7 Best Practices for Building Your Tag Management Plan

March 7, 2018 Jason Call

Man writing with a laptop beside him

When it comes to tag management, the old adage of “well begun is half done” holds truer than ever.

The rapid evolution and continuing adoption of tag management systems (TMS) in the past decade make it clear that a good tag management plan and web tagging strategy plays an integral role in an organization’s ability to claim a competitive advantage through effective data collection strategies.

A TMS is a crucial part of your tag management plan, yet when making the move to implement a TMS far too many companies make mistakes right out of the gate because they fail to plan for a successful implementation.

Regardless of which TMS solutions you have decided to use, there are five best practices that can help digital marketers, IT leaders and web analysts best configure their web tagging strategy and plan as they implement and deploy a TMS.

1. Understand and accept the risks of your TMS implementation

There are inherent risks associated with any TMS implementation, no matter which solutions you adopt.

During the new implementation process, your team will be learning the nuances of the tag management system and how its capabilities meet your business goals.

A successful TMS implementation will require time, money and expertise—expect and accept this before you begin.

It’s also important to be aware that the use of a tag management platform does allow the risk of your organization’s employees making mistakes that impact your site’s front-end experience via a “single point of failure” for marketing applications.

Training and leadership are crucial in avoiding such mistakes (see best practice no.4).

Also remember, ongoing maintenance, auditing and overall governance of your analytics implementation is crucial to avoid these mistakes as you adjust and change your implementation over time (see best practice no. 7).

Other inherent risks present during your TMS implementation include impacts to your historical uptime and downtime trends, product release processes, disaster recovery plans and overall business strategy.

Work with your vendor to plan for these risks and take measures to avoid them.

2. Match the capabilities of your TMS to your business goals

Different TMS tools are designed to fulfill different tag management objectives. Do your research ahead of time to make sure the TMS tools you select will address all areas of your business goals and tagging strategy so you can find the right balance between multi-channel data integration vs. pure play tag set-up.

3. Implement tag governance and begin documentation

Tag governance is a subdiscipline within data governance focusing specifically on the data collected via tag and transmitted via network request. Good governance can go a long way to ensuring yoru tag management efforts don’t fall to the ground.

Failing to address the governance question early on when building a tag management plan is one of the number one places I’ve seen companies struggle.

Invest the time up front, prior to your TMS implementation to evaluate, determine and document these three core elements of a tag governance plan:

  • Resources: Who are the tag governance stakeholders, and do they all buy into your plan? Start here.
  • Workflow: How will the TMS workflow be managed? You need to have defined processes for:
    • request tracking
    • responses to requests
    • testing
    • quality assurance
  • Infrastructure: Does your coding documentation exist in what Adobe DTM expert Rudi Shumpert describes as a “fluid, collaborative and accessible location?

Nailing your tag governance strategy is a crucial part of having a solid tag management plan in place before you pull the trigger on a TMS implementation. A key part of tag governance is your tagging plan, which is a document that outlines the architecture of your implementation. This document is a key element to ensuring a successful TMS deployment.

4. Invest in the right skill sets and leadership

You must ensure that the digital analysts, architects, developers and/or marketers who “own” the TMS process have the right skill sets to implement, deploy and maintain the tag management plan.

Leadership on these teams is also extremely important, and when consulting with organizations around their website tagging strategy, I always advocate the promotion of a Data Quality champion to run point on all things analytics, data quality and tag management.

As more and more top performing companies begin to treat their analytics data like an enterprise asset and invest in its management with the appointment of roles like Chief Data Officers, the revenue gains these organizations enjoy speak to the value of doing so.

a graphic about how top performers have Chief Data Officers
Top Performers Appoint Chief Data Officers Forrester Research, August 2015

5. Start with a tag audit

There are huge difficulties that analytics teams experience with tag management and tagging technologies. And the bottom-line impact of less-than-perfect analytics is a reality that plagues most companies.

Websites can suffer from:

  • Conflicting tag technologies
  • Duplicate web tags
  • Unauthorized third-party technologies collecting data
  • Outdated tags that were supposed to be removed
  • Multiple teams adding multiple tags
  • Poor attribution
  • Broken tags
  • And more

Before implementing your TMS, you want to understand what technologies are present on your site and how they are functioning.

This best practice calls for a complete website audit to identify all installed tag technologies (including those that are deprecated or should not be included in the TMS), and areas of the website that are interfering with tag functionality.

Once you know what technologies are present on your site and how they are functioning, you are ready to plan your TMS implementation accordingly.

6. Focus on quick TMS wins

Like any new process and system, the ability to show value in your investment is critical to the initiative’s overall success. As you plan how to measure your new tag management efforts, start with the low-hanging fruit.

Focus on the immediate and tangible benefits of a TMS approach—namely time and costs savings to IT that are generated through this more efficient tag maintenance.

You can also allocate effort to showing metrics like improved page load performance and marketing measurement, but only do so if you are willing, ready and dedicated to actively invest in the ongoing maintenance and management of your implementation.

Which brings us to the final best practice in building your tag management plan and website tagging strategy.

7. Conduct ongoing maintenance and tag governance

Your work cannot simply stop at the point that you implement a tag management solution. One of the most common mistakes analysts make is in assuming that once TMS tools are in place there is no need to continually perform website QA and governance processes.

By performing regular tag audits across your digital properties and channels you ensure that your TMS implementation continues to be correct and complete.

Even with a TMS in place, web analytics tags are bound to break, and often do. Failing to keep a continual pulse on the performance of your tag management plan opens up the possibility of blind-spots in your data collection strategies.

Best practice is to plan for regular, ongoing audits.

The Next Step

The next step in developing your website tagging strategy depends on where you are now. It’s possible that you have very little documentation on your current website tagging structure and need some insight. At this point, you’ll want to reverse engineer tag documentation using a website audit.

You can garner some quick insight into how your martech stack is performing by running a free website audit on your site here. 

 

About the Author

Jason Call

Jason caught the “digital marketing bug” over ten years ago when his music went viral, and he became the first unsigned artist to reach a million downloads on the internet. Since then, he has devoted his career to mastering analytics and providing actionable insights for hundreds of clients, spanning many industries and verticals.

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