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Tag Management has become one of the most important piece of tech in the marketing technology stack but it’s the most underrated and underused in the industry. The word tag management is known to solve technical marketing challenges, however it is also a tool to help solve business and marketing challenges too.

With the frequently underrated status of Tag Management Systems (TMS) persisting in the industry, I wanted to outline the reasons why they should be more highly regarded and utilized across digital performance marketing.

Tag Management Vendor Landscape

The main TMS in the market are Adobe and Teallium, which both have usage costs, and Google Tag Manager (GTM), which is free to use. Other TMS in the market that you might have heard of are: Piwik Pro Manager, Qubit Open Tag, Signal, IBM Digital Data Exchange and Ensighten.

Tag Management Provides Agility

The role and value of TMS easily gets overlooked as most conversations are primary about Google Analytics or other analytics platforms. TMS is critical to everything we do as it provides the ability to connect and activate data in an agile way of working with multiple partners, which is needed in today’s technology landscape.

Poor TMS Governance

How we manage and value TMS is the biggest challenge from recent audits completed have seen anything from 30 tags for brand sites to 100 tags for publishers at any given time. This does not include tags which are piggybacked from other JavaScript tags implemented within the TMS.

TagMan was the first TMS that I can recall and it was initially used to do better analytics. As digital became more sophisticated more vendors utilized the capabilities that a TMS could provide. With vendors wanting to implement a tag at any time, it meant that brands had to adapt and deploy TMS so they could work with vendors in an agile way.

Poor TMS governance and the ridiculous number of tags implemented it led to data leakage with every tag load pinging servers and sending data in the background not knowing where the data was being sent to. For Ticketmaster there was a hack within a script that was loaded from a chatbot vendor on their site. By gaining a strong understanding of the tags implemented and how they work on a given website, digital stakeholders can better govern these situations with more control over their TMS.

An article from Pingdom mentions that the top 50 sites average load time was 9.46 seconds with third-party tarckers loading, and 2.69 seconds without. Using to test on — the page load time was recorded as 4.61 seconds.

This is where there needs to be better management of the tags implemented within the TMS. From the past TMS audits I have done, the consistent trends I have seen on brand sites is that past vendor tags are still active 12 months after no longer working with them. This leads to additional tags loading on each page refresh, which are not required, increase page load times and ultimately create a poor digital experience for customers.

Google Tag Manager: Leading The Way?

GTM has become the leading TMS in the market primary for two reasons 1) it’s a free TMS for anyone to use, 2) it’s an integrated part of the Google stack.

TMS is all about data connectivity this is where GTM and the Google stack provides that with relative ease. Search is Google’s baby and connecting Google Adwords with Google Analytics you are giving Google access to loads more data that is stored under the Google ID, which is only visible to Google.

Within GTM there are templates to help with tracking for both Google Adwords and Google Analytics. In addition, GTM allows data to be connected to platforms outside of the Google stack as well i.e. BingTwitterLinkedIn via the templates and via the Custom HTML you can implement Facebook etc.

If you have a solid measurement framework that utilizes a robust datalayer, then you are passing conversion, audience and behaviour data via GTM into Google Analytics. This set-up allows Google to leverage more data for bidding optimisations on their search and display platforms. For brands who have a customer ID this set-up is even more powerful as it gets around all privacy restrictions. The customer ID can be used to build out cohort segments to activate against marketing tactics across the Google platform. Google making it very easy for brands to spend more with them.

GTM is a very dominant TMS where it powers brands to be more sophisticated but also helps Google to be more powerful and stitch up data to get a better understanding of the user to drive more spend into Search.

Tag Management Is The Lynchpin

If data is the new oil, then tag management is core to helping brands ensure they can implement the right data strategy. Tag Management needs to be looked at as a strategic tool aligned with the overall marketing strategy, which is a top-down approach.

Tag Management Systems need to be involved in far more digital marketing conversations today and stop being a common afterthought in our industry. The control, agility and flexibility that TMS provide should be seen as invaluable to brands and the partners they work with. A lot of brands are only using their chosen TMS at 20% of its capabilities, there is a huge opportunity to be smarter than your competitor by utilizing the remaining 80% at your fingertips.