3 Hidden Costs of Third- and Fourth-Party Digital Solutions
Online publishing in 2018 has come a long way since the 90s. A typical website today can be using over 75 different external digital services, with each vendor promising to add some kind of business value. But unfortunately, this enhanced functionality can also introduce performance issues, making it crucial to pick the right ones.
These third-party services cover a wide range of business needs, such as ad networks for monetization, social media plugins to boost engagement, or A/B testing software for optimization. Unfortunately, they often introduce issues that can hurt your website’s performance.
Another overlooked aspect is the impact of fourth-party services typically used by these third-party services, mostly with the intention to provide you with the best solution. However, these dependencies are often not documented or monitored, despite having a direct impact on crucial business metrics, site performance, and privacy issues.
1. Slow Performance
Page load times and site speed are key ingredients to the success of online publishers in today’s uber competitive environment. With more and more readers shifting to mobile, browsing speed is becoming a crucial factor.
The reality today is that every service you deploy comes with a performance cost. Front-end performance metrics such as Time to Start Render, Fetch Time and Time to Display are often affected negatively due to the way third party solutions work. One example is header bidding, which will very often have a negative effect on your website’s performance and user experience in favor of additional monetization capabilities.
The use of fourth and fifth party services often goes unmonitored. This can cause user experience (UX) problems that affect visitor engagement and also complicate the mitigation process when these issues are identified. Despite the obviously negative effect of these services, they often remain unmonitored leaving publishers in the dark.
Recommendation: Learn your ecosystem and the true footprint of external code on your site. A comprehensive analytical solution has to be in place to ensure you have visibility into your third-, fourth-, and even fifth-party services when needed.
2. Privacy Breaches
Online publishers and news agencies are bracing themselves for the general data protection regulation (GDPR), which will take effect on May 25th. All online websites catering to EU readers will be required to adhere to these new privacy guidelines. Failure to do so can have numerous legal and business impacts.
While your organization has probably taken note and implemented the required procedures to comply with the upcoming GDPR directives, are all the external services running on your site also doing so? Third- and -fourth party solutions that are not GDPR compliant will put your organization at risk of leaking sensitive data. Is your DMP GDPR compliant? Are you sure your DMP isn’t using a non-compliant third-party service to store your data?
Recommendation: Make sure the service-level agreement (SLA) or the terms and conditions (T&C) you opt into when subscribing to a third-party service are covering all privacy protection scenarios. This holds true for the fourth- and fifth-party services your direct vendors work with as well.
3. Code Version Control
Every new code version in your website ecosystem, even if it's just one line of code (LoC), can have a massive impact. Even if a new third party service has been implemented successfully without any issues, its next code release can potentially introduce performance issues, privacy loopholes, and other system bugs.
A typical third-party service deploys new code a few times a month. Assuming that you have integrated 75 services into your website, you can face over 200 code changes per month that you need to monitor and manage. A failure to do so can mean that you are overlooking critical issues that are harming your business metrics.
Recommendation: Test the performance of your third-party services. This can be accomplished by implementing a solution that monitors all code changes in real-time and alerts you when amendments are required.
The bottom line is that third-, fourth-, and fifth-party services should not be measured just by their potential added value, but also by their performance cost, which you need to know and monitor at all times. Your websites performance metrics can be significantly improved if you know how the implemented solutions are affecting your ecosystem.
Ohad Greenshpan is co-founder & CTO at Namogoo, a company that was created with the mission of preserving an optimized online customer journey. The Namogoo platform provides visibility and control over the impact of third-party services on website performance and business KPIs. Ohad is an entrepreneur with a rich background in advanced Big Data and Machine Learning technologies.