Long gone are the days when a marketer could launch a campaign based on gut instinct. Understanding and using digital analytics to demonstrate return on investment (ROI) of marketing activities as well as to guide campaign spend or measure effectiveness is vital. In many cases marketers need the ability to access the data and to make changes quickly without coding experience or without waiting for a developer to implement the change. This reliance on digital analytics and need for quick access has lead the line between information technology and marketing to blur. An example of this is tags and the evolution of tag management.
What Is a Tag?
In digital analytics, a tag is a piece of code inserted into a web page’s source code that allows for the collection of data about visitors and on-site behaviors across an organization’s digital properties, such as forms, images, posts and pages.
Tags are created for a variety of purposes. For example, collecting data from web browsers, enabling interaction between different sites, integrating third-party content, and setting cookies. Once a web browser requests a web page from the site’s server, the page content along with the tag code is returned to the browser where the tag code is executed and data is collected. Further, the tag instructs the browser to send the data collected to the data collection server for future analysis.
This data is collected on a third-party data collection server or on an in-house data collection center depending on how the resulting data will be stored. Based on the tags being used for one of these purposes, they can be categorized one of two ways; first-party tags which are the tags that set the cookie for collecting the data on the same domain and facilitates in-house data collection, and third-party tags that set the cookies for collecting data on the third-party domain, usually a third party or vendor.
First-Party Data VS Third-Party Data
First-party data is the data you own, collected directly from a company’s own channels i.e. your audience or customers. It comes directly from visitors and tells you exactly how they interact with your content, products or engage with a social media post. First party data is free!
Third-party data is audience data collected by a business or other entity that does not have a direct link to your visitor or customer. Basically, third-party data is any data that is not first party data, and typically not collected from a single site, rather a consolidation of user data across a set of sites across the web. Third-party data is not free and is available for purchase from third-party vendors.
Evolution of Marketing Tags
Birth of Tag Management Systems
Over the years, as the ease to implement tags and the flexibility of customization increased, the number of tags added to websites exploded. This led to an increase in the effort required to manage them, because complex code from multiple providers now had to be incorporated into the web pages or website.
Tagging evolved from inserting a piece of tracking code to web pages for each tag to container tags that birthed Tag Management Systems.
What is a Tag Management System?
Tag management solutions (TMS) were developed to make the management of tags simpler and easier for both technical and non-technical users.
Tag management systems control the deployment of all tags via a web user interface, without requiring software coding and making it easy to add, edit or remove any tag with point and click simplicity.
Why Is Tag Management Important?
What Are Common Tag Management Frustrations?
With a new technology consideration, cost poses a factor in the decision-making process. While some Tag Management solutions (TMS) come at a price, the free TMS options require investing in the solution design, removal of what could be years’ worth of remnant code, and implementation of the TMS leading to upfront cost investment.
Maintenance costs that incur post-implementation need consideration, that involve budgeting for IT resources and a plan for keeping up with the continual updates and enhancements.
However, Tag Management Solutions offer tremendous value compared to the tangible and intangible costs of managing vendors, agencies, departments, tracking down issues and continual troubleshooting, waiting on production cycles and resource availability.
What Are Some “easy” Tag Management Fixes That Could Be Applied for Quick Results?
Common tasks such as deploying existing tags across a new set of pages, or eliminating a technology that is no longer used. Rather than having to schedule development resources and cycles or searching for random code in every source repository, Tag Management systems allow users to make changes globally according to the process saving considerable time.
The combination of shifting audience dynamics and increasing marketing technology complexity requires marketers to be hands-on, proactive, and data-based in their approach. So understanding what tags are and how they work contributes to marketers ability to create and manage exceptional online experiences and to measure omnichannel effectiveness.