The Simple Explanation of the Adobe Analytics Data Layer

The Simple Explanation of the Adobe Analytics Data Layer

What is a data layer? 

The simple definition: a data layer is a JavaScript object embedded in your site’s code that passes dynamic variable information to your tag management system. You can then reference those variables and set them up in an easy-to-use interface to be pushed into your Adobe Analytics reports. 

What does the Adobe Analytics data layer look like? 

The data layer will look different for everybody due to website and reporting differences. But this is a standard data layer shared by the W3C, a group of enterprises that worked on data layer standardization. See this document for details.

How do I find my Adobe Analytics data layer?

There are two ways you can find the actual data layer. 

  1. Right click on the website page and select View Source. Open up your Find search bar and type in “digitalData”
  2. Press F12 on your keyboard. Navigate to the “Elements” tab and search for “digitalData.”
  3. Press F12 on your keyboard. Navigate to the “Console” tab and search for the Adobe Analytics Server Call.

Note: “digitalData” is only one naming convention as other websites can change it to their preference. Another way is to search using a common data layer variable ie “pageName.”

What does a standard data layer include? 

Luckily, there were a group of enterprise experts that have come up with a document to explain it down to the minute details, called the W3C. But here’s a quick list of what an Adobe Analytics data layer can include with some examples:

  • pageinstanceID: the unique ID to identify the occurence
  • page: pageID, pageName, URL, author, date, etc
  • product: productID, productName, description, SKU, etc
  • cart: cartID, price, discount, tax, total, etc
  • transaction: transactionID, profile, address, etc
  • event: any interaction done by the user which includes button clicks, video plays, add to carts, etc
  • component: an element on the page ie video, gallery, etc
  • user: userName, profileID, email, etc
  • privacy/security: data capture requires user consent
  • version: version of the data layer

Who creates the Adobe Analytics data layer?

The person in charge of creating the analytics infrastructure and understands what is needed for useful analytics reporting. That same person will show the developers on what variables to include into the data layer, and the developers will embed it into the website code wherever needed. The variables’ values will be populated dynamically, meaning no one will need to update the variables once it’s done.

Why is the data layer important?

The data layer keeps your data accurate and reliable. 

To give you a background, there are two ways to reference data to set up analytics tagging: data layers vs DOM scraping. 

Since we already went through data layers, DOM scraping is when the system looks for the actual page attributes in the script. So DOM scraping can pull whatever is in the website code, but you’ll need to tell your tag management system what exactly to look for. This requires some code familiarity, ahh!

The cons with DOM scraping is that website code normally changes frequently due to developers. So the values may never stay the same and can break your tagging rules. The worst? You may never know until your data somehow drops to 0! 

With the Adobe data layer, the script is not affected during normal developer changes because it’s usually left alone. The script will always pull the dynamic values as they change automatically. And better yet, you don’t need to touch the code. 

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