Tag management: basics & systems

Web analysis is an important aspect of online marketing. In order to find out how your campaigns and marketing measures are performing as well as how much influence they have on the company’s success, you first need to know how visitors found their way to your website. What was the decisive step to make a conversion happen? JavaScript code snippets (tags) are used in order to collect visitors’ movements and data flows to be analysed later so that online marketing measures can be optimised to increase sales. Tags are now being integrated into almost all web and mobile sites to receive information about user activity.

Once the data has been obtained, it means that many critical success factors and strategic questions can be answered: which measures contribute to the profit? Which ones lead to nothing despite you having invested an adequate sum of money? Which channels are effective? What are the obstacles that prevent conversions from happening?

Tag management has established itself as an important discipline for surveying data and therefore enabling marketers to answer these questions and adapt measurements and targets with speed as well as flexibility. Learn more about the most important fundamentals surrounding tag management.

Tags in online marketing

In online marketing, short code snippets (tags) enable marketers to closely follow visitor activity on their website. The tags are often available to third-party providers e.g. advertising platforms or affiliate marketing services. Three types of tags are generally used: counter, conversion, and remarketing tags. Here is an overview of the different type of tags:

  • Counter tag: this kind of tag can easily be translated using 'tracking pixels'. The tag counts how many times a user visits the website.
  • Conversion tag: this tag determines the number of conversions on a website. Conversions can be sales (orders from an online store), but also contact requests, white paper downloads, newsletter subscriptions, or registering for webinars. This kind of tag helps marketers measure the success of a campaign by assigning the conversion to a single advertising measure. This also provides valuable input when it comes to optimising your site.
  • Remarketing tag: remarketing is often referred to as retargeting, and its task is to address users who have shown interest in an offer or product – usually with advertisements on third-party websites or through search engines. On your own website, the remarketing tag is used to identify returning visitors. For these visitors, you can use a customised advertising strategy to address them more personally, and to increase the possibility of a conversion.

What is tag management?

Just like the name suggests, this deals with the management of tags. Theoretically, you can manually insert and manage each individual tag but if there are any subsequent changes to the website, any new campaigns, or a change in providers these tags will need to be adapted. This might work with small web projects consisting of only a few pages but for larger websites or online stores it becomes a mammoth task. Existing codes must be flexibly adapted and new snippets implemented regularly.

In addition, these tasks are often difficult to accomplish without IT support. Due to limited resources and tedious processes tag management can easily become time-consuming and annoying. If you use an external provider you also have to factor in the costs.

Tag management systems (TMS) have been developed as a solution. After setting them up, companies can integrate, edit, and manage tracking tags without having to rely on the source code or limited IT resources. A browser-based interface enables automated and effective tag management without the need for IT expertise.

How does a tag management system work?

A tag management system is used to manage different tags on websites and mobile applications. A simple comparison can be made with well-known content management systems (CMS), which are used to manage the contents of websites. Similar to the CMS, the TMS also has the ability to define access rights and user groups, manage content, and edit and manage tasks.

As a rule, no profound programming skills are required and marketers and other employees can work independently of IP support. A browser-based, simple user interface is available to use, just like with content management. Users can, for example, implement analytics scripts, remarketing tracking, affiliate tracking, conversion tracking, or manage publisher tags for banner advertising. These are then displayed to visitors on a rule and filter basis.

An important note: in general, no analysis is possible via tag management systems. Some vendors have a web analytics system connected, usually via the TMS, but this is only tag management, and not the thorough analysis you probably desire.

Tag management software providers

There are various tag management tools on the market, all of which offer different features. Among the most popular commercial solutions are Tealium or Tag Commander. Adobe customers can use the Activation core service to implement tags. Google also provides a tag management solution for websites and mobile apps with its free Google Tag Manager.

What are the benefits of tag management?

Tag management creates the basis for a detailed web analysis and is therefore of great importance in online marketing. For marketers, tag management can be very beneficial, especially if you’re using a partly automatic tag management solution. Using the central control system and the tag automation saves a lot of time and money. Managing tags manually would be much more complex and costly and often requires IT expertise especially if changes to the source code are to be made. Using a management solution saves IT resources since it only needs a one-time set up and employees can use it themselves after receiving training on how to manage tags.

  • Further advantages at a glance:
  • Main overview of all tags used
  • Marketing processes implemented more effectively and faster
  • Can react and adapt quickly to changes without prior consultation with IT
  • Marketing team independent of IT
  • User-friendly and intuitive interface
  • Access to tag libraries, problem-free implementation of third-party tags possible.

There are also some risks and stumbling blocks when using the system. Even if the operation is largely independent of hardcore IT, the systems still need to be professionally set up and implemented.

Nonetheless, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. The tag management system simplifies the work in online marketing and accelerates many processes – especially by allowing marketers to work independently on various topics, which is normally only feasible with relatively intense IT assistance. Tag management systems allow marketers to work more flexibly, react faster to changes, and adapt new campaigns in real-time.