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The Little Tags That Can Cost You Big

By Chris Brinkworth
Jun 7, 2011 5:00 AM PT

Do you know how much money you will lose if your e-commerce site fails for just one hour? What if your site slows down?

The Little Tags That Can Cost You Big

The more tags and pixels you have on your site, the more likely you are to find out.

Tags, or pixels, are pieces of code that are put on your website every time you implement a new campaign -- like advertising, paid search, SEO, retargeting, affiliate marketing and more. The tags help you track the performance of online campaigns and analytics. However, the more you have on your site, the slower your site performs, which has a negative impact on the visitor experience and ultimately on sales.

Every extra second a site takes to load results in lost traffic. On top of that, Google now factors page load times into its page rankings, so the slower your site performance, the lower your natural search ranking.

As businesses are increasingly concerned about the ROI of their Web properties, marketers want to know which sources of traffic are delivering real buyers, and which aren't. They want to know where to heavy-up marketing spend and where to cut back.

Buried Answers

While the answers are likely hidden in your tags, without a universal tag management system, the data is nearly impossible to find. Today's modern businesses have multiple websites, microsites and domains across differing brands, regions and often countries. Many have multiple formats (Flash, HTML etc.), and significant numbers of third-party vendors.

As each vendor adds more tags to your website, you're faced with scores of incompatible reports to track the effectiveness of each channel. Excess page tags are also a headache for IT, since they are time consuming to load, manage and remove. I'm sure you get the picture; you deal with it on a daily basis.

Tag management systems improve the agency/client/marketer/IT workflow by making it fast and simple to add, remove and manage all of those tags. They can also provide a unified and complete view of your customer's journey online, and demonstrate which sources of traffic lead to the most conversions through multitouch/cross-channel attribution. This level of insight is just what you need to direct your spending to the most productive channels.

Now, you might be wondering how best to select a tag management system that's right for you, as there are many on the market. Following are three questions to consider when searching for the right tag management solution.

1. Does the System Manage the Full Universe of Tags?

Have you ever bought a device only to find out it doesn't have all the features you want, and nobody is building apps or games for it? The same goes with tags. A tag management system needs to be able to manage any and all tags, and assist with associated privacy and reporting challenges.

  • It's easy to get hypnotized by a slick interface, but if the system only simplifies basic marketing pixels, then you're selling yourself short. You don't want to find out three months later that you need a new system to manage and trial more complex tags like A/B testing, live chat, segmentation, attribution, social widgets, etc.
    • Ask prospective solutions providers for multiple live examples of clients running complex tags.
    • Does the system "eject" tags that are blocking the page so your page loads faster, or does it simply add to the problem by manipulating their code?

2. Is the Vendor Open and Agnostic?

If you choose a solution such as your agency's in-house tool, or a data provider or ad server to provide basic tag management services (known as a simple container), will the vendor ensure that it works seamlessly with competitors' tags?

Also, who owns the data, and who else has access to that solution? What happens when you have to change agencies, analytics, ad servers or data providers? You'll find yourself boxed in with no way out. Don't let the fox build the henhouse.

  • Be sure to work with a solution that's open and agnostic to all vendors, and do your own due diligence (don't just rely on the agency or vendor's opinion).
    • In any whitepapers you read, do they mention just "one" solution -- or do they include others?
    • Keep in mind that if you're using the same tool that provides all your other tags and pixels (e.g. analytics, data, and retargeting), then it will be problematic if you ever want to change any of those particular systems.

3. How Scalable and Reliable Is This Tool. Is It New?

Be sure you can rely on this solution. If your site goes down, then you have defeated the purpose of managing tags. Following are some questions to explore:

  • How is it hosted? What is the company size, how long has it been in business, what's its customer service approach, where are its office locations?
  • What does the solution mean to your PRIVACY efforts?
    • Server-side tagging (where one tag passes data to all other tags) looks hot, but the premise of this solution makes privacy, transparency and opt-out very difficult -- if not impossible -- to enforce, as it obfuscates your data collection activities from your users. In a "privacy and transparency" aware world -- ask your vendor how it manages the question when a user asks "where is my data going?"

  • Who else in your sector is using this platform, for how long and why?
  • Ask for references, live examples and ALWAYS ask providers how they differ from their competition -- it provides more questions for you to follow up with.

AirMiles are never truly free. If the price is free or too good to be true, there's likely a hidden cost somewhere. Better ways to approach the cost:

  • Work out your IT costs and how much money you will save in the long run
  • Can you save money through de-duplication of media (do not load affiliate tags)
  • How much money can you negotiate off -- if vendors know you can remove them instantly?

More and more, our industry is moving toward a data-driven media ecosystem with technical and regulatory challenges. As a result, there will continue to be more and more pixels, tags and widgets that you need to trial, and more digital touchpoints that you need to combine and track in one report. Investing time in researching tag management systems now will save you a lot of pain and money in the future.


Chris Brinkworth is CMO of TagMan.


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