Tag Management Solutions: What you need to know

| October 29, 2012 | 1 Comment

Recently Google made waves inside the Tag Management Solution (TMS) industry by announcing that they were jumping into the game. “Tag Management” is perhaps a less popular buzz word than “Big Data” in the analytics space right now, but it is rapidly closing the gap.

For those of you who are unaware, Tag Management involves integrating all of your site tags (surveys, analytics, marketing, A/B testing, etc.) with a third-party provider, and then using that third party to handle when, where, and how your tags execute. In many ways, TMS becomes a middle man, benefiting you in a couple of ways:

  1. Improved page performance – rather than having your page responsible for loading five different tags from five different vendors, your page calls on a TMS which then fires off the tags. Details on how much improvement people see on average shouldn’t really weighed too heavily as, with site performance, there are so many factors affecting the data. The fact is, a TMS will improve performance, which is always a big win.
  2. Greater flexibility to add, drop and enhance tags – According to Econsultancy, 44% of  surveyed companies responded that it takes more than a week to implement a new tag or modify an existing one. With a TMS, the time to market is dramatically different – 69% of respondents using a TMS see their tags go live within one workday. [i]

One pervasive myth about TMS is that it “takes the business of tagging out of IT’s hands.” While it is true that, once live, the involvement of IT with this activity is decreased, IT is still an important stakeholder. Any TMS that tells you otherwise is just trying to tell you what you want to hear if you have had technical challenges with tagging in the past. There is a significant partnership required with IT to get a TMS up and running in the first place, and any time you need to make a new attribute available to the TMS, IT will be involved. So keep in mind that it’s a good idea to not go on about how you won’t be needing IT once the TMS has gone live – you will.

I keep hearing about server-side vs. client-side, what is better?

Tag Management providers spend a lot of time talking about how many round trips they make versus their competitors, but the truth is that the best way to truly tell how well server-side vs. client-side will perform for your site is to do a limited POC. There are advantages to both. It is worth noting though, that the majority of players are client-side, and Google’s new Tag Management offering is client-side as well.

Tag Management is still so new!

According to Forrester, 50% of respondents to their Q2 2012 Global Tag Management User Online Survey have had a tag management solution in place a year or less, with 79% less than two years. Not surprising as, of the 15 TMS reviewed by Forrester, none are more than four years old[ii]. This means that you are not behind, and chances are that your competitors haven’t engaged with a solution yet either. In addition, as these TMS companies grow, right now their pricing models are still pretty attractive. I will refrain from sharing specific quotes I’ve received from vendors, but I will tell you that it was significantly less expensive than I expected, considering the benefits that a TMS can grant you.

So what does it mean that Google has entered this space?

Innovation! And I don’t necessarily mean just in Google’s product. When the behemoth that is Google enters any arena, that sends a very loud signal to the other vendors out there that they’re going to need to work harder in terms of performance and usability.

Take, for example, Google Analytics and the impact that has had on the likes of Omniture. I haven’t seen anyone at Adobe willing to admit it, but there were a number of significant features added to SiteCatalyst’s latest release that were inspired by Google Analytics. Some of these features had been exclusive to Google Analytics for years. The fact that a tool as pervasive (and frankly, expensive) as Omniture is taking notes from a free tool is significant. So with Google now entering the tag management space, other vendors know they need to take note. As with any market competition, we as consumers of these products win.

Google’s Tag Manager – our take

You’ve just heard me worship at the altar of Google for a few moments so my next comments might surprise you. I don’t believe Google Tag Manager is ready for prime-time…yet. I will go further out on a limb and say that I have my concerns about its long term growth based on what I see right now. Why?

One huge reason: partnerships with other vendors, specifically in the realm of site analytics.

One of the biggest advantages companies like Tealium, Ensighten, TagMan, etc. have over Google’s product is that they are vendor-neutral. In fact, I’ve been on a few calls with these vendors since Google made their announcement and vendor neutrality seems to be their default answer when people start questioning how they compare. Why does that matter? Well one of the best aspects of the Tealiums of the world is that, as a business user, I log into my TMS and have instant access to over 300+ tags (depending on the vendor) from which to choose from. Integrating these tags just requires a click of a button.

Out of the gate, Google Tag Manager only supports…Google. DoubleClick, Analytics and Adwords are all supported, and they do have a free-form field where you can copy/paste any tag you want into the solution, but that copy/paste action is significantly less user-friendly than selecting a vendor from a dropdown and clicking a radio button.

Google says that they are actively working with the various tag providers out there to increase the number of integrations. In the spirit of more competition among the various players being good for us, the consumer, I hope they are successful in that vein. But I have my doubts that they will be able to achieve as robust a list of integrated platforms as the other tag management providers. For example, why would Adobe want to partner with Google when they have their own product, especially now that Google Analytics Premium is a direct competitor to SiteCatalyst?

I anticipate that Google Tag Manager will be able to connect with a number of valuable providers of data and services, but I am skeptical that site-analytics providers are going to be as eager to integrate.

Take the Google Analytics Social Data Hub as an example. Google has the ability to follow how visitors share and interact with your brand inside various social networks, outside of your domain. Gone are the days of just counting how many “likes” you have; with Google Analytics Social Data Hub reports, you can actually monitor how far into the dark recesses of social media that your content has traveled. Only problem? Google hasn’t been able to get either of the key players (Facebook and Twitter) to sign-up. A primary reason for this is because of Google’s entry into the space with Google+. So while it might be interesting for Mary Marketer to see how many Diggs her site has had, the key questions around Facebook and Twitter remain.

Ultimately,  the non-Google tag management providers are more attractive at this point – they have no stake in the game, and therefore are of no threat to the analytics vendors themselves. I’d be foolish to think that Google can’t turn Tag Manager into great product but I do feel that, right now, it is at a disadvantage to more established players in this space.

Contact CrossView today to help you evaluate whether a Tag Management Solution is right for your company.


[i] The ROI of Tag Management, Econsultancy, 2012

[ii] Understanding Tag Management Tools And Technology, Forrester, 2012

Category: Archives, Research & Development, Web Analytics

About Jenny Elliott: Jenny Elliott is the Manager of Digital Analytics at CrossView. She often wonders what might have happened in her childhood to make her love analyzing data this much. View author profile.