Analytics & Digital Marketing Tips

Tag Management System Comparison: Know Your Options!

Tag Management System Comparison: Know Your Options!

August 31, 2018           Tag Management

It is important to know your options when it comes to selecting the optimal tag management system (TMS) for your organization’s unique needs. Most importantly, why should you select one TMS over another?

Have you been wondering how Adobe Launch compares with Tealium iQ? Or how Google Tag Manager compares with Tealium iQ? Or maybe you aren’t even sure who are the current top tag management systems on the market.

While there are many tag management systems, we are going to focus on comparing the three most popular tag management systems out there: Adobe Launch, Google Tag Manager (GTM), and Tealium iQ

My aim is to accelerate your TMS vendor comparison/selection process and alleviate some common challenges. While you will likely be focused on answering important questions such as, “how does this TMS manage user access/permissions,” and “how does it support my workflow and various environments,” you don’t want to get confused by differences in tag management system terminology. Beyond comparing the specific strengths and weaknesses of each tag management system, I will clarify the key differences in TMS terminology so you have a smoother experience in reviewing tag management systems. 

Before we dive into the vendor specific tag management system comparison, let’s get aligned by starting with the differences in terminology.

Clarifying Tag Management Terminology Differences

These are the most common terms you should be familiar with when discussing a TMS.

Tags & Extensions 

As mentioned before, tags are snippets of code that are placed on a web page that collects data about how a user interacts with your site. Each tag management system has templates to provide an easier way to implement tags. Instead of adding code to the site, all you need to do is fill-in text fields with information about the tag, such as the tag id or tag event type. This allows you to get tags published without having to understand the JavaScript that makes them work. Both Tealium iQ and Google Tag Manager (GTM) use the term “tags,” and Adobe Launch uses the term “extensions.”

Takeaway: Both Tealium iQ and Google Tag Manager (GTM) use the term “tags,” and Adobe Launch uses the term “extensions.”

Triggers & Rules

Triggers are what tell a tag when it should fire or in other words, when the code should be added to a page. Triggers use user-defined conditions, such as when a URL contains a certain path, to know when to add a tag. Google Tag Manager uses term “trigger,” and Tealium iQ and Adobe Launch uses term “load rule” and “rule” respectively.

Variables & Data Elements

Variables are data points that point to data already present on the page via the data layer, JavaScript variables, cookies and more. Most tag management systems also allow you to create functions within the TMS to define a variable. Tealium iQ and Google Tag Manager use the term “variable,” and Adobe Launch uses “data element.”

In a tag management system, you use variables to send data that can be viewed in reports via your vendor’s reporting tool. Instead of writing out where that data is available over and over, you can simply enter the name of that variable and the value of that variable can be dynamically pulled and sent to your tag vendor.

Takeaway: Both Tealium iQ and Google Tag Manager use term “variable,” and Adobe Launch uses “data element.”

Data Layer

The data layer is unique because it is the only part of the tag management system that lives outside of the TMS. A data layer is a collection of data that lives in the code of the webpage. Some examples of data found in a data layer are page name, product ID, and user ID. It should be noted that Tealium iQ uses term “utag_data object” instead of data layer.

Profile

Within every tag management system account you can have numerous profiles. Each profile has their own unique tags, triggers and variables. Within each profile you can have multiple environments. The most common environment names are “production,” “staging,” and “development.” Each of these environments will have their own unique code snippet that points to the configuration of tags, triggers, and variables that have been published to that environment. Adobe Launch uses the term “properties” while Google Tag Manager uses the term “container,” and Tealium iQ uses the term “profile.”

Takeaway: Adobe Launch uses term “properties” while Google Tag Manager uses term “container,” and Tealium iQ uses term “profile.”

Tag Marketplace

When people think of tag management systems, they might think that it is a tool that replaces the need to know how to use HTML or Javascript. Unfortunately, that isn’t completely true. You will still need to know JavaScript and HTML to have a successful implementation. The amount of JavaScript needed all depends on the tag marketplace templates that are available for you to leverage.

These marketplace templates allow you to deploy a tag without writing as much JavaScript.

Tag Management System Feature Comparison

Now that we know the basic terminology of a tag management system and the differences between each, let’s start diving into the comparison of what Adobe Launch, Google Tag Manager, and Tealium iQ have to offer.

Quick side note: you might be wondering why we are discussing Adobe Launch instead of Adobe Dynamic Tag Manager (DTM). Prior to Adobe Launch, Adobe’s main tag management system was Dynamic Tag Manager. The Adobe Launch TMS is now the most current technology. If you are re-implementing and currently use Adobe DTM, you should strongly consider migrating to Adobe Launch.

Below you will find the strengths and weaknesses of each of these tag management systems. If you think that I have missed a major strength or weakness, please post it in the comments.

Adobe Launch

image representing adobe launch tag management system

Strengths

  • Free with any Adobe Analytics contract or with some of the other Adobe Experience Cloud products.
  • Extension marketplace is open to Adobe Launch community. Vendors or anyone can create their own extensions and share with community.
  • Rule based TMS which allows more control over each part of what makes up a tag. These parts are divided up into separate actions such as load tag, set variables, fire page view, or fire event.
  • Extensions not only add actions for various tags, but they can also add different variable types and trigger conditions. For instance, something that Adobe Launch was missing but Google Tag Manager and Tealium had was the ability to create a lookup table. So we had a developer here at Blast create a lookup table extension that adds a lookup table data element type so that everyone else who uses Launch can use it. It is a nice spin on the good ‘ole tag system that allows for a lot more flexibility, customization, and control.
  • Can be worked in concurrently with ability to save and test your work without accounting for someone else’s work being done at the same time.

icon representing adobe launch advantage
ADVANTAGE:
 Adobe Launch is a rule based TMS, which allows more control over each part of what makes up a tag
. These parts are divided up into separate actions such as load tag, set variables, fire page view, or fire event.

Weaknesses

  • Newest TMS of the bunch. Though there is an extension marketplace open to the community, the community hasn’t contributed that much to it yet. There is still a lot of room to grow.
  • An Adobe Experience Cloud product contract is needed to gain access.
  • Too many steps to get things out the door. There is a lot of setup needed in order to get a property to the point that you can start creating rules that will launch extensions. For a larger company that has a more than one user in Adobe Launch, this can be seen as a strength. It allows more control and less mistakes. But for most companies that have a tag implementation team of one individual, this can be seen as something that slows down progress.
  • It can be difficult to learn. As mentioned above there are a lot of steps needed to get a tag published. It can be frustrating when you are trying to test your changes but you forgot to attach your library to an environment or you forgot to build your library so that your changes get applied to the library. Over time, through repetitive usage, it will become habit.

icon representing adobe launch disadvantage
DISADVANTAGE: 
Newest TMS of the bunch with a lot of room to grow.

 

Google Tag Manager

image representing google tag manager

Strengths

  • Free! With the option to have a paid version along with a Google 360 account that adds additional items, such as more workspaces, which will be talked about more below.
  • Google Marketing Platform focused. Google Tag Manager is predominantly geared towards the implementation of Google Analytics and other Google marketing properties such as Adwords and DoubleClick. This is great for companies that already use these tools because they are so well integrated with one another.
  • Amazing variable and trigger options. Triggers and variables are where GTM really shines. With over 10 different trigger types and almost 20 variable types, you have a wide array of options to choose from.
  • Through Workspaces, multiple users can work concurrently with the ability to save and test your work.
  • Easy to learn and use.
  • Consistently updated. Google is always introducing new features, variable types, trigger types, and updated templates.
  • Easy to debug and test with the iFrame-based debugging window.

icon representing google tag manager advantage
ADVANTAGE:
 Amazing variable and trigger options. With over 10 different trigger types and almost 20 variable types, you have a wide array of options to choose from
.

Weaknesses

  • For the most part, tag templates that Google Tag Manager provides, are for tools under Google’s Marketing Platform. This can be a hassle when you want to implement something like Adobe Analytics or Mixpanel via GTM, which both lack tag templates.
  • There is a overall container size limitation that you may hit if you place too many tags or too large of tags in Google Tag Manager. This ‘feature’ is not very well documented or discussed.
  • For other types of tags, templates are limited. In most cases you have to use a custom HTML tag to enter any HTML including <image>, <iframe> and JavaScript via <script> tags to implement a tag.

icon representing google tag manager disadvantage
DISADVANTAGE: 
Overall container size limitation, that you’ll hit if you place too many or too large of tags.

 

Tealium iQ

image representing tealium iq tag management system

Strengths

  • Vendor agnostic since it is not designed for one particular analytics tool or platform.
  • Access to tag marketplace that contains tag templates for vast amount of tags. It is rare when I don’t find tag I need. If I don’t find the right tag, I can use one of Tealium’s custom tag options to create the tag I need. See Tealium Tag Management Examples: How to Build a Custom Tag to find out more.
  • You can access the JavaScript code that is used to make each tag function and change it to be better customized for your needs (yes, you get direct access to the code behind the template). You can even access the primary JavaScript library for Tealium iQ and make changes, but I wouldn’t recommend doing that.
  • Thriving learning community forum where you can find answers to most issues you might encounter.
  • A master profile called a “library” can be created that contains configurations that can be inherited by other profiles. This can greatly reduce the amount of repeated work needed for an account that covers numerous websites.
  • Extensions – Instead of the custom variable methods found in GTM and Adobe Launch, Tealium iQ uses extensions. You can do all the same things you can do with a custom variable plus more. For example, some extensions help you manage other things such as privacy settings for visitors to your website. There is also an extension that helps you manage all of your ecommerce variables so tags can automatically pick up and map them correctly so that they get sent to the right report.

icon representing tealium iq advantage
ADVANTAGE:
 Thriving learning community forum where you can find answers to most issues you might encounter
.

Weaknesses

  • It is a paid solution. 
  • Can be difficult to learn how to use it without the right training.
  • You can you easily break the system. With great power comes great responsibility. Though you can customize any template, you need someone who knows JavaScript to make these changes or you could really mess things up.
  • Tags being added to the tag marketplace are dependent on Tealium team to add them. Also, sometimes tag templates can become out of date. Though Tealium is always willing to accept request for new/updated tags, it takes time and they might not get it done when you need it by, which is usually at the moment you discover you need a change. Fortunately, you can always build your own custom tag.
  • Tealium recently released a new feature that notifies you if another user has made a publish in a profile you are working in. You will be given a choice between merging their changes with yours or ignoring them. This has greatly helped with some concurrent user issues. The downside is that this will not work with profiles that use a library and you cannot save only your changes and test them. You must include the concurrent user’s changes as well.
  • Variable creation can be confusing. For the most part, when you create a variable you are pointing to something that already exists such as a utag_data variable, 1st person cookie, meta tag, query string parameter or a global JavaScript variable. It is not exactly clear that you can use an extension to set the value of a variable.
  • Extensions are also a weakness for Tealium iQ. Particularly figuring out when they fire within the order of operations. You can scope extensions to different aspects. You can have them fire with particular tags, all tags, when the DOM is ready, or before any tags are processed.
  • The process of firing a tag based on a custom click or event, is not straightforward. Tealium iQ has two function calls: utag.view (this fires a page view call) and utag.link (this fires a link or event call). In order to fire a click or custom event, you have to fire a utag.link call. One might look for this option to be within the load rules, but instead it is found within the extensions.

icon representing tealium iq disadvantage
DISADVANTAGE: 
The process of firing a tag based on a custom click or event, is not straightforward.

TMS Comparison Chart

  Adobe Launch Google Tag Manager Tealium 
Tag Templates Available X X X
Free to Use X (with Adobe Experience Cloud Contract)  X  
Designated Data Layer Format    X  X
Multiple Profile X  X  X
Rule Based X    
Tag Based X  X
Learning Community X  X  X
Dedicated Slack Account  X    
Truly Agnostic When it Comes to Analytics Platform      X
 Tag Marketplace Open to Community Submissions  X    
No Limit to Number of Tags Allowed X   X
Custom JavaScript Tags X X X
1st Party Debugging Tools   X X
Custom Variables X X X
Built-in Variables   X X
Customizable Load Rules X X X
Inheritable Profiles (Tealium Library/GTM Zones)   X X
Concurrent Work X X  
Concurrent Testing X X  
Customizable Tag Templates     X

What’s Next?

Even though each tag management system will provide a similar outcome, there are many differences between them. Without an objective comparison, there’s no way for you to understand why you should consider one TMS over another.

I have my favorite tool, though I hope I provided an objective comparison in this blog post. At Blast Analytics & Marketing, we have the privilege of working with many different tag management systems; providing a unique point of view for providing this comparison.

In a follow up blog post, I’ll be providing guidance on how to select your next TMS vendor. If you are interested in discussing your unique needs and having an external perspective when determining the optimal TMS for your organization, please review our tag management consulting services and get in touch to start a conversation.

I’d love to have a conversation in the comments section below on either TMS features I didn’t compare, or other questions you might have about the tag management systems discussed in this post (or those that we didn’t discuss).

 

 

Connect with Blast Analytics & Marketing