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What Are Data Layers? What’s a Tag Management System?

Wondering how data layers and tag management systems can help your website? Browse through this 4-minute read for all the answers to your questions.

When speaking about setting up website retargeting or analytics tracking, one usually comes across the topics of data layers and tag management systems. This is when we’re left wondering what both of these practices do and how they work.

When and Why Do We Need Data Layers?

To answer these questions, let’s take the fictional example of a website called CatCo. Let’s say that this website is dedicated to selling framed pictures of felines and has set a goal of increasing its user-base twofold in the following year.

To do this, CatCo plans on increasing their marketing performance and reach by integrating their data with as many marketing platforms as possible while keeping track of their marketing performance.

However, CatCo is short on engineers and therefore, cannot integrate with so many external systems. Enter data layers and tag management systems.

Data layers will allow CatCo to set individual structures for the data needed to integrate with 3rd party websites. These data layers signify data objects that are readily available within CatCo’s browser to integrate with 3rd parties.

Let’s say CatCo wants to integrate with Bing, Facebook and Google Analytics for the intended results. To do so, they wouldn’t directly integrate with each of these platforms. Instead, they will directly integrate with a tag management system, which in turn, will integrate with each individual platform.

How Does This Work?

When users visit CatCo’s website, they will notice a few characteristics on their webpage:

  • It is possible for visitors to add products to their cart from the web page
  • A specific product is displayed on each webpage
  • Each web page has a specific title and URL
  • Each web page is intended to sell a unique cat picture frame

Now, CatCo is more interested in finding out two separate actions committed by visitors: add to carts and page views. If we were to single out the data available for each of these events, the data will look something like this:

Page View

Page Attributes Page Category: PDP

Title: Lilly being petted

URL: /frame/lilly.html

Product Attributes (Impression) Product ID: 321

Product Name: Lilly being petted

Add to Cart

Product Attributes (Impression) Product ID: 321

Product Name: Lilly being petted

Now let’s have a look at what will happen when a particular user visits this page on CatCo’s website:

Joey will visit frame/lilly.html on their browser and will generate a request to the server. The server will then respond with the HTML code that will contain the code for the page titled ‘Lilly being petted’. This HTML code will contain the definition of the JavaScript object, which looks something like this:

dataLayer = [{

    ‘pageCategory’: ‘PDP’,

    ‘pageTitle’: ‘Lilly being petted’,


Next, an external script will require the JavaScript codes from a tag management system, as follows:

<script src=””></script>

As this page begins getting rendered and displayed for the visitor, the loaded script then decides which tags need to be blazed. This script also consists of information concerning the mapping of available data against the data layers object with respect to Google Analytics’ requested data.

This mapping then gets configured on the user interface of CatCo’s tag management system while the Google Analytics tag triggers a page view as a confirmed event.

What Is a Tag?

A tag, otherwise known as a pixel, is a JavaScript code that websites require so their visitors can integrate with and perform tasks such as live chat, advertising or product recommendations. Other than supporting your website’s digital marketing efforts, however, these tags also help collect visitor behavior information.

On the other hand, if the visitor decides to add Lilly’s frame to their cart, a similar event will impact data layers with tag management script in order to decide whether another tag needs to be blazed.

Bonus: The Google Tag Manager does all of the above with a datalayer.push action whereas a Tealium Tag Manager does the same via a action.

Why Do We Need Data Within Data Layers?

Data layers provide website owners with a common method of setting up tags for front-end integration with 3rd party websites. This data within layers is used to set up optimal e-commerce with the help of Google Analytics whilst integrating with multiple advertising partners. Other websites also use data layers within websites to dictate when certain content/actions should pop up.

In order to integrate your website with Google Analytics, the following information and events need to be added to your data layer:

  • Page views
  • Add to/ update/ remove from carts
  • Checkouts
  • Purchases

Other similar actions can be provided if you think it can help better track whatever is happening on your website. Also, besides using them for tracking purposes, the information inside a data layer comes in handy when you want to feed Data Management Programs (DMPs) with specific targeted segments or to set up unique objectives for digital marketing optimization, etc.

Final Thoughts

Data layers and tag management systems can help their users implement, manage and maintain tags for their digital properties with the help of an easy-to-use interface. Using these systems is integral for your efforts toward providing a foundation for data collection and governance while simultaneously making visitor experience better.

Schedule a Consultation With a Conversion Rate Optimization Agency

Increasing your website’s conversion rate may be nice but your ultimate goal is to increase your website’s potential of generating revenue. Since you’re busy running your business, this ultimate goal can only be achieved with the help of a conversion rate optimization agency.

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