Web analytics means nothing without website content to measure. But over the past few years, web developers and designers have increased the ways in which website content can be curated and marketed.

The result is an overwhelming number of options for measuring how well digital media such as websites, social media and apps serve customer needs. But marketers can get a better handle around all this data by understanding data structure.

How can marketers do that? The solution starts with a light overview of HTML and object oriented programming protocols, which specify data type and format.

Peel Back the Data Layer

Understanding basic data structure for schema, tag management, and APIs can lead to better advanced analytics and better marketing results.


APIs are a great example. They specify how programs should interact through the data shared. An API can specify data formats in XML, a markup language similar to HTML or JSON, a JavaScript programming protocol. For example, an API query for the site Openweathermap.org can contain the following, shown right.

The information shown is in a JSON array and has a specific description for weather in London. The data is arranged so that the client — an app or a browser — can recognize.

These kinds of protocols suggest, on the surface, that marketers should be programmers. But that is not what I am suggesting.

Framing Ideas

Rather, I think marketers should understand what could be placed in the protocols instead of code itself. Knowing how elements can be potentially paired and described can help marketers frame unique ideas for how digital media can be created and managed.

Think “Tree” and “European larch” — plant and type — and you get the idea. While protocols have some differences in the details, the thought process behind what goes into the elements of a protocol can be universal. XML and JSON different in code, but both are designed to carry data.

Learning Opportunities

Schema markup, also called structured data in web design, is a straightforward instance in which marketers can initially practice protocol concepts. Schema is a HTML markup that indicates additional website data to search engines. The additional information slightly modifies the display in search engine result pages, providing additional context. The end result is an improved chance for your website pages to appear in a relevant search query.

The Benefits

Marketers can use schema markup to describe products and services more fully, since the website elements are meant to describe product and services. That increases the quality of searches in which a site can appear and appeal to customers.

Moreover, there are schema descriptions that are supported by the major search engines. Schema.org contains a thorough listing of all the metadata descriptions available. This helps marketers and website developers implement descriptions that match business objectives and that can be rendered in search engine queries easily.

Tag managers operate with similar protocol structure, though based on a different protocol. Tag managers can accept instructions from data layers. Data layers are a JavaScript-based script that assigns data as object pairs -- an object and its attributes. These pairs inform tag managers when a tag should be fired, such as firing a remarketing tag. An easier installation of tagging protocol benefits marketers. Tag managers also offer a more flexible format, allowing marketers real-time response to customer behavior on a tagged site.

What schema HTML markup, APIs and tag managers have in common is the opportunity for organizations to input nuanced descriptions of their products and services.

Managers can best imagine data input by paying attention to how customers purchase items in general. Reoccurring associations at the point of purchase and logical initial assumptions can guide decisions for data layers used for tag managers and schema.

Ultimately a digital presence with solid alignment to search query and richer metrics for analytic solutions is increasingly becoming a protocol for marketing success.

Title image by Philip Bird / Shutterstock.