Tag Management is Saving Future-You Headaches

February 27, 2013
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Matt Quirie
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Seems simple enough, right?

It’s go time. You’ve got a great marketing campaign lined up, all the copy has been written, checked and double-checked. Your new A/B testing software is ready to go.  Now all you need is to get the testing tags onto your landing page, and input the code for your tracking pixels in time for the weekend – no big deal. You get an email back from engineering regarding your request: “This has been added to the development queue, expected delivery date – 30 days.  Have a good weekend, I’m leaving early for vacation! :)”

Anyone who’s worked in ecommerce at medium-sized or large organizations will have run into this issue. The simple fact is that Engineering, Development, and IT departments hold the keys to your site’s code, and they often have different priorities than the marketing team. Assuming they even knew about your marketing campaign, they likely don’t report to you, and have their own responsibilities.  Sadly, the fact that marketing departments are endlessly frustrated with their engineering teams makes sense.

Tag management was developed to resolve this conflict. Think of a tag manager as a CMS for your pixels and your marketing and analytics tags.  Tag managers decouple your marketing analysis efforts from your technical teams, as it gives you a simple interface for inserting and modifying tracking tags, pixels, and associated data.

Another primary benefit of tag management software is that it can speed up page load time significantly. By reducing the copious on-page tag code to one simple line of code that only inserts tack pixels and tags as necessary, the need for users to load each of these tags independently is removed, and page load times can be reduced by 10%, 20%, or more. The increased speed translates to lower bounce rates, higher conversion rates and better SEO.

Tag management isn’t new technology (TagMan, for example, has been around for at least 6 years), but the capabilities and benefits of these tools have expanded significantly as researchers have explored what this technology means and what it can accomplish.  Google’s free tag manager has the potential to do for tag management what Google Analytics did for web analytics, in terms of introducing a relatively esoteric technology to a much larger audience.

But, as with Google analytics, there is a significant disparity between the features of a free tool vs. an enterprise-grade paid service.  Consider the disparities between Google Tag Manager and Ensighten Tag Management.

Google Tag Manager
google tag manager logo

Free software from a trusted global technology giant designed specifically to speed up your website and ease analytics implementation.
Price: Free!
Features:
Rule based tag deployment
Simply create rules so that tracking tags are only deployed to those users who need to load them.  Also useful for managing country or region-specific privacy laws, such as EU cookie tracking laws.

Speeds up your site
By using dynamic and asynchronous tag loading, your tags are all loaded in parallel, instead of each waiting for the other tag to finish before beginning to load.  This can significantly improve page load speeds, more so on sites that heavily utilize tracking codes and pixels.

Permission levels
By credentialing certain classes of users to only be able to make certain kinds of changes, accidental deletion of tags or insertion of corrupt code can be avoided.

Tag testing sandbox
Testing tags before they are fully published to the live site reduces errors which would otherwise result in poorly formatted or missing data.

 

Ensighten
logo

Advanced tag management & data platform with enterprise level support.
Price: Based on traffic volume (not free)
Features:
Rule based tag deployment
Simply create rules so that tracking tags are only deployed to those users who need to load them.  Also very useful for managing country or region-specific privacy laws, such as EU cookie tracking laws.

Speeds up your site
By using dynamic and asynchronous tag loading, your tags are all loaded in parallel, instead of each waiting for the other tag to finish before beginning to load.  This can significantly improve page load speeds, more so on sites that heavily utilize tracking codes and pixels.

Permission levels
By credentialing certain classes of users to only be able to make certain kinds of changes, accidental deletion of tags or insertion of corrupt code can be avoided.

Tag testing sandbox
Testing tags before they are fully published to the live website reduces errors which would otherwise result in poorly formatted or missing data.

Flexible data stream platform
This one takes a bit of effort to wrap your head around, so bear with me. A tag management tool, in the most basic terms, inserts tags and routes your data appropriately.  If you consider the broader point that this third party is handling all your tracking data, we can begin to see that it’s possible for them to mash up this data and route it to different places based on your needs.  This is exactly what the data platform does. It takes your analytics data and makes it malleable, so that you can easily route, display or email tracking data into your Omniture tracking suite, or to a proprietary BI database. It’s a little complicated, but a lot cool.

Tag Delivery Network
Similar to a content delivery network (or CDN), the Tag Delivery Network is a global network that allows for location-specific data delivery.  Delivering content from a local server is, unsurprisingly, much quicker than delivering it from halfway across the world – and adds up to even quicker page load times.

Visual tagging
Ensighten provides a visual tracking tool that allows you to assign tracking codes or variables to a site via a visual GUI page overlay.

Mobile tracking implementation
Based on the above concept, visual analytics tagging is extended to mobile apps.  In the past, tagging mobile apps has been extremely taxing, but Ensighten provides a visual interface to do so quickly and easily.

App library
Ensighten provides pre-set “apps” which allow you to automatically format tags and data in useful ways.

If you’re involved in web-based marketing, tag management is a very interesting technology. Capable of speeding up your site and vastly simplifying implementation procedures (and much more with some enterprise platforms), tag management is becoming increasingly more mainstream.  But only time will tell whether it will become as widely adopted as web analytics.

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