With every month of every year websites are growing more complex. I’m not talking about just the design – in fact, design trends are moving towards increased simplicity and a focus on conversion. But under the streamlined, elegant, design layer are tiers of data growing in complexity. For internet marketers, an area of concern is tags.
What is Tagging?
Take a look in the source code of any webpage and you’ll find tags. Here’s a basic tag from Google Analytics.
As web tracking becomes increasingly useful to us, we end up with an increased number of tags. It’s easy to fall prey to tag bloat: web pages are filled with tags for third party services that internet marketers use to measure user experience and activity. Tracking codes for everything from website testing tools to tracking advertisements, heat tracking to conversions, channel optimization to everyday analytics, are operating on websites.
The Google asynchronous method was so successful that other tracking services started doing exactly the same thing. If you start inserting lots of asynchronous tracking codes then you have lots of code loading all over your website and you have little to no control over when they load.
If you just have a small website, you may not be using many tags, but as your business and website traffic grow you’ll carry out significantly more tracking of your website visitors’ and customers’ activity. For example, if you’re part of an affiliate marketing network, tracking heat maps or re-marketing audiences you’ll have tracking tags from the network on your website. This means adding more scripts for third party services and if you are just adding them haphazardly you could start experiencing some, or all, of the following problems:
- Redundant tags – who doesn’t use an include file nowadays? You may end up with tags tracking the same events, so you could end up with skewed results or even end up paying an affiliate twice!
- Incorrect load sequence – tags may need to load in a specific order depending on their use case.
Enter Tag Management
Tag Management is a new category that’s becoming a new Software as a Service (SaaS) in online analytic’s for managing your tags. It’s a way of turning complexity into simplicity. Rather than inserting tags for each of your services, you insert just one for the Tag Management Software (TMS). All of your tags are managed by the TMS, which makes sure that everything is optimized and that there are no conflicts between the scripts.
Forrester Research produced a report outlining the reasons why tag management is important for people running complex websites. You can find them outlined on TagMan’s blog. They are:
- Accuracy – Tag management improves consistency and relevancy across your website by deploying the correct tags on all pages.
- Efficiency – You can add or edit your tags at any point in your website’s development.
- Freedom – By supporting tags from many different applications and applying them to any page, a TMS gives you increased flexibility. It’s easy for you to add or remove any services you want, and try out anything you want to subject to a test run.
- Control – Tags can be managed by internet marketers and analytics experts, rather than the IT department. This gives much more flexibility and control to the people who need to know your analytics information.
- Stewardship – You can standardize tags across applications, sites and users.
- Enhanced page load time – Your page is more streamlined with only necessary tags loading. This will improve your conversion rates and your search engine optimization.
Tag Management Services
There are lots of services out there offering tag management. Let’s take a look at some of them. (Disclosure: we are still in the process of vetting out some of these products and don’t endorse any of them.)
TagMan‘s focus is on providing tag management for enterprise level ecommerce. These types of customers are often using their own tags rather than third-party tags.
Notable Customers: Virgin Atlantic, Debenhams, Boden
Tealium is an enterprise level tag management solution aimed at internet marketers. Tealium has made it as easy as possible for users to insert tags, using a point and click interface to make it simple for people who aren’t familiar with code.
Notable Customers: Fox, NHL, The Wall Street Journal
As well as offering standard tag management, Ensighten provides additional privacy controls, simple tag management for your mobile apps, and tag management for Flash and Flex.
Notable Customers: Microsoft Store, Lenovo, Sony
BrightTag provides tag management for internet marketers. They have a point and click interface that you can use to share data with partners, and they make it easy to turn on and off services using their growing catalogue of partners.
Notable Customers: Crate & Barrel, Westin, JetBlue
As an open source TMS, QuBit OpenTag is available for you to download on Github and host your own TMS. If you’re not a developer or don’t have the capacity or skills for a self-hosted TMS, they also offer a hosted solution, starting out free for low traffic websites.
Check out these resources to learn more about tag management.