Manage Your Site’s Tags for Better Business


ADOTAS – Managing a website’s tags — used for various campaigns such as web analytics, email, search, ad servers, online testing, behavioral targeting and social media — is a costly and complex affair. But most companies don’t realize just how much their business can be hurt by not properly implementing or managing those tags.

What Are Tags?

When it comes to tracking the effectiveness of campaigns, IT staff often has to add several tags to a site’s code – a typical website can have up to 20 different tags. Some are even deploying more than one type of the same system — say, an analytics system from both Omniture and Google – which further adds to the number of tags. With so many tags coming from so many different vendors, the process becomes very elaborate.

A snippet of JavaScript is inserted into the site’s HTML code — on every page — for each individual system that helps marketers track customers’ online behaviors and the performance of advertisers’ campaigns. But here’s where problems can occur: Each piece of code has to call an external file to perform its function, and because tags load in a synchronous fashion, this causes a site to load slowly or hang. And that’s not the only problem. A site’s tags may be repetitive, out of date or even non-functioning.

While JavaScript tags have become the de facto data capture method for timely website reporting and analytics, their implementation can be unruly. Hidden costs are associated with their deployment, customizations are time-consuming, and someone from IT almost always needs to assist in their implementation. A simple misspelling can screw up an entire script, so great attention to detail is required. New technologies, such as AJAX or Flash, are now also being used in site tags, increasing the knowledge and skill involved in their deployment. Additionally, tag implementation requires more than just the initial setup, as it often calls for additional code or updates.

Are Your Site’s Tags A Risk Factor?

If your site has more than one set of tags, it’s probably time to take an audit. In a recent report, “How Tag Management Improves Web Intelligence,” Forrester released a framework to help customer intelligence professionals better understand how tags integrate with their websites. Questions you should ask include: How many JavaScript tags do you have on your site? How much time is required to add or change tags? How often are changes to tags made? How many people are involved in managing tags? What’s the overall size and complexity of your website? What is the impact of third-party tags on page load time?

Numerical scores are assigned to specific answers, and once tallied it is determined whether sites are at low risk, medium risk, or high risk for needing better tag management. If your site contains tags that cause slower page load times, or has hundreds of pages or more with rich media and applications, or contains three to 10 tags per page, or has tags that require frequent adjustments that take more than a week to update — then you most likely need a tag management solution.

So What’s The Solution?

Over time, a number of solutions have emerged, from pixel piggy-backing to a container tag to the universal tag to what’s emerging as the leading solution in the space now — tag management systems.

Pixel piggy-backing hasn’t been a real solution, because its implementation is customized for each page and appears at the bottom of the page, which negatively affects page load time. Likewise, container tags can cause complications because their code loads in an iframe with limited access to first-party tracking. Most important, container tags only work with about 50 percent of vendor tags, and they don’t always work so well with web analytics.

The universal tag, though, as its name suggests, is one single code used to capture data from all other data required, and can sometimes further complicate the process. It works as one format that many vendors have to agree upon for all data to flow through. While this solution saves time and costs, it can result in your being locked in with one vendor (often a web analytics vendor) in order to map the entire customer journey back through various vendor solutions.

Tag management systems (TMS) take the concepts of the universal tag and the container tag one step further. Acting like a content management system for all site-wide tags, TMS enables placing all tags–including container and universal tags–into one system that deploys just one snippet of code on each page to manage them all. It enables advertisers and agencies to manage all third-party data collection services in one place, ultimately reducing the need for IT as a resource. It also improves quality control and expedites the go-live time for new and updated tags and campaigns.

A proper tag management system should significantly reduce the time it takes to deploy important tags on a site. For example, TagMan and Logan Tod & Co were ready to have Omniture SiteCatalyst launch on retailer Debenham’s site in just six weeks, which included switching from legacy system HBX and working with IT systems partner IBM. This enabled Debenhams to realize the full potential of SiteCatalyst and to implement an affiliate reward scheme within days, not months, without having to change the site’s code.

Benefits Of Tag Management Systems

So if you have identified the need and are ready to implement a tag management system, you can reap the benefits in myriad ways. As Forrester highlighted, the benefits include:

An increase in the rate of data collection, thereby increasing your overall analytics accuracy.

The ability to add tags at any point in the development cycle, quickly and cheaply, from one application.

Support for any number of tags from multiple applications, which increases the flexibility in adding and testing new tags while reducing reliance on a single vendor.

The ability to manage tags yourself within a user-friendly system, while freeing up your IT department’s time.

Tag standardization across sites, applications, and users, ensuring technical best practices and compliance with regulations and mandates.
Improvement in page load time by consolidating tag variables, and eliminating the need to serve all tags on all pages.

As websites and tags continue to become increasingly complex, putting a tag management system in place has become more critical, and less merely a “nice to have” feature. Customer intelligence professionals should look to emerging solutions and explore their benefits in terms of ROI.


  1. Nice summary of the TMS opportunity and business case Paul.

    It’s going to be interesting to see how the TMS space evolves over the next few years as most of the major vendors (TagMan, Ensighten, Tealium, SiteTagger, QuBit, BrightTag etc) start expanding into additional features like attribution measurement, data management, data protection and ad tracking.

    Also interesting is to see how many non-TMS vendors are adding TMS as part of a larger product (e.g. Adobe, Krux, Fabric) to achieve many of the same benefits Paul outlines above.

    One point of difference: I don’t think it is productive to position TMS as a tool to bypass IT or to give control of IT functions to marketing/agencies. I see a TMS as an enabler of a more productive, more frictionless relationship between marketing and IT. IT will always have a very important role to play in terms of the overall digital marketing architecture, data management, site performance and release management. A good TMS makes it easier and faster for IT to do these things with respect to third party tags, it does not eliminate their role.


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