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Tag management — what it is and how it works

by Adobe Experience Cloud Team

Your website contains a lot of valuable marketing data, but that data must first be captured somehow. It’s best to tag the data you want to use, track, and analyze. Understanding tag management and how it works will help you take a big step forward in improving your marketing.

The reach marketing teams have today would not be possible without tag management. The data management and organization tools a tag management system (TMS) brings have led to the catered customer experiences we see today.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • What a tag is

  • What tag management is

  • Key benefits of tag management

  • How tag management works

What is a tag?

A tag is a snippet of JavaScript code put into your website’s source code to gather data about visitors’ activity on your website. The purpose of tags is to collect data from your website’s visitors so you can analyze that data and use it to carry out tasks such as product recommendations, live chat, and advertising.

When someone visits your website, the tags you insert run in your visitor’s browser. These tags send requests to communicate with a third-party analytics platform — like Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics — which recognizes the code and then sends back a full set of code instructions associated with each tag to collect information about your visitor’s activity on your site. Once that third-party platform has the information it requested, it organizes it and puts it to use for your marketing, advertising, and other tasks.

The first information that tags collect is your visitors’ IP address, their web browser, and how they found your site — whether through a direct search, an ad, or some other way. The analytics platform then takes this info and creates an anonymous user profile for each visitor. Finally, the platform uses the tags to track each profile’s behavior — what content they view, what links they click, and how much time they spend on your pages. Marketers can then use all this info to create personalized customer journeys and improve the customer experience.

Tags vs. cookies vs. keyword tags

Tags are not the same as cookies, which bounce information back and forth between a website and a user’s browser to track data. Tags set cookies to communicate your website’s first-party data to third-party platforms so you, the website owner, can have much more control.

Tags are also very different from SEO keyword tags, such as the blog tags you see on WordPress sites, hashtags on Twitter, or the metatags in your website’s HTML header.

What is tag management?

Tag management — using a tag management system (TMS) — is the process of organizing tags and using them for marketing, advertising, and creating a better customer experience. The tag management system acts as the container for all the tags and hosts an interface where you can control tags and analyze and direct the data those tags collect.

Tag management can help you track your visitors’ activity on all your websites, mobile applications, and nearly any IoT device. In addition, a tag management system enables you to view and analyze this data and use it to improve the customer experience.

History of tag management

Tag management systems debuted in the marketing technology (martech) world in the late 2000s. Marketers needed website tracking and analytics tools but were dependent on IT members to manually change codes each time they wanted to change the data collected or implement new strategies.

Manually changing many different codes took up valuable time and resources, not to mention the many emails exchanged and meetings attended to organize the code. In response, TMSs were designed to require no coding experience, and marketers now can do all they need with their website’s data with just a few clicks.

Key benefits of tag management

Tag management can help your teams create more impactful customer experiences because of the first-party data it collects. Research by FinancesOnline found that improved efficiency and productivity are among the top benefits of using analytics — proving that collecting and managing data is essential for any business. A tag management system offers marketers several benefits, including:

  • Superpower your data collection. You have access to your first-party data, which gives you valuable insight into your customers’ interests. Tag management gives you control over the data you need by letting you switch out old analytical methods easily so you can try out new ones.

  • Maximize your marketing campaign. With the ability to track and analyze each customer’s activity on your site, you can quickly see your site’s strengths and weaknesses, assess the best channels to reach customers, and measure the effects of your ad campaign. You can also personalize your marketing to different customer segments and retarget them more effectively.

  • Optimize your website. You can improve performance in the short term and continue to draw in more customers down the line, thanks to a TMS automatically implementing tags when certain criteria is met. By using intelligent tag features, quick loading times will keep customers continuing to engage with content.

  • Comply more easily with government regulations. A TMS provides a solid infrastructure for your tags so you can easily keep track of activity. You can easily standardized data definitions over a variety of platforms.

  • Save time and money. Your IT and marketing departments no longer need to spend time on tedious manual data collection. Teams can focus on more important business matters.

Tag management gives you better control of your website data and can be a powerful way to supercharge your marketing.

How tag management works

Tag management systems allow non-developers to ask for specific information on their website without coding. A TMS brings order to all your data for more targeted marketing.

One of the most essential components of a TMS is the data layer. A data layer is a JavaScript object that sits between the user interface layer and the application layer. You can establish the datasets you are gathering and sync applications in the data layer. This layer connects your TMS and website, as well as other marketing tools that share data between these applications.

Here’s what the tag management process looks like:

  1. You set up tags for the data you want to collect. In your tag management system, decide and choose what data you want to gather.

  2. Tags collect the information. When a user gets on your webpage, the tag instructs the browser to join with a third-party analytics platform’s server to collect data.

  3. The tag management system collects and organizes the data. This data organization makes customer segmentation easy as online behaviors are tracked through the TMS.

  4. You can analyze the collected data for your marketing. Now that you have the analytics, you can cater your marketing efforts carefully to pique your customer base’s interests.

Adding and managing tags can help with the following marketing tasks:

  • Customer journey mapping. Knowing where and when customers decide to engage with content can help your team know when to engage with customers and when the marketing strategy needs to be adjusted.

  • Personalization. You have the data to show what content your customers choose to engage with — you can use that to create personalized content and capture customer attention.

  • Retargeting. More often than not, website visitors go to your website and may not make a purchase or schedule an assessment until the next time they visit your website. By tracking activity, you can provide the customer with content that will reignite their interest in your company’s products and services.

  • Marketing metrics. Numbers don’t lie. By looking at what content your customers gravitate toward, you have a better chance of securing long-term customer relationships. Pages they view, emails opened, and more activity can help you pivot strategy when necessary.

Getting started with tag management

Tag management is a powerful tool that can simplify data and analytics and help your team to create exceptional customer experiences. When you’re ready to get started, find software that makes it easy for you to create memorable experiences for each of your customers.

Adobe Analytics turns real-time data into real-time insights. As more than a web analytics solution, it takes data from any point in the customer journey and turns it into an insight that guides your next best action. Backed by Adobe Sensei, Analytics uses artificial intelligence to deliver predictive insights based on the full scope of your data — and lets you view and manipulate data in real-time.

Adobe Experience Platform Launch is another tool that transforms data into lasting customer loyalty. Experience Platform makes real-time customer experiences possible. As the foundation for Adobe Experience Cloud products and services, Experience Platform is an open system that stitches together customer data from every interaction through every channel in real-time. Your team gains comprehensive customer profiles that drive relevant experiences for every customer.

Request a product demo or watch the overview video to learn more about Adobe Analytics.

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