we care about; they maintain a huge “Knowledge Library” of vendors and Ghostery’s detection includes commenting systems and social interaction modules, which are often missed by similar tools.
Google has created a Chrome-only tool to help you monitor your Google Tags. It allows quick spotting of Google tags and the ability to view the code, see stats, and debug your set-up.
The Google-specific nature of this tool might seem to be a downer at first, but the focus is refreshing compared to other incredibly broad tools. But this doesn’t leave the plug-in lacking purpose; considering Google’s dominance (at least in certain regions) over entire channels of digital advertising, I’d wager that scores of Google conversion/remarketing pixels have passed over your desk. I still find this the easiest way to verify the set-up of several Google pixels on a page, in a microsite situation or the like.
This tool is like a focused version of your network profiler. It shows all tag requests firing on the page, but takes an extra step in helping you decode the values and view details relevant for that tag, like account ID.
This is one of several browser analytics tools I’ve seen that had the idea to show the tool’s results in a new developer tools tab. One of the great things about this plug-in is the design of the network tab It pretty much feels comfortable from the first use and the deviations tend to be enhancements that you’ll appreciate immediately.
If you persist your log across pages, you’ll notice the requests are neatly labeled by page. You’ll appreciate that clicking on a request shows you the variables of interest, usually with friendly names, not two-character short-hands and a glut of other data you don’t need. As you may get a lot of value from the data export feature, you might consider attaching the export files in your QA sheets or posts in your issue tracker of choice.
Omnibug was originally an add-on for Firefox’s Firebug debugger/network profiler, but also works with Chrome. Don’t be alarmed that it’s a bit outdated – it still manages to find a very happy medium between the approaches used by some of these other plug-ins. It narrows its focus to a handful of social/analytics vendors, which is limiting, but like a few of its contemporaries, it provides simple readouts to its own place in your dev tools/Firebug. There’s not much more to elaborate on here – it does what it’s supposed to do very well and it keeps everything very neat and separated.
It’s a minimalist’s alternative to a plug-in like ObservePoint’s Tag Debugger.
This is a tool we created to help ease QA pain points for clients using Ensighten’s Activate solution. Naturally, when dealing with the heaps of customer data that come with 1:1 customer tracking and profiling, obfuscation is the key to protecting data, but that leads to some irritation when confirming that the data loaded to Activate matches what’s expected for the current record. This tool decodes the obfuscated values into friendly ones for QA/testing purposes on the user’s browser and creates a powerful framework for debugging and understanding the data architecture.
For added efficiency and practicality, the plug-in is customizable depending on your individual needs.
This slick extension will allow you to easily validate several key parts of your Tealium set-up; it helps you explore your pages, provides an easy link to resources and more.
TT’s “Web Companion” makes a lot of the common operations you would do through the Tealium iQ console available right on the page. You can set up extensions (including jQuery "on" handlers based on elements you can select with user-friendly crosshairs), check tags, add sources to your data layer, compare your environments and more. All changes you make within the plug-in are added to a queue and then pushed to the tool once you verify your credentials. It helps you to see the reality of your configurations “on the ground” and quickly call an audible if something is off. It’s a clean system that works well and it’s worth taking for a spin if you’re using Tealium.
The “Tealium Tools” plug-in also contains sub-tools to let you dive into your data flow for Tealium Audience Stream and to audit individual pages semi-manually in order to see which tags aren’t coming through via the TMS, among other things. This can really help for tag governance.
This plug-in allows you to carry out handy operations related to managing/debugging your Ensighten implementation. This Chrome extensions serves a very focused, yet useful purpose. Using it, you can examine the tags delivered under your various accounts and spaces and it allows you to easily inject your Bootstrap into a page of your choosing, without placing it in the page code.
These similarly-named tools provide very similar functionality – they get the information from your analytics tool-of-choice and show it in your console. Tools like Omnibug make these look weaker due to their specificity.
In comparison, note that the Site Catalyst debugger extension just pulls its information from requests.