What Is Tag Management?

The tag management market is one that has seen quite a lot of disruption over the last year. The overall tag management market has been growing for a while now and is showing no signs of slowing down. Before we get too deep in the data, let’s take a step back to understand what tag management is and why it’s becoming increasingly popular.

In order to understand tag management, we first need to take a quick look at tags and how they’re used on the web. A tag is a snippet of JavaScript code embedded into a web page, usually in the body of a page. They’re used to send information about a page and it’s visitors to third party vendors who provide services such as the following (this is definitely not an exhaustive list):

Many of these services are focussed on allowing a web site owner to optimize their site for maximum conversions (in terms of sales or sign-ups or any other important metric). There are loads of different services which help to optimize sites, and many of them use tags to track their data.

As with all things in the online world, third party optimization services come and go. Switching to a different service, or adding a new service, can mean significant editing of the tags is required. In some cases the process can be cumbersome and frustratingly slow. Quite often, it’s difficult to keep track of all the tags used on each page of a website. And so, tag management services came on the scene to alleviate the problem.

The frustration associated with modifying tags is exaggerated in larger companies with bigger websites. In these cases, the implementation of a tag management system could reduce the turn around time for altering the tags on a page from weeks to minutes. Rather than going through the lengthy process of adding proposed changes to a work queue, going through meetings to explain and justify the modifications, a tag management system allows tags to be altered without needing to touch the underlying code. This simplifies the process and allows marketeers to make tweaks to the way their data is gathered without the risk of adversely affecting the rest of the website. As the team at Google say, a good tag management tool “puts you, the marketer, back in control of your digital marketing”. A decent tag management tool will mean you can update your tags without “bugging the IT folks” (thanks again to Google for that one).

Key Players

Until the end of 2012, the biggest players in the tag management market were BrightTag, Tealium and Ensighten. All three were pretty even in terms of market share and each had a slice of the pie for websites of all sizes. There were other tag management tools available but these three dwarfed the rest and between them, dominated the market. These three tools have been growing steadily for a while, and on the whole, continue to do so now. Their growth can certainly only be described as steady though, especially when compared with the explosive entry to the market of a new tag management tool from Google.

Tag Management Technology Usage on Top 100k Sites from June 2012 to August 2013
Tag Management Technology Usage on Top 100k Sites from June 2012 to August 2013

Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager is a tool which could seriously disrupt the status quo. It’s been making waves since it was launched last year, and has rapidly become the most popular tag management tool on the internet. Whereas most of the other tools available on the market are paid tools, Google Tag Manager is free. Just like in 2006 when Google launched Google Analytics, the power of free has the potential to really change the game.

Google Tag Manager was officially announced on October 1st 2012 on their analytics blog. The eagle eyed amongst you will notice that the usage chart for Google Tag Manager starts to rise before the official launch date at the start of October. Prior to the official announcement and release of Google Tag Manager, quite a few companies had already begun using the tool. In the first month, before the official release, Google invited a number of sites/companies to try the initial version of Google Tag Manager. From that time onwards, the tool has become more and more popular. After an initial burst which lasted a couple of months, the rate at which Google Tag Managers usage has grown decelerated slightly, but it still continues to grow month on month. It didn’t take long for the tool to overtake the rest of the field and grab the largest market share. By the start of 2013, Google Tag Manager was the most popular tag management tool even amongst the top 10K sites (a group which can sometimes be slower to transition to new tools).

It’s difficult to say when the upward trend will stop. It’s likely that Google Tag Manager will reach a usage ceiling at some point, where growth really slows down (similar to the way Google Analytics did a few years ago), but it shows no sign of slowing down yet. Google are continuing to add features which will enable Google Tag Manager to compete more directly with some of the other tools out there. If Google can keep upgrading their tool, it’s not unreasonable to assume that their growth will continue for a while yet.

Wrapping Up

The tag management market as a whole appears to be growing and, at the moment at least, there seems to be enough business to keep all of the major tool providers going. Google Tag Manager is by far the most popular tool, and it’s market share is increasing consistently month on month, especially amongst smaller sites. Most of the other tools also seem to be maintaining or adding to their user base, with the paid tools like Tealium attracting some pretty big sites. As time goes on, it seems quite likely that the usage of tag management tools will closely resemble the analytics market. However, this time, Google look set to take an even bigger slice of the pie.

For a closer look at the data behind these tag management tools, as well as a whole host of other technologies, head over to the BuiltWith Trends pages. If you’d like to dig a little deeper, accessing a richer dataset and compiling customized reports, BuiltWith Pro might be for you. Find out more about what’s on offer at BuiltWith Pro.

Chris

Chris Walker is an engineer by day and a freelance writer by night. Sometimes a little too keen on working with data, he loves finding patterns and hidden stories buried in the numbers.