Commentary

Tag, You're It: Are You Using a Tag Management Solution Yet?

When it comes to digital marketing measurement, tags make the world go 'round. The number of tags deployed on marketers' websites has been increasing faster than the policies in place to manage the flow of data and the applications to our businesses. Enter tag management solutions.

Got Tags?

From web analytics, to ad servers, bid management systems, affiliate marketing systems, CSE feeds, attribution reporting, DSPs, CRM platforms, and vendors targeting and profiling, it's become a chore to keep track of, let alone proactively manage the vast number of tags deployed on a website today. This scenario has created several issues -- including drawn-out implementation timelines, increased page load time, accidental removal of tags, conflicts between marketing and IT and, in many instances, duplication of reporting. Some marketers employ more tracking systems than others. For example, a retailer will have more tags than a CPG brand. While tag management will benefit all companies, the advantage of a tag management solution is proportionate to the number of tags being utilized. I would argue that tag management is mandatory for direct marketers.

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Efficiency Out of Chaos

Every organization works under some degree of constrained resources. Consider the operational efficiencies created by drastically reducing, or even eliminating, dependence on IT and/or development resources to implement tags for each new marketing system or channel, targeting or profiling initiative. Imagine reducing the implementation time for a new marketing tool from months to days, enabling you with increased speed to market. These are win-win scenarios made possible via your friendly neighborhood tag management solution. The fundamental premise of a single tag container, in which all tags can be deployed via an intuitive web-based interface, immediately streamlines IT requirements and resources, exponentially improves workflow, and creates a new level of accountability and quality assurance.

Business Applications

While the implementation of a tag management solution is technological, the successful business application all comes down to strategic planning.

The single biggest unaddressed accountability challenge for direct marketers is duplicative tracking and reporting of conversions and revenue across disparate systems. Tag management is only part of the solution here, but it can become the actionable component -- or at least one approach to it. Quality tag management solutions provide marketers with the ability to apply conditional rules on how and when specific vendor tags are deployed in order to prevent some duplicate tracking - which is actually more of an attribution issue than a tagging issue. The complete solution to prevent duplicate tracking is a tag management solution and a robust attribution reporting and modeling system. I've addressed this in a previous column on attribution modeling.

Choose Your Solution

Several tag management solutions currently lead the market, including Tag Man, Ensighten, Tealium, and Bright Tag. New vendors are steadily emerging. They each provide the basic tag container capability, but differ in their tag management interfaces and features, which are sure to evolve in the near future.

If creating operational efficiencies in your digital marketing process and enabling an actionable mechanism for reducing duplicative tracking sound good to you, then a tag management solution has earned its place as a vital part of your growing tool set.

I'm eager to hear the good, the bad and the ugly of your tagging experiences. How can tag management help your business?

4 comments about "Tag, You're It: Are You Using a Tag Management Solution Yet?".
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  1. Christopher Brinkworth from Ensighten inc (acquired TagMan), April 19, 2011 at 12:37 p.m.

    Disclosure: I work for TagMan, the first and largest Tag Management System since 2007.

    Here are the 155+ Tags that run through our platform:
    http://www.tagman.com/index.php/tags-supported-by-tagman.html

    I am happy to take a call to discuss why we are still the leaders in this field with over 100 brands running our platform across 23 markets.

    ---
    Jason - another terrific article - to complement your Attribution piece from the other week.

    Just like attribution - this is a new area and there will no doubt be many new entrant's stating their place in the comments here - as this is becoming a crowded market and even legacy systems and data providers are scrambling to retain control of tags, as it makes them very easy to be displaced. That is the point of the system.

    When you talk about 'basic' - I want to highlight a key thought: A Tag Management System has a responsibility to two major areas:
    a)Advertisers/Agencies that use their product
    b)Vendors that need to run seamlessly within the platform.

    If a TMS cannot scale, cannot cope with certain tag types or restricts you to a certain method of connection - both the advertiser AND the vendor become restricted; and that is not great for the ecosystem.

    What I suggest if this area interests you.
    1)Read all articles and papers that mention 'more than one' solution. Not all whitepapers are agnostic.

    2)Ask vendors (Criteo, Dotomi, Omniture, Marin, Exelate, Doubleclick etc) if their vendor code needs to be manipulated to run through a particular Tag Management platform or if it is loaded up 'as it was meant to'. (If you are a vendor and not looked into this - you should)

    3)Ask the Tag Management System what is the exact current number of tags that they have running through their platform with no need for code change or integration.

    I will hopefully paste some links here later on today relevant to other comments from our new peers in the industry - but excited to see more and more focus in this area.

    Chris Brinkworth
    CMO
    TagMan Inc.

  2. R.J. Lewis from e-Healthcare Solutions, LLC, April 19, 2011 at 1:41 p.m.

    Jason,

    Great article. Full disclosure, I am a co-founder of Ad-Juster.com, a discrepancy reconciliation software solution. The management of ad tags, tracking tags, etc... on all levels is definitely increasing in complexity, and will likely only get more complex, not less. We find our solution (consolidating and reconciling detailed reports on all 3rd party ad serving systems with local publisher side, first party counts) to be a solution most beneficial to large publishers. Tag management and discrepancy reconciliation are both problems that "scale" with the business one does online. Keep up the great articles....

  3. Josh Manion from Ensighten, April 21, 2011 at 2:48 p.m.

    Jason,

    Great article and very much needed as much of the world is still just learning about Tag Management Systems.

    Also, in relation to Chris' comment above i think these are a great starting point for questions that you should ask any prospective TMS vendor that you are thinking about working with. Also, i would add in the following:
    1. How does your solution speed up or slow down my page load times
    2. How do you support Flash and Mobile Applications
    3. How much IT / Dev resources do you need to setup & maintain the TMS and is the vendor willing to do a POC to prove it.

    For anybody interested we just published a collection of RFP / RFI questions that we have responded to over the last few years to aid others in the process of doing due diligence on the space at http://www.ensighten.com/resources/rfi-rfp

    Lastly, it is always a good idea to talk with folks at Forrester, Gartner, or the major consultancies to get their take on the space as well.

    Josh Manion
    CEO Ensighten

  4. Jason Heller from AGILITi, April 25, 2011 at 7:35 a.m.

    Josh, RJ, Chris - thanks for chiming in. I see a lot of momentum in the TMS space. Must be exciting on your ends...and frustrating that the momentum hasn't picked up even more yet. I trust that it will. Feel free to reach out anytime to keep me updated on any developments that you think I need to know.

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