Google's Laura Holmes On New Tag Management Product

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Laura Holmes, is the Google product manager in charge of her company’s conversion tracking products among other responsibilities and is part of the Google Analytics team. 

Yesterday, Holmes announced on two Google blogs as well as at eMetrics, her company’s entry into the busy tag management space with Google Tag Manager - a new, free product designed to provide an easier way for advertisers to manage their conversion pixels.

By and large, tag management competitors were – publicly - quick to welcome Google’s new tool as validation for what they are doing.  They also point out that Google’s tool provides a limited range of options compared to more robust solutions with data management and attribution capabilities, for example.

AdExchanger discussed the new product with Holmes yesterday.

AdExchanger: Is Google Tag Manager more of a Google Analytics product, or more of a DoubleClick Advertiser product?

LAURA HOLMES: We're hoping that it’s viewed as something in-between. Google has three distinct arms when it comes to where we're positioned in the ads and analytics space. We have our search ads, which is under the AdWords brand. We have DoubleClick, which is more on the display side of things. Then we have Google Analytics. What we are hoping to do with Google Tag Manager is find a point in between all three, because we want to support all of them. That's why we have branded it as a completely separate product.

In your blog post, you used an example from QuinStreet, and the SEM manager there. Is this primarily an SEM tool? Do you think of it that way?

We think of it more as a tool for marketers. When we say “marketers,” we mean both at the advertiser and the agency levels. We did a lot of user research with both advertisers and agencies to make sure that we understood the huge amount of problems that are faced with deploying tags. That's who we tried to target with this product, the people who are in the lead, trying to get more data collection for marketing observation opportunities. They were slowed down by the fact that it took a long time to get a tag deployed, and the fact that they had to go back and forth with IT to get the correct data collected.

Are there any privacy compliance capabilities with Google Tag Manager, or do you have any plans in that area?

Google Tag Manager, in and of itself, is a cookie‑less solution. It also fires tags client‑side, which means that it doesn't collect any additional data about any user. It also makes sure that all of the privacy opt‑outs of the various tracking tags are also respected. We did look into adding features in the privacy compliance space, but as I'm sure you're probably aware, both with "Do Not Track" and ePrivacy, the industry is still trying to figure out what the right solution is. We've talked to a number of stakeholders, and we want to make sure that we spend the time to create the right solution, as opposed to just coming out with something.

We are going to be investigating, adding privacy compliance tools in the future, but we want to make sure we get it right and that we work with stakeholders in the government.

A popular phrase around the tag management business has been the phrase, "data leakage." Is this product a step toward addressing “data leakage”?

Data leakage in some sense is referencing the fact that a lot of people don't really have control over where their tags are firing. They don't know who is collecting data on their site. There's a variety of reasons why that might happen. The first step towards addressing data leakage is definitely getting transparency into what tags are actually on your site. We've been encouraging our clients who are adopting Google Tag Manager to think about, "What are you trying to track? What are you trying to achieve?" and just doing a clean install so you can actually just start from scratch, and make sure that you aren't leaking data to other places.

I understand that tags are loading faster, but what does that mean in terms of performance improvement for the marketer?

Our tool is asynchronously loading, which means that tags all fire at once. As far as doing benchmarking data around what the average improvement is, it's hard to come up with that data because every site is different. It's really, "How heavy is that site?" and also, "What was their state beforehand?" Were they using asynchronous technology? How many pixels do they have? We don't actually have any benchmark data at this point, but we do expect that for clients that are currently using lots of tags, that are firing them synchronously, and this is going to offer a significant page load improvement.

Last question, any plans on being able to hook in to third‑party service providers and create “intelligent” pipes into the tag management system?

As a tag management vendor, we strongly feel that you need to have an open solution. We want to make sure that we fully support any third‑party tags that our core technology is able to enable. With that, we've gone down a couple of routes in order to make sure that we can support third‑party tags. The first one is what you'll see already in the interface, which is our custom HTML feature. You can copy and paste in any third‑party tracking tags. Then secondly, we've also announced today our tag vendor program, which basically is an open call to any third‑party data collection tool to say, "Hey! We would love to include you," and they can build tag manager templates and so on.

We've already talked to a number of vendors, and a number of them are on board. We're going to be talking to more now that we're fully launched and can talk openly about it.

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