Rail Europe accelerates page load speed by 20%
Case Study

Rail Europe accelerates page load speed by 20%

Excess baggage

Whether you’re a backpacker or a business person, Rail Europe is your best friend when getting around continental Europe. The company is the largest distributor of European rail products in North America, combining maps, schedules, and fares of over 50 train companies in one place.

The company operates several websites geared toward U.S., Canadian, and Latin American markets. To serve the variety of languages, currencies, and countries, up to 20 domains make up the portfolio. The company works with a wide range of marketing partners and technologies, each requiring its own set of tags.

Implementing and maintaining these tags was a complex process. Web developers were spending valuable time on redundant tagging tasks, diverting resources away from functional enhancement of the Rail Europe websites. And as vendors and technology partners changed over time, tags that had already been deployed would often be forgotten on sites. Not only would these stray tags burden page load times, they also could expose the company’s performance information.

The online marketing team depended entirely on IT staff for all tag management needs. Whenever a tag-related request came in, it was added to the site maintenance backlog queue and prioritized alongside other bug fixing and enhancement requests. It could take weeks or months for new tags to be implemented, and they were often deployed with minimum customization.

Because Rail Europe’s marketers were so burdened, they lacked valuable insights. Sometimes new campaigns would launch without a specific conversion tag implemented, making it impossible to measure clickthrough and view-through conversions.

Full steam ahead

With so many tags and domains to manage, Rail Europe needed a streamlined process for organizing the tags of its websites at once. As a long-time user of Google Analytics, Director of Online Marketing Lothaire Ruellan discovered that Google Tag Manager could meet all of the company’s requirements without putting a dent in the budget.

Instead of hard-coding several vendor-specific tags to capture the same custom information on the same pages across the site, Rail Europe simply passed the required information once to Tag Manager via the data layer object. Information then became available for use in any third-party tags, making it extremely easy to provide the same level of detailed information to all of its marketing platforms. Tag Manager’s straightforward web interface facilitated the migration of all Google and non-Google measurement and marketing tags.

Migrating to a single interface provided the perfect opportunity to clean up the code base, too — unused tags were swiftly removed. Rail Europe implemented the Google Ads remarketing tag supported by Tag Manager, allowing implementation of a wide range of remarketing campaigns that can use the custom information available to the company.

With Tag Manager, we can literally deploy a tag in minutes and provide marketing partners with all the custom information they might need. Now, we’re more equipped than ever to optimize our digital campaigns.

Lothaire Ruellan, Director of Online Marketing, Rail Europe

Back on track

According to Lothaire, the implementation has put the control of tagging and information back into the hands of the marketing department, leaving the IT team free to focus on new functionalities for the Rail Europe website. Because there’s no longer the danger of forgetting to tag certain sites or deploying tags inconsistently, information is more accurate and actionable.

Another huge benefit is that all tags now load asynchronously, so they don’t slow down the sites or get in each other’s way. Each tag fires immediately, calling to Tag Manager, while the page simply keeps loading. This has had a direct impact on page load speed — site pages load 20% faster today than they did before implementation.

The process of deriving site information is much faster, too. Rail Europe is able to pass on many of the benefits of Tag Manager to partners and vendors. Using the data layer object, it can pass specific variables through to its multiple analytics solutions packages automatically, removing redundancy and improving the accuracy of shared site information.