How Tag Management Falls Short

October 1, 2016

Marketers may remember when tag management systems started springing up, during the late 2000s and early 2010s. This was mostly in reaction to the proliferation of new digital marketing technologies that required tags. Tags, of course, are the small injections of code – usually javascript – that facilitate everything from analytics and behavioral targeting, to chat integration and social media widgets. They’re vital to almost all of the exciting marketing campaigns that bring you closer to your audience and prospects. Tags even help you keep track of what’s been added to a shopping cart.

2012 brought the release of Google Tag Manager, a free tool that was user friendly and played nice with other Google products like Analytics and AdWords. The introduction brought tag management mainstream. The advantages of using a tag manager were significant and included things like: adding and removing tags without hardcoding, smart tag firing, and asynchronous tag loading. And, one of the most crucial benefits, marketers could add tags without relying on IT.

In 2016 things are a little different. While tag managers have made the use of tags easier for non-technical practitioners, there are four areas where they can leave your organization up a creek.

Secret Tags on Your Site?
New research found that 67% of digital marketing and IT leaders in eCommerce believe there are 3rd-party technologies on their site that they’re unaware of. But shouldn’t a tag manager show you all the tags you’ve added or removed? Well, not exactly. This is due to something called a redirect, which is simply a working partnership between digital vendors. Because tags can’t read each other’s data, they need a way to collaborate in order to reach a wider audience.

Redirects are that collaboration. It’s when your tags add other tags on top of themselves to optimize, aggregate, or supply data (amongst other things). These chains of redirects are sometimes called piggybacks because they can expand extensively. These are tags that you haven’t necessarily authorized or added, and are unable to monitor with just a tag management system. This, predictably, can lead to huge governance and performance problems. In fact, 50% of 3rd-party tags that sit on travel sites are not their own.

Performance Problems?
While tag managers give you the ability to add and remove tags without having to hardcode them onto your site, they don’t give you the ability to see how they are performing or whether they’re causing problems. It’s also important to be able to have a view across domain groups and at KPIs like: individual tag count, average page latency, tag latency, and individual tag latency.

Tracking latency is important. Compass, which tracks eCommerce transactions, found that conversions fall by 12% for every additional second of latency. If a tag is slowing firing slow and increasing latency on a critical page, it could mean significant revenue lost.

Need Reporting?
It’s just a fact that in business you often need reporting – to measure progress over time and provide the analytics to back up strategic decisions. Not only do tag managers leave you blind to performance issues, they can’t provide the detailed reports that show which tags are performing to set standards. A tag manager also won’t provide the ability to benchmark tags or pages against competitors over time, nor do they show alerts when new tags are added. They also won’t allow you to blacklist malfunctioning tags and keep scrupulous track of lines of ownership. In short, a tag manager won’t help you make critical business decisions.

Security Problems?
A secure page is one that is one that uses HTTPS protocol for secure communications. Tag managers unfortunately won’t alert you when your page is making a call to a non-secure tag. This causes what’s called a mixed content warning, when a browser recognizes that a non-secure tag is being called on a secure page. Similarly, a tag management system won’t show you the redirects that could expose you to data leakage – i.e., the piggybacking tags that have access to your data and audience demographics via their partnerships with the other marketing technology vendors added to your site. This is especially problematic because companies can use that data to sell to your customers.

Proactive Monitoring
While tag managers have made it much easier for non-technical practitioners to be able to take advantage of the increased functionality of tags, there are some areas where tag managers fall short. What more organizations need is technology that offers of full view of the tags operating on their site – both redirects and those that have been added internally.

It’s important to use a tool that offers solutions that address performance, reporting, and keep your organization safe from security problems. Tag managers have simplified things greatly, but it’s still a complex world out there that needs comprehensive solutions.

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Author: Scott Meyer