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(eM+C)—Digital marketing solutions have evolved significantly over the last decade. Today they resemble shiny new virtual toys, with sleek graphical interfaces, fast web-based architecture and seamless third-party integrations. All of them are geared toward helping you acquire, convert and retain more visitors, often in increasingly exotic ways.No matter how much these solutions evolve, however, many of them still contain a thorn in their digital packaging: the web page tag (i.e., the tracking pixel that most online vendors require their customers to embed in the HTML of their websites).

Tags, whether for affiliate marketing, web analytics, retargeting, personalization or something else, are most often used for some type of measurement function and are absolutely critical to the functionality of the solution. For example, a client-side web analytics solution would return zero data without a tag on the page.

By themselves, these tags can be manageable, but taken in aggregate, they can be a nightmare to deploy and manage. Just ask any digital marketer who has had to wait days, weeks or even months for IT personnel to add, modify or remove these unwieldy snippets of code.

Today’s digital marketer is using more online solutions than ever before — an average of 14, according to a new report by Econsultancy and Tealium called The ROI of Tag Management. Some enterprise sites have dozens of tags across different domains. One Tealium customer has 120 different vendor tags.

So what’s the solution? A tag management system (TMS), which enables digital marketers to manage all of their vendor tags by themselves using a single line of code and an intuitive web interface. Here’s how it works: once the single master tag is implemented, all other tags are deployed and managed via a web console without ever touching the page again.

Although tag management has been around for a couple of years, it’s experiencing a breakthrough in 2012 as word spreads rapidly about its immense benefits. According to the Econsultancy and Tealium report, 87 percent of digital marketers now believe that tag management is key to their online success.

Here are five core benefits of a TMS:

• Increased marketing agility: Not having to wait for already overburdened IT staff to deploy vendor tags brings a huge amount of freedom and increased efficiency. Digital marketers are free to launch vendor campaigns much more quickly and efficiently, helping them optimize results that much faster. Web analytics professionals can change variables in their code instantly without having to wait for IT development cycles.

• Reduced costs: The flip side of increased agility is reduced costs. While marketing staff is empowered to act faster via tag management, IT staffers are now free to work on more strategic projects. Manually adding tags to a website is the last thing IT staff wants to be burdened with — it’s tactical and monotonous. According to the ROI of Tag Management study, 73 percent of respondents said using a TMS was more cost effective, with 45 percent saying it was significantly less expensive than manually tagging.

• Improved site performance: Replacing all individual tags on your website with a single line of code dramatically lowers page load times, which directly impacts customer satisfaction and conversion rates. Even a one-second delay in page response can result in a 7 percent reduction in conversion, according to KISSmetrics. A slow site can result in millions of dollars in lost sales. Site performance is typically seen as an IT issue, but it can have a dramatic impact on business results.

• Improved vendor selection: Oftentimes if you’re in the market for a particular marketing solution, you may want to A/B test a few different vendors before making a decision. To do that, you need someone in IT to develop a script so you can serve out different pages and tags to measure the results properly. This could take hours, days or even weeks depending on resource availability. With tag management, you can set up split segmentation between different vendors within minutes. You’ll know which vendor is delivering the best results in near real time, allowing you to make a data-driven decision.

• Protecting consumer privacy: Another benefit of tag management is the enhanced privacy protection it offers online visitors. Tag management makes it easy to support the “Do Not Track” feature within modern browsers. Even if your digital marketing vendors aren’t compliant with the measure, you’re still protected. Many tag management systems also support geo-based privacy compliance, enabling any organization to easily comply with country-specific laws (e.g., the new privacy directive in the U.K.).

Tag management is growing quickly as marketers, web analytics professionals and e-commerce managers realize the value it delivers across their organizations. Tag management helps keep tags under control and makes those shiny new marketing solutions even more powerful and effective.

Erik Bratt is the vice president of marketing at Tealium.

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