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Tag Management Platforms: the Evolution and Why You Need Them

Published: February 7, 2017

Author: Jack Pace

Think back a decade and some change ago when MarTech (Marketing Technology) tags were much simpler and in shorter supply. It was no problem dropping them into the source code and calling it a day. That was good for a while, but with the internet growing rapidly, MarTech needed to keep pace. In this post, we’ll cover the evolution of tag management platforms – and why you need them more than ever.

The emergence of tag management

Now that digital and performance marketing is booming, more advanced levels of tracking are necessary. Google, Facebook, Bing, Yahoo, Marin, and hundreds more want to have tags on your site to track users and their behavior. Getting those tags onto sites requires access to the source code and sometimes can prove to be difficult, technical, and require more conversations, time, money, and effort. Tag managers are a relatively new concept to the world of marketing and are rapidly growing popularity and proving their worth. Over the last few years, as MarTech continues to grow, tag managers have been evolving to become a must-have MarTech tool.  
Prior to the availability of the current digital marketing landscape, the amount of marketing tags out there was small; they were considered a nice-to-have. The numerous different channels did not exist then, and many organizations were only analyzing basic analytics outputs, including server logs, for KPIs. Access to the internet was growing all over the world, and more people were coming online. As Facebook and others came into the picture, digital marketing had to take a huge step forward. To make that step, digital marketing companies had to move as fast as those new platforms were moving. They needed to enhance their strategy and their technology. More and more teams began adding tags directly to the source code of their website. It was hard to organize, and the timing to get tags out was limited to their release management schedules; this was a very limiting factor for digital marketers trying to move quickly to keep up.
Tag managers were established to give speed, organization, and structure to MarTech implementations. As the tags started to accumulate, it was quickly noticed that a Tag Management System (TMS) was a must. New tag managers are popping up here and there to go along with rapid enhancements on current platforms. Tealium, Adobe Dynamic Tag Manager (previously Satellite), Google Tag Manager, and Signal (previously BrightTag), just to name a few, are the big players in this field. Google Tag Manager is a great example of rapid growth. It has grown a lot since 2012 and its introductory version. Since then, Google has been hard at work adding new features to make implementations and management easier, to the point that you do not need to know how to code (although you definitely should).

Benefits of improved tag management

There have been many great improvements for site owners and marketing stakeholders in the digital marketing world. From a tag management perspective, those improvements include a faster page load experience, organization and consolidation of tags, speed of implementations, and the ability to track close to anything. Google Tag Manager started as a tool to implement Google Analytics trackers and to insert custom HTML. Most tag managers work like this. For populating analytics platforms with custom values like product and revenue data, the TMS graphically shows the user where to insert that information. Adobe’s Dynamic Tag Manager and Google Tag Manager allow users to insert custom javascript or HTML snippets for adding 3rd-party tags like Facebook or Convertro. The custom code implementation tools open a lot of doors for new 3rd-party scripts.
As the 3rd-party scripts became more and more popular, Google realized that they could store the code for those scripts internally and manage them like a template. This allows marketers to implement 3rd-party scripts without touching a single line of code. The templated approach helps avoid issues with tags and decreases the implementation time by taking out the coding portion. As new digital marketing mediums are popping up and begging for tracking implementations, having the templated approach increases the ability for the average marketer to implement needed tracking tools. In Google Tag Manager, many trackers now only require the user to enter a unique ID.

Tag management has also gone mobile. Google Tag Manager, Tealium, and Adobe Dynamic Tag Manager have added mobile frameworks. This added benefit of the tag manager allows marketing to get insights into the most popularly used devices and apps.
These examples of innovation show a constant evolution with tag managers to make everyone’s lives easier; from the developer implementing the MarTech script in the source code to the marketers dreams of measuring everything with just a few clicks and some minor configurations. As digital marketing evolves, so do tag managers. This progression has led tag managers to become a must-have for those wanting to measure their digital footprint.

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