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One of the most important aspects of digital marketing is optimizing your website for customers and prospects. To do so effectively, you need to understand your website’s user behavior. One way to do this is by examining the data your site visitors generate as they navigate your site or interact with your content. This analysis and any decisions made from this data are all powered by a vast array of marketing technologies (MarTech, or “tags”). But how do you manage all of those marketing technologies? It’s no easy task, but this is where a Tag Management System (TMS) becomes your best friend. 

Read on to understand what a TMS is and why you should use one.

What is a TMS?

Well, hold up – before we talk about the TMS, let’s clarify what we mean by “tags.” Tags are tiny bits of code that track every click, every scroll, and every interaction users have with your site. These tags gather essential data that helps you understand how visitors navigate your space online, what interests them, and what doesn’t. By analyzing this data, you can make informed decisions, tailor your content to better suit your audience’s preferences, and enhance overall user experience.

Now, as we mentioned in the introduction, managing these tags can be cumbersome, especially as your digital footprint grows. This is where a Tag Management System (TMS) comes into play. The TMS is a central hub where all your tags are organized, stored, and managed efficiently. It is a sophisticated tool designed to handle the complexities of multiple tags without the need to dig into the website’s source code each time you need to make a change. This system offers a user-friendly interface where you can add, edit, or remove tags with just a few clicks.

What does a TMS do for me?

The beauty of a TMS lies in its ability to streamline what was once a cumbersome and error-prone process. Before the advent of TMS, managing tags was a manual task that often required web developers who are not well versed in marketing technologies. This not only slowed down marketing operations but also increased the likelihood of errors, which could lead to incorrect data collection and analysis. With a TMS, however, marketers and analysts can take greater control, ensuring that the right tags are fired at the right time, and the data collection is done properly. (You do still need your web development team to be involved to instantiate the TMS and build the data layer, but that’s a topic for another day.)

Additionally, a TMS provides a layer of organization and efficiency that  enables you to create a structured and scalable tagging program. By categorizing and grouping tags, setting up triggers for when tags should execute, and testing tags to ensure they work correctly, a TMS ensures that your site remains optimized, your data stays clean, and your marketing efforts are based on solid, actionable insights. In essence, a Tag Management System is a foundational component of effective digital marketing and web analytics strategies, enabling you to move quicker, adapt to changes, and offer a more engaging user experience.

Why Do I Need Tag Management?

There are several key benefits to using a TMS:

A TMS Saves Time and Money

Manually updating tags is not only a drain on your time but also on your budget, especially if you need to hire specialists to handle complex coding. A TMS streamlines this process, enabling you to manage tags across your website or applications through a single interface. This efficiency reduces the need for technical developers and can even allow your marketing team to make simple updates swiftly without dipping into additional resources. The time and financial savings here can then be redirected towards more strategic initiatives that drive business growth.

A TMS Can Improve Website Speed

A sluggish website can deter visitors, negatively impacting user experience and potentially harming your search engine rankings. An overload of poorly managed tags embedded in hundreds of different places can be a culprit of slow site performance. The TMS optimizes the loading of these tags, ensuring they do not interfere with the user’s experience but still collect vital analytics. By enabling asynchronous tag loading, where tags load in the background without affecting the initial page load time, a TMS keeps your site running smoothly, retaining visitors and maintaining SEO health.

A TMS Helps Ensure Data Accuracy

The reliability of your data hinges on the accuracy of your tagging. Manual tagging processes are susceptible to human error, which can lead to incorrect data collection and skewed analytics. By using a TMS, you can standardize tag deployment, reducing errors and ensuring consistency across your sites and campaigns. This precision helps in making informed decisions based on reliable data, enhancing your overall marketing strategy’s effectiveness.

(Of course you still need to monitor everything that’s deployed through your TMS too!)

A TMS Enhances Security

Data security cannot be taken lightly. The TMS is a critical component, along with your consent management platform (CMP), to ensure that your users’ tracking preferences are honored. Diligence and consolidated control over what tags fire when helps your business adhere to legal standards and builds trust with your audience. A TMS also improves your data governance by controlling access to who can add, edit, or remove tags. This level of administration helps safeguard your data and that of your users. 

TMS for Tag Governance

To build upon the last point above, implementing a TMS is a cornerstone of addressing tag governance and data privacy regulations. This part of your strategy ensures that your MarTech stack management is not only efficient but also compliant and secure.

Understanding Tag Governance

Tag governance: the policies, processes, and standards you put in place to manage your tagging ecosystem. If you are responsible for tag governance at your organization, you’ll want to ensure that you have control over what tags are deployed and where, and how data is collected, how it’s used, and who can access it. Effective tag governance helps ensure data quality, and maintains user trust.

Here are key steps to ensure effective tag governance:

  1. Develop Clear Policies: Outline what types of tags are allowed and the processes for adding, modifying, or removing them.
  2. Assign Roles and Permissions: Determine who is responsible for managing tags and who can approve changes. This avoids unauthorized alterations.
  3. Perform Regular Audits: Regularly review your tags to ensure they comply with your policies and serve their intended purpose. If possible, automate your tag audits, as it can be quite tedious if done manually.
  4. Support Ongoing Training and Education: Ensure your team understands the importance of tag governance and knows how to implement it correctly.

Adopting a disciplined approach to tag governance will keep your data management processes streamlined and secure.

TMS for Regulatory Compliance

Ensuring your MarTech stack complies with regulations is crucial. This includes the General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) in Europe, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and other local laws. Compliance means avoiding fines and bad PR, but also respecting your visitors’ choices and building trust with your users.

One crucial aspect of privacy regulation is the Global Privacy Control (GPC). GPC is a technical standard that allows users to communicate their privacy preferences. Some of these preferences include not selling or sharing personal information. GPC allows users to specify this preference across websites with a single browser setting. As a business, respecting GPC signals from your visitors is a step towards compliance and user respect.

Here’s how to safeguard your MarTech stack:

  1. Understand Local Laws: Know the privacy laws that apply to your audience’s regions and tailor your data practices accordingly.
  2. Implement Consent Management: Use your CMP and TMS to manage user consent preferences efficiently. Ensure users can easily provide, withdraw, or modify consent and that their preferences are honored by the rules set in the TMS. Again, we recommend automating validations as much as possible, with real user consent preference monitoring
  3. Respect GPC Signals: Configure your CMP and TMS to recognize and respect GPC signals from users. This demonstrates your commitment to user privacy.
  4. Regular Compliance Checks: Regularly review your data collection and handling practices to ensure they remain compliant. 

Best Practices in Tag Management

Back to tag management and the TMS. Let’s wrap up with some general best practices:

  1. Plan Your Tagging Strategy: Know what data you need and how you’ll use it. This makes your tagging efficient.
  2. Keep It Organized: Group similar tags together. This keeps your TMS clean and easy to navigate. Ensure your data layer is loaded above the TMS so that you can use the rich user data included in it.
  3. Test Tags Before Going Live: Always check that tags work correctly. This avoids data errors. If you can use a pre-production automated tag testing tool, we recommend it.
  4. Document Everything: Keep records of your tags and their purposes. This makes future updates easier and helps you onboard new tag managers more smoothly.
  5. Regularly Audit Tags: Check your tags regularly. Remove outdated or unused ones to keep your site running smoothly. If you’re performing ongoing tag audits, even better. 

Following these practices helps maximize your TMS’s effectiveness. And happy tags lead to better data, which leads to better outcomes for your digital marketing strategies.