Tag Management and the Myth of the Magic Tag

By Jason Thompson, co-founder, 33 Sticks

Mago // MagicianIn the early 2000’s, analytics vendors fighting for marketshare began an aggressive marketing campaign featuring the easy to implement, high value, “Magic Tag.”
The “Magic Tag” was perfect. The IT guy only had to deploy a simple block of code once and never had to deal with the needy marketeer again. The marketeer would instantly have access to all of the correct data needed to get the job done faster and better than his competitors.
The problem was, no matter how much effort the vendors put into maintaining the illusion of the existence of a magical tag, it was simply that, an illusion. A myth.
10 years later, it is fantastic to see the analytics vendors doing such a great job properly positioning tag management, not as a “Magic Tag” but as a powerful tool that, if used properly, can create amazing efficiencies, improve data quality, and ultimately drive higher revenues. However, even with vendors properly positioning their solutions, many businesses continue to hear what they want to hear, “put this magical tag on your site and you don’t have to worry about anything ever again.”
Having advised hundreds of businesses, from emerging startups to massive global corporations, we’ve found that those who have been most successful at using analytics as a competitive advantage have looked at data collection as a pathway to analysis, insight, and optimization. This may seem intuitive, however the majority of companies we’ve worked with initially viewed data collection as a highly technical task, often excluding the analysts and business users entirely from the conversation.
When viewed as part of the overall analytics ecosystem, the introduction of a tag management platform can prove to be extremely valuable. In an attempt to get companies to slow down and think more strategically about tag management, we recommend taking a phased approach to instrumenting data collection through a tag management platform.
A phased approach could look something like the following:
Tag Management Framework

Analytics Foundation

In the foundation phase, the team works on gathering and documenting business requirements, updating variable mappings, and defining business rules. It is critical that the analyst play a very active role in this phase to ensure that the data being collected is accurate and actionable. Base analytics tags would be deployed and configured to capture core data elements that are critical to analyzing and running the business and a robust data layer would be designed to support future phases.

Behavioral Instrumentation

This phase will typically be completed in conjunction with the Conversion Instrumentation phase. In this phase, the team begins to build detailed business logic and rules into the tag management solution to capture key behavioral elements that will be used by the analytics team in the analysis of site usability, marketing campaign effectiveness, and customer persona development.

Conversion Instrumentation

The Conversion Instrumentation phase is focused on configuring the tag management solution to capture key conversion events and checkpoints along with other site actions such as rich media interactions. When completed in conjunction with the Behavioral Phase, this phase allows for deeper analysis of conversion funnels, purchasing patterns, and overall site conversion effectiveness.

Platform Integration

In this phase, additional tools are integrated into the tag management solution such as optimization platforms, remarketing and display solutions, and other marketing conversion applications. The power of this phase is not only found in implementing new solutions into the tag management platform but truly making use of the existing data components so that the applications are running as a holistic analytics platform.
While tag management isn’t the mythical “Magic Tag,” it can, when used correctly, provide quicker access to more actionable data. By taking a phased approach to deploying your tag management platform and by involving your analysts from the very beginning, you won’t create a “Magic Tag” but you will create a very real competitive advantage.