3 Tag Management Systems to Make Your Life Easier

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    three tag management systems that will make your life easier

    Tags—can’t live with them, can’t live without them. That’s what I hear from a lot of marketers, who love the customer behavior insights that tags provide but loathe the tedious upkeep they require. Those little snippets of JavaScript code that enable third-party tracking, analysis and reporting sound simple enough, but a website might have loads of different tags that each do different things: tags for site traffic analytics, tags for tracking and analyzing customer behavior, tags for remarketing, AdWords conversion snippets, CRO tracking and more. What happens when someone on the marketing team wants to add to, subtract from, or alter one such tag? Mayhem.

    When it comes to connecting with their prospects and customers, marketers have hundreds of marketing technology options (per ChiefMartec.com, you have 1,876 digital technologies from which to choose) and every one of these vendors requires code to be added to the page. It’s most likely not the marketing team that has to implement these changes but the IT department (or whoever handles the company’s website code), and no amount of pleading and cupcakes can speed up that process if there are other urgent web changes in the queue. This, in a word, is frustrating. Here’s why stalled tag implementation is also bad for business:

    1. Slow turn around could lead to missed opportunities. For example, what if your company owns Caribbean hotels and there is suddenly a huge airfare sale on flights to your location? Waiting a month to add a remarketing pixel means no tracking, no data, no way to reach out to the person that is going to buy that cheap flight and is browsing dozens of hotels.
    2. What if there is a bug after release? Now you’re stuck with a dead pixel until the next release cycle.
    3. Perhaps you want to test-drive a new technology, but getting the tag implemented site-wide is too much effort to justify. Again, a missed opportunity.

    In addition to the effort involved in implementing the pixels, once they are hardcoded on the page they add weight. This weight can potentially impact your page performance, which can have a negative effect on your bottom line. Check out this infographic from Neil Patel to learn more about the effects of page load.

    And lastly, worst-case scenario, hardcoded tags on the page could contain a syntax error, potentially breaking all of the JavaScript below it on the page. That’s bad.

    tag management systems to the rescue

    Don’t be fooled by the rather dull sounding terminology—a tag management system (TMS) can save the day, helping to streamline tag deployments and management that previously required ongoing IT assistance to support. TMS can also help you drive better omnichannel experiences for your consumers.

    In a nutshell, here’s what you need to know:

    1. Tag management systems control the deployment all tags (and mobile vendor deployments) through a web interface. You can add tags to a single page, or all pages, on your site in minutes.
    2. You can deploy tags asynchronously, ensuring a stalled pixel doesn’t slow down your page-load time.
    3. Tag management systems will generally catch pixel errors before they affect your page and all your other tracking pixels.
    4. Tag management systems often offer point and click integrations with all your marketing technology solutions. This means, in many cases, tag management can be handled by a marketing team without having to route the task through IT.
    5. Many offer robust solutions for split testing, A/B testing, multivariate testing.
    6. Enterprise tag management solutions—compared to free tag managers—also deliver a variety of advanced capabilities, such as customization, data management, privacy controls and mobile application support.
    7. Many TMS work on any platform or device that supports JavaScript—web, mobile, video, e-reader, etc.— and natively support any tag or conversion pixel, without page level customization.

    The advancement of this marketing middleware is making it easier for marketers to put their technology pieces together in a cohesive marketing stack, tailored to their business. So, with no further delay, let me share three of the more popular tag management systems with you. At Smart Panda Labs, I have helped clients implement all three of the following platforms and seen positive ROI. No system is perfect, however, which is why I’m sharing both the pros and the cons of each with you.

    Google Tag Manager

    Google Tag Manager allows you to quickly and easily update tags and code snippets on your website or mobile app, such as those intended for traffic analysis and marketing optimization. You can add and update AdWords, Google Analytics, Firebase Analytics, Floodlight, and 3rd party or custom tags from the Tag Manager user interface instead of editing site code. This reduces errors and frees you from having to involve a developer when configuring tags.


    • It’s free. We love free.
    • As you might expect, it works very well with Google tags (Floodlight, Universal Analytics, etc,).
    • Very easy to learn and launch


    • Non-Google technologies will require custom Javascript/HTML, ergo more complex tags will require some knowledge of JavaScript.
    • It’s difficult for multiple users to add tags at once without stepping on each other

    Google Tag Manager is good for a small and medium-sized businesses that only uses google marketing and analytics and has no plans to move to a more advanced analytics suite like Adobe Analytics.


    This enterprise TMS enables you to manage all your vendor tags and data through one interface, featuring more than 1,100 turnkey vendor integrations. Use this tool to unify and standardize fragmented data sources across technologies and devices to drive greater ROI from your technology stack.


    • Page weight is kept as low as possible
    • Includes many “templates” or “apps” for creating new tag deployments – just fill in the blanks and it creates the tag for you.
    • Gives you the unique ability to have many users working at once without the risk of prematurely publishing a work in progress.
    • Includes an API that allows enterprise customers to build their own interface
    • Gives you the ability to deploy custom JavaScript directly to the page easily
    • Very easy to set timing options (when the tag fires) as well as dependencies (fire A after B after C)


    • Difficult to customize templates or apps, so if an app doesn’t fit exactly what you need, you’ll need to employ custom JavaScript.
    • Defining data elements and events can get clunky unless you know JavaScript.

    Ensighten is particularly good for medium-to-large enterprises that have technical resources that can react quickly and remain active in administering tags when custom solutions are necessary.


    Like Ensighten, Tealium enables you to connect your customer data sources with over 50+ extensions, 1000+ turnkey integrations and a flexible approach with cloud or browser-based delivery. Tealium also serve tags very quickly; speed is an important consideration for organizations with complex requirements or multiple high-traffic websites.


    • Templates are easy to adapt to your needs, reducing the need for JavaScript experience. Includes templates for almost any vendor you can imagine.
    • Extensions allow for manipulating data as needed before plugging in to vendor templates and automates e-commerce conversion tracking.
    • After initial implementation, technical resources probably aren’t needed— tags can be administered by a marketer.
    • UI / UX is very easy and intuitive.
    • Robust options when creating rules that define when and where your tags fire.
    • Browser plugin is helpful and powerful for QA.

    Multiple users adding tags simultaneously may step on each other. There isn’t an easy way to promote tags through different environments as they are completed and while other people are adding tags in the same environment.

    Telium is a good fit for any size company that has technical resources available for implementation and won’t have too many people adding tags at the same time. After initial setup and some training, marketers should be able to administer tags themselves.

    buyer beware: comprehensive data layer required

    The list above is in no way the complete universe of solutions. Adobe has their own tag manager included in their Adobe Marketing Cloud, for example, and there are many other smaller vendors out there. But be wary—every tag management pitch will be the same, i.e., “Just put this one line of code on your site and you’re good to go.” Don’t be fooled. (Adobe Dynamic Tag Manager documentation goes as far as to say you don’t need a data layer—malarkey!) There is one VERY important thing you need to get value from your TMS to truly make life easier, and it’s going to involve your IT department/website administrator.

    No matter which TMS you choose, you’ll need to add a robust and comprehensive data layer to every page on your site. This is the single most important thing you can do to ensure success with your tag manager. The data layer allows you to directly access the data on your website through your TMS without a bunch of workarounds, ensuring data integrity and your sanity. It should contain all the information that you want to send to your tags through the TMS. To help compile the data required:

    1. Conduct a comprehensive audit of all your current tags.
    2. Think ahead to what sort of information you have wanted to capture in the past, but couldn’t.
    3. Consider what additional information will help you get to know your site users.

    After the initial pain of the data layer setup has passed, it’s important to make updating the data layer part of your ongoing site updating process. When you add a new piece of information or redesign a page, update the data layer.

    With a little bit of up-front effort, a TMS will enable you and your company to be more agile, make your marketing more reactive, decrease frustration around implementing and updating tags and deliver positive ROI on your investment. Sound amazing? It is.

    Smart Panda Labs is an official service partner of the tools above, so we have a lot of experience helping clients get the most out of these platforms, among others. We can handle implementation, administration, or even just help you select the right tool. I invite you to schedule a free consultation with us.

    key takeaways

    1. Tags are little snippets of JavaScript code that enable third-party tracking, analysis and reporting
    2. Stalled tag implementation can result in missed opportunities, and syntax errors can break an entire page.
    3. A tag management system (TMS) can streamline tag deployments and management that previously required ongoing IT assistance to support. TMS can also help you drive better omnichannel experiences for your consumers.
    4. Tag management systems provide many benefits, such as catching pixel errors before they affect your page and all your other tracking pixels and offering point and click integrations with all your marketing technology solutions.
    5. Google Tag Manager, Ensighten, and Tealium are three TMS that makes it easy to manage digital marketing deployments, and unify data sources to drive more timely and relevant interactions
    1 comment
    • Paul Kaye

      Very good article for anyone trying to understand what TMS is, how it helps,and what blindspots to be on the lookout for; very helpful. Just one complaint: not sure if I am loving the green tie on the black shirt.

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