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What is Tag Management: Zero to Hero Guide for 2023

January 25, 2023
Google Analytics 4 Migration Via Tagmate

Tagmate recently curated a series on server side tagging and we felt that many of our readers needed a background into what tag management is in a simple and lucid manner.

Hence, I decided to create this article to cover the nitty gritty of tag management minus fluff.

In this article, I will cover the definition of tag management, what it does for your website, and the importance of managing tags. 

I will also share some insights on the core benefits of managing tags, issues faced in the process, tag management systems and their functioning. 

Towards the end of this article, I will share a quick and simple checklist to help you understand if you need a tag management system for your organization followed by some FAQs. 

Sounds good?

Let’s get started:

Basics: Definition of Tag Management

Before we hop on to tag management, let us first understand what ‘tags’ are:

Simply put, tags are small pieces aka snippets of code that allow marketers to track and manage website and campaign data in the form of visitor behavior information like user data, session data, user journey, and so on. 

It also enables website owners to deploy live chat features, pull third-party content on their site, and collect user feedback via surveys.

Generally, it is a piece of JavaScript code or a pixel (1x1 transparent image) and it is one of the most important links of any digital marketing activity since it facilitates important functions like ad-serving and conversion tracking.

Tag management in digital marketing is the practice of deploying, testing, troubleshooting, and managing tags. It is implemented on both websites and mobile apps.

In a nutshell, tag management ensures that all tags continue to function efficiently and provide rich, meaningful insights to website owners for optimizing their user experience and marketing campaigns.

What is a Tag Management System

In practice, tags are codes, and thus, website owners require IT teams to take care of tags which can be time-consuming, costly, and chaotic at times.

Meetings, moments of meetings, status reports, bug reports, emails, and more meetings- that’s how tag management would look if done manually.

Tag management systems (TMS) were developed in order to bypass the marketers’ dependence on IT teams. They help simplify and centralize the implementation, management, and maintenance of tags centrally without having to write code. 

It puts all tags into a single container snippet/code instead of having multiple tags on a single web page.

With TMS solutions, marketers can manage digital properties by serving as a foundation for user data collection, management, and tag governance through an easy-to-use, intuitive web interface. 

The TMS not only takes care of the coding but provides an end-to-end solution for the development of tags, their deployment, testing, troubleshooting, management, version control, and documentation.

Thus, it serves as a single point of control where they can add, edit, and remove tags along with running tag audits with no/minimal coding involved.

This helps improve data accuracy, website performance, and time to market for campaigns.

TMS also orchestrates the optimal firing of tags when a web page loads, ensuring that the timing doesn’t affect the user experience and that the necessary parameters are considered.

Why Is a Tag Management System needed?

In the early 2000s, the internet was relatively new to most businesses and until the next ten years, having a website was itself a huge plus point for most of the smaller players.

The number of marketing and analytics platforms was limited but in today’s time, more than 9000 martech tools are available to serve various purposes at different sophistication levels.

Chart showing martech tools available in market.
(Image Courtesy of Statista)

Chiefmartec finds that an average organization uses close to 120 martech solutions which definitely benefits them but at the same time, it creates new problems.

Many of these tags have interdependencies on each other while they may not exhibit data interoperability. 

On top of that, cross-checking the data generated by different third-party vendor applications is another challenge for marketers apart from coordinating with IT teams to implement and manage tags.

How do Tag Management Systems work?

As mentioned earlier, a TMS helps put all tags in a single master tag and execute all related functions without requiring programming skills.

It requires marketers to work only on the TMS solution to orchestrate tags like Facebook Pixel, Google Analytics Tag, Adwords Remarketing Tag, and so on.

The most important component of a TMS is the data layer which acts as a middleman between the application layer and the experience layer.

Data layer in customer experience management

Let us have an overview of how tag management systems work:

Implementation: The TMS is integrated into the website by placing a tag container on the website which loads the TMS script for collecting and managing the data sent by the website.

Tag configuration: Marketers use TMS to create tags (Pixels and various scripts/snippets) provided by marketing and analytics tools of their choice.

Tag deployment: The TMS enables marketers to deploy tags on the entire website or on the targeted web pages in real time through an intuitive interface.

Data management: The TMS collects the data from the website and transfers it to the tags after converting it into structured information with the help of the data layer. This data is later sent to the designated third-party platforms for processing and analytics purposes.

Data Analytics and Reporting: Marketers can avail the data collected using the TMS or third-party platforms to optimize their marketing and business strategies.

What does Tag Management do for your Website?

In today’s time, data is the single biggest disruptive factor when it comes to marketing technologies and as user privacy regulations tighten up, first-party data will become the de facto oil and grease for keeping martech systems functioning.

Tags allow marketers to fetch first-party and third-party data for essential building paid campaigns, optimizing user experiences, and shaping business strategies.

A Tag Management System helps connect your core marketing stack i.e. email marketing tools like MailChimp, Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress or Shopify, CRM tools like HubSpot, and advertising platforms like Google Ads apart from other martech tools. 

TMS solutions help create a synergy within your digital marketing ecosystem by facilitating the free flow of data and insights across these tools based on the data-sharing rules you create.

Also, it helps companies ensure compliance with data privacy regulations which would otherwise require extensive human involvement and risk not only the legal safety but their reputation at large.

In essence, tag management empowers you to make sense of what results you are reaping from existing online marketing efforts and strategize future activities while taking care of data compliances.

Summarized: 6 Crucial Advantages of Tag Management

In this section, we will have a look at the key benefits of implementing a tag management system:

#1 Faster campaign time to market: Since tag management streamlines all data capturing and transforming functions, marketers can launch paid campaigns quickly without worrying about inefficiencies.

#2 Improved data accuracy: Tag management automates the process of collecting and sending user behavior data, thereby minimizing the risk of coding error/human error.

#3 Streamline all marketing and analytics tools: Today, thousands of marketing and analytics tools specializing in different aspects are available in the market. Using a TMS also helps businesses change their martech solutions or try new ones swiftly since it standardizes all data captured.

#4 Optimize marketing costs: Since the time and money spent on coding is virtually eliminated, TMS solutions help optimize marketing costs to a significant extent.

#5 Ensure tag governance and data protection: It supports the process of safeguarding user data privacy by controlling the data transformation and sharing as well as standardizing data across the vendor tool ecosystem.

#6 Reduce dependency on the IT team: Lastly, tag management systems take programming out of the equation which allows marketers to work on tags directly, thereby saving time spent on correspondence.

What are the Common Issues Faced in Tag Management?

In this section, we will glance over the issues commonly encountered while managing tags:

  • Since the martech tools available are specifically designed to target niche problems, website owners often end up implementing too many tags on their websites; ultimately lowering the page load speed.
  • Tag implementation is prone to errors if regular monitoring and maintenance aren’t carried out.
  • Making changes to the underlying code of the web page may cause tags to malfunction.

Configuration and data transformation errors are also faced by marketers from time to time which only multiplies with the scale of the website and the number of tools utilized.

How Do I Know if I Need a Tag Management System

Here’s a list of questions that you must answer to validate the need for a tag management system:

  • Are you using more than four digital marketing solutions?
  • Do you run multiple high-ticket value campaigns simultaneously?
  • Do you use enterprise-grade analytics solutions like IBM Coremetrics, Mixpanel, or Adobe Analytics?
  • Does your business have multiple websites and mobile applications?
  • Does your website receive a high number of visitors with purchase intent?
  • Do you want the freedom to try new martech solutions or switch between vendors?

If the answer to two or more of the above mentioned questions is yes, it is in your best interest to implement a tag management system. Regardless, we advise you to implement Google Analytics 4 on your website as it is a must for anyone looking to get some productive output from having a site.

Summing Up

Considering the fact that tag management plays a pivotal role in the functioning of martech tools and that it is the foundation for data collection and management, its role in the era of first-party data cannot be emphasized enough. 

After the sunsetting of third-party cookies since server-side tag management will become mandatory which is challenging on many levels since it is relatively more complicated and tedious.

This was just a bird-eye view of tag management but in practice,  it is fairly complicated and challenging. 

Despite the fact that  Google Tag Manager, one of the most popular and best TMS has made it fairly simple to manage all tags in one place, it still requires a significant amount of coding and manual intervention which is only going to increase with the advent of server-side tagging. 

To simplify tag management in the real sense, try Tagmate for free today!

Tag Management
Tag Management Advantages
Tag Management Systems
Issues in Tag Management
Tag Management Help
What is Tag Management
Server Side Tagging
Top questions people ask about Server Side Tagging
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