This article was sponsored by Tealium. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make SitePoint possible!
You know all those digital marketing tools that allow you to track your traffic, run A/B tests, and perform a variety of other mission-critical services?? All of these have code snippets called “tags”, each loading from its own server.
Not only can these tags greatly increase your site’s loading time, managing tens of these tags can be a real beast. Plus, each of these tags has to be implemented by a developer, who is probably already overburdened.
It used to be that individual tags were just part of the deal. Now, though, there’s a better option: tag management is becoming more and more popular with marketers. It allows them to implement tags on their own, without needing to include a developer any time they want to try something new. Tag management can also reduce page load time, which often has a positive effect on business metrics.
In this article I will explore how tag management can help you in your daily business, and how you can benefit from it. Let’s start by taking a closer look at tags.
What are tags?
Tags are more of a marketer’s term — developers probably know them as code snippets. Whatever you call them, these are the little pieces of code you need to add to your site in order to use a whole range of tools.
Still a bit vague? Let me give you some examples. Google Analytics uses a tag on your site for tracking visitor behavior. In the advertising world, Google Adwords and AdRoll use tags to measure conversions. Running A/B tests of your pages with Optimizely? There’s another tag.
Facebook is the king of tags, as it uses different pieces of codes for conversion tracking, re-targeting, Likes, Shares and more. See how it adds up quickly?
Tags all the way down
Tealium, the market leader in tag management, found that a staggering 15-50 tags are in use on an average site. Each tag has to be loaded independently. That’s bound to cause problems.
Having 15-50 tags on your site might seem a bit too much at first. It basically means you’re using 15-50 different service. It adds up fast though.
For visitor analysis you are probably running Google Analytics, with 1 or 2 additional tools for specialized tracking. Here you can think of an e-commerce tracking tool like KISSMetrics, or Parsely if you’re a publisher. It is not uncommon to run 2 tools for the same purpose, since each of these tools has it’s unique features and you don’t want you business to rely on just one.
You most likely have 1 or 2 A/B testing tools running, such as Optimizely and Visual Website Optimizer. Heatmap tracking with CrazyEgg and ClickTale. Retargeting with Adwords and AdRoll. Content distribution with Taboola and Outbrain.
And then there’s ad management, where you can have different zones with different providers. So you’ll need your DoubleClick, Criteo, Atlas, BuySellAds, SiteScout etc. code inserted.
We’re at 16 tags already, and nothing out of the ordinary. I think you get my point that you’re easily tied up in tens of tags. Even though they probably are as optimized as can be, it’s still a lot of tags.
Wonder what happens to your site when you got 50 or even 100 of these tags running wild on your site?
Well it looks much like this. What you seeing here is only about 15% of the total numbers of external scripts loaded.
Now let’s look at grades along with the loading time and total numbers of request loaded.
It’s safe to say that having too many independently loaded tags causes slow loading sites, inefficient use of vendor tools, grumpy developers and frustrated users.
And that’s just performance. What about modifying these tags? What if you want to update your tags with new advertising campaigns, targeting lists or split-test different pages?
That’s going to cost you lots of money and even more patience, because most changes can only be performed by your already-overburdened developers. You’re probably not the only one wanting to make changes to the site. What if Marketing wants to try a number of different overlays to increase sales? Or Sales is pushing for a layout change to improve cross-sales? You will have a hard time arguing that your change is a priority, even if it has great potential in the long term.
This means you simply have to wait for the dev team to find the time to make the changes, or for your request to make it through the pipeline, from spec to testing to the live site.
The Solution? Tag Management!
By now you see the problem with tags running in the wild, so let’s look at a solution. This is where tag management comes in. An efficient tag management tool requires only one tag to be included in your site’s code. The rest of your tags are added in the management section of the tool.
After tag management is implemented, you can:
- Easily add, modify or delete tags without touching the site.
- Increase loading times by relying on only one provider.
- Take your dev team out for a coffee instead of watching them down a quick espresso between two small tasks.
I mentioned Tealium before, as they are the leader in tag management solutions. Tealium has a perfect tool for managing tags, called Tealium IQ. It has some additional features on top of regular tag management:
Real time tag management allows you to tweak your tags within minutes.
Protect the privacy of your visitors and customers by letting them decide which tags shouldn’t load.
Multiple premium content distribution networks to make sure you tags are loaded 100%.
Use a site scan to make sure all tags are loaded properly.
Gather raw data on your visitors to be used for future campaigns.
Clear instructions on how to add new tags eliminates the risk of messing up the code.
Tealium IQ has 700+ tags in their Marketplace for you to choose from.
Tealium has been doing tag management for years, but recognizes that you haven’t. I really liked their approach to support: ample documentation, written clearly, and organized logically. If that’s not quite enough, they offer training courses via their Tealium University program, with multiple events across the US. It’s great when a company takes this much effort to ensure their product is used to its maximum potential.
Time to Play
Without tag management, it can take quite awhile before you actually get to play with a cool new app.
First, you need to find out how the tool is implemented. Then you need to find the proper code snippets to send to your team’s developer, and specify where and how to include it. After that’s done, the struggle for a priority begins. And once you finally have it queued up in the development line the waiting begins, only to be followed by lots of testing once it’s implemented. After you’ve gone all through this, you need to psych yourself up again to start using the tool — and after all this, let’s hope it was worth the wait!
Now let’s see how easy it is to add a new tag to Tealium IQ, and how quickly you can change it afterwards. I’ll show you this by using Optimizely, a well know A/B testing tool.
A/B testing is a perfect example of why you might need to edit your site fast and often, based on real-time data.
Optimizely recommends that you add their tag to all of your site’s pages, to ensure it’s always loaded when you are running projects. This also means that the code is loaded when there’s no project running for that page. It’s best to avoid loading useless code, but most vendors still advise you to do so.
Not with Tealium IQ. You just select the pages where you want the code to load, and disable it when you’re done. Let’s see how easy that is.
First head over to Tealium.com, which has free 30-day trial.
When you’re signed up, head over to the “Tags” section. Here you’ll find a little green button called “Add tag”. This is where the magic starts. Do a search for Optimizely, and click “Add”.
Enter a title for the tag, and a project ID. Then hit “Next” to specify which page to code needs to be on.
In this case I choose to include the code only in the shopping cart. Click “Next” again.
Data mapping allows for very advanced precise targeting, but we’ll skip this for now. Just hit “Finish” and you’re done.
That’s it, you’ve successfully added the Optimizely tag to your shopping cart page in about one minute.
If you’re done adding tags, you can select the “Save/Publish” button in the top right corner for it to deploy on your development or production site.
You can add as many tags if you like, and the code on the site itself remains the same. So if you want to run different tests on different pages, just add new tags and select the relevant pages.
Here’s something to make your dev team happy: Google recently decided to upgrade their tracking code for Google Analytics. Their new code is called Universal Analytics.
As I wrote in this article on upgrading, most sites have their Analytics code implemented in the site itself. Upgrading can be a real nightmare.
Not with Tealium. Just replace the old tag with the new tag, and you’re done. If you want to make your dev team’s day, tell them they won’t have to track down the Analytics codes all over your site, and they’ll be buying you coffee!
It’s this simple for most vendors. Just imagine how great it is when you come across a new tool to use, and you can take it for a test-drive right away.
Developers will love it, too
If you need more ammunition to convince your dev team to implement tag management, how about this? They can take the tags currently running on the site, and manage them with Tealium in the future. This means they no longer need to keep track of code updates — it can all be handled via Tealium. This alone is a real time saver.
Developers will also enjoy the same benefits as non-technical staff when it comes to setting up new tools. Since it’s all standardized, they can be assured that any new tool is implemented correctly, so they won’t have to wade through pages of documentation first. Another time saver!
Tag management really is a marketer’s dream. It allows for great flexibility and drastically improves implementation time and reduces loading times. And with Tealium you’ve got a great tool on hand for you and your dev team to move on to more important arguments – like whose turn it is with the ping pong table.