Which tag management solution should you buy?

A couple of weeks ago we had a Web Analytics Wednesday in London about tag management (don’t forget that I presented one once!). The highlight of this for me (I was coming down from a nice two week holiday on the slopes and the bars of Andorra, so I wasn’t my usual self!) was a quote by the Tagman representative that most of the tools were remarkably similar, but they all had different outlooks on where they thought the industry was going to be in five years time. What you should do, is go to their websites and work out if where they are going matches where you are going as a business.

You can tell where this is going, can’t you? I’m going to help you with this by going to the websites of all six panellists (and maybe Google Tag Manager too) and write it out for you. All you have to do is work out where your business is going to be in five years time.

Tag Management isn’t dead according to the panel, despite Google entering into the arena. They think that Google will stick to Google products (we’ll come back to that later). But, they do think that customers need tag management tools to make it easier to change and add tags to their website. Given that, you’re probably going to hang on to a tag management tool longer than an analytics tool (or a remarketing tool, or a affiliate tool, etc), so they have a slightly longer term focus than the Analytics tools that you use. Working out where you are going to be in 5 years could be difficult though (5 years ago the world was very different) – but this is a good indication. I’d still recommend talking to many vendors if you are going to decide which to go with though.


Tealium come from a web analytics background. The two founders were WebSideStory guys originally (if you don’t know who they are you should check out my post on where is your analytics tool now) and they have a large backing from venture capitalists in the US. Generally they are considered as the market leader – they have their own conference and a ‘university’ to teach people how to use the tool.

I’m sure that I’ll get shot down for saying this, but Tealium is aimed at people who have problems with their Web Analytics tools. Do they do video and mobile? Yes, but that is just a side affect of doing web analytics. Are they interested in privacy? Yes – probably more so than your average Web Analytics provider. Do they think it will improve technical performance of page load time? Yes – that is a big benefit. They view themselves as being inclusive of all tags, meaning that you aren’t limited to who you can swap for. And finally they allow you to do server side analytics if your site (or whatever it is you are tracking) doesn’t allow JavaScript.


BrightTag go for the data approach, but their background is ad tags. The annoyance of adding yet another affiliate tag to the site when you strike up a deal means that a tag management solution is ideal.

This data approach is interesting though – rather than have an approach of trying to work out what you want to collect and then send it to a particular tool, they do it the other way around. They tell you everything you have and then you choose where you want to send it. This alternative approach means that instead of adding a new tag to a site, you are effective providing the old data to a new company. It’s an abstract way of looking at the same thing.

The impact of all this is that rather than keeping a handle on which tags you are putting in, you need to keep a handle on which data you have. This is great if your site is simple, but if your site is more complicated and changes in structure frequently over time then it could cause issues.


Ensighten CEO Josh Manion came from a web analytics consultancy background, so you can see why he had the focus he did when he set up Ensighten. Early tag management solutions were slow and caused lag in page load times or didn’t capture the right data.

Ensighten is all about speed. It speeds up the loading of the tags on the pages so that your users don’t get pissed off. This might sound like something out of the 14th century, that isn’t the case with things like mobile networks where it can still be important to ensure that your tags work before the user leaves the page and if necessary the tags put the advertising up too.


Tagman’s current raison d’etre is about attribution (or at least, that is what is slightly different about them as opposed to the others).

Seven years ago whilst I was working for a famous insurance company, we tried to implement an attribution system that would allow us to pay affiliates and so on, only if they were one of the last five referrers. That meant coming up with a solution that would only send off the affiliate tags on payment page if they should be.

This is the sort of thing that is going to be increasingly important in the future for sites that have frequent turn arounds on visitors. You don’t want an affiliate to be allocated money for sales number two, three and four in a month by a person if your own remarketing has persuaded the user.


If Ensighten is about speed of pages, TagCommander is about speed and ease of deployment. It is also a European solution, which is often preferable for European brands.

When I say ease of deployment, the container in all these cases is easy to deploy in equal parts. The difficult bit is the interface and putting the tags on the pages. TagCommander goes for a four click process for getting a new tag on the page. If you’ve dealt with Google Tag Manager (why should I need to know regex to make a tag live?) then you’ll know why having a simple solution makes the most sense.

DC Storm

DC Storm are a football team from Washington. Not really, they’re a tag management solution from Brighton.

DC Storm look at the world from a data point of view as well. Where BrighTag could probably be called a taxonomy of your site that allows you to point data at will, DC Storm take the data into their systems first and then you work out how to disseminate it from there.

This is an approach that some will feel will allow you to be all inclusive of all sorts of channels (‘Big Data’) and not just traditional web based data. This allows you to lots of attribution and so on outside of your traditional reporting mechanisms.

Bonus: Google Tag Manager

It’s USP, unlike the others, is that it is free.

Tag Management is a relatively new industry. Many of these organisations that you see above haven’t been going that long, so you’d expect this space to change relatively rapidly. This isn’t great for a company that you are going to want to stick with for five years.

Watch this space.

7 Comments on “Which tag management solution should you buy?

  1. Alex,

    Nice post but you are missing one vendor. Satellite TMS 🙂 . All kissing aside I would like the chance to show you a demo of our offering.

    Ping me at rudi @ searchdiscovery.com if you are interested.


  2. Certainly one of the best article I’ve read about TMS. Ok, each one has some type of unique magic recipe the others don’t. And we’re suppose to figure out where we (and they) will be in five years?

    I see two things: a) there are way too many players (more TMS than WA vendors!!!), and if we have a hard time figuring out which one is the best despite our deep knowledge of the industry… imagine the pour client! And b) their unique value proposition can be easily replicated by their competitors…

  3. Like the launch of GA in 2005 (which I was intimately associated with), I predict Google’s offering will come to dominate within 2-3 years.

    A BIG reason for Google entering this market, or any market, is when it views the current vendor incumbents as over bloated and over priced – stifling adoption. That has been my experience in recent years so I see the GTM as a great asset for web managers/developers.

  4. Rudi – unfortunately I had to choose some TMS tools and the ones who presented at Web Analytics Wednesday in London were the ones that made the cut. This is by no means meant to be comprehensive (I leave that to eConsultancy and Forrester who have much more experience, in depth knowledge and time to write these pieces).

    Stephane – There are a lot of players (I haven’t included Satellite TMS or Omniture’s in my list, plus I’m sure there are plenty more that I’ve missed). At Measure Camp on Saturday we were discussing what the risk of going with one company was given the industry is so volatile and tools can change direction very quickly. It almost plays into Google and Omniture’s hands, increasing the vendor lock in that the tools were designed to avoid.

    Brian – I agree with you to an extent, although GA was so beneficial because it brought analytics to people who would previously not used it (and created a value proposition for Google by increasing spend on adwords). I’m not quite so sure the market for Tag Management is quite as big and potentially the ‘free’ market even smaller. But I agree with you that it is a great tool for web managers and developers (hey – I’ve got it on this blog 🙂 ).

  5. Nice article Alec.

    I agree with Brian about GA probably being awesome in the long term. But my view is that they want to know even about users and Tag Management is merely a vehicle to measure additional consumer touch points. This, I suspect, is more important to them than a moral concern about stifled competition or overpriced vendors.

    You’re probably right not to have included Adobe’s offering. I’ve spoken to a few leading consultants (not Adobe employees) and they weren’t aware of anyone with a great implementation deployed by their Tag Manger product. Maybe this will change if they invest heavily in the product or buy one of the privately owned established vendors.

  6. Hi FK – you can probably put IBM Core-metrics onto GTM (although I have no experience of doing it!). You can put any custom Html in that you want – so you could easily put some html that referenced a JavaScript file located somewhere.

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