A Tagging System that Works

(Updated April 2021 to show examples of using named prefixes rather than symbols, and emphasizing using multiple tags)

ActionKit has many built-in ways to see the performance of your mailings. The Rolling 12-month Email Performance Rates report is one of my favorites for showing how your overall performance is trending.

But do you ever wonder how well specific types of mailings perform? By default, your Rolling 12-month Email Performance Rates report shows the combined performance of every mailing you’ve sent. But petitions perform differently than call alerts and fundraising appeals. While it’s good to get a big-picture view, sometimes we need to take a different approach.

ActionKit’s built-in reports will answer questions like “What’s the average click rate of our mailings?” But maybe we have other questions, like:

  • What’s the average click rate of our petition mailings?
  • What’s the average click rate of our fundraising mailings?

What are tags, anyway?

Tagging your pages and mailings makes answering these questions easy. Tags can be used to describe pages and mailings in a way that can be used in analyzing your data, like to differentiate a petition mailing from a fundraising mailing.

Clients who work on a variety of issues might create a tag for different issues, to differentiate between how well an immigration mailing performed compared to a mailing about the Supreme Court. Or to see that mailings sent to a random sample of your list won’t perform as well as a mailing sent to your most active members.

You could create a tag for each of these different situations and apply them to your pages and mailings, then analyze your performance on a per-tag basis.

Grouping tags together

The tags themselves also have context and meaning, so it makes sense to group them.

Pages and mailings have lots of different categories that you could associate with them, like:

  • Purpose (petition, call, letter to the editor)
  • Issue (immigration, Supreme Court vacancy, climate)
  • Audience (random sample, most active)

UltraViolet (inspired by SumOfUs) created prefixes for each type of tag to group similar tags together. For instance, the purpose of a mailing or page became *petition and *call; the issue became #immigration and #climate; the audience was @random and @active.

Grouping these tags together with a prefix meant that they were sorted with similar tags, and best of all, campaigners didn’t have to remember all of the different tags, just the different prefixes, and autocomplete would do the rest.

Suggested tags

You’ll want to customize the tags and tag types that work for you, but here are some suggestions:

Type of Tag Description Examples
*Purpose How are you asking members to take action? *petition, *call, *lte, *share, *fundraiser
#Issue What is the issue area(s) or reason you’re sending this? #immigration, #climate, #healthcare, #abortion
&Moment Is this related to a specific, high-energy moment? &obamacare, &kavanaugh, &familiesbelongtogether
@Audience What is the targeting / who are you sending this to? @actives, @random, @everyone
!Target Who are you trying to move? !corporate, !media, !congress
$c3/c4 Is this a 501c3 or 501c4 action? $c3, $c4
%Mailing phase Is this a test, a full-list send, or a kicker mailing? %kicker, %test, %fullsend
-Staff member Who worked on this mailing or page? -Shannon, -Tanya

Suggested alternative

These symbols are good, but even better might be using named prefixes, like topic- or target- or type-.

For example, revising the above to use named prefixes instead of symbols, you could do:

Type of Tag Description Examples
type- How are you asking members to take action? type-petition, type-call, type-lte, type-share, type-fundraiser
issue- / topic- (choose one) What is the issue area(s) or reason you’re sending this? topic-immigration, topic-climate, topic-healthcare, topic-abortion
moment- Is this related to a specific, high-energy moment? moment-obamacare, moment-kavanaugh, moment-familiesbelongtogether
audience- What is the targeting / who are you sending this to? audience-actives, audience-random, audience-everyone
target- Who are you trying to move? target-corporate, target-media, target-congress
entity- Is this a 501c3 or 501c4 action? entity-c3, entity-c4, entity-pac
phase- Is this a test, a full-list send, or a kicker mailing? phase-kicker, phase-test, phase-fullsend
staff- Who worked on this mailing or page? staff-Shannon, staff-Tanya

Never too late

It might seem daunting to try a new system if you’ve never set up tags before, or if you’ve been tagging your pages and mailings a different way for years, but here are some tips that can help ease the transition:

  • Start by renaming your tags to conform to your new system
  • Train all staff who use ActionKit on the new system and incorporate feedback into the plan.
  • Triage the most important pages or mailings to go back and tag under the new system, starting with the pages with the most actions and mailings with the most recipients.
  • Everyone work together through the backlog, preferably at the same time so you figure out the nuances between your different tags and achieve some level of shared agreement about what each tag means. This is a really important step, so don’t skip it!  

Consistency is key

The whole point of doing all this is to be able to analyze data in creative ways. But reliable, accurate data requires consistent tagging. UltraViolet customized the draft_dash dashboard report to check mailings and pages to make sure they have at least one of the required tags, and reminds staff if they forget. Best of all, the draft_dash dashboard report appears just above the Send button on mailings, so it’s the last thing campaigners see before sending.

Keep it general

Don’t get too specific with your tags! Think about them like movie genres, and remember that a page can have multiple tags, and each tag should be used by many different pages. (If your tags are single-use, it might be better to capture that information in the page or mailing’s description).

Think about your tags like one fact describing the page or mailing. To continue the movie genre analogy, a good tag for movies would be “Comedy” or “Horror”. Movies like Parasite (2019) would have both tags, and it wouldn’t be as useful to create a third tag called “Comedy/Horror”, in part because there would be very few movies with that third tag, and because having the third tag doesn’t tell you any more information that the first two tags didn’t.

Sample questions

Here are some questions you could answer using the suggested tags above:

  • Do mailings with corporate targets have a higher click rate than mailings with congressional targets?
  • How does the performance of a kicker compare with a regular full-send mailing?
  • Are there specific issues that are more motivating to our member base? (Try to think of issues as broadly as you can. Even groups focused on a single issue will have issue sub-categories.)
  • What is the average performance of our mailings and pages by type?

Depending on how you set up your tags, you’ll be able to answer these and many others!

Interested in scheduling a demo with ActionKit? Let us know!

1 thought on “A Tagging System that Works”

Comments are closed.