What Are Tags?

What Are Tags?

Table of Contents


    Tags first appeared in marketing automation in the early 2000s as a way to organize (or segment) and categorize contacts. Essentially, people created tags to enable a deeper level of segmentation beyond what was available with traditional email marketing services.

    Of course, tags evolved since their early days. Now they achieve their original purpose and then some, as the below table shows.

    This guide expands on that table and includes an exploration of tag types and a naming convention.

    Read on to see how you can use (and name) tags to make your work easier and more effective.

    3 Functions Of Tags In ActiveCampaign

    Tags display essential contact data quickly and easily. In our migration guide, we define tags as the CliffNotes of contacts’ histories with your business. Your contacts cannot see the tags you apply to them, as tags appear only on internal contact records. You can segment and target contacts with common tags.

    Generally, tags either help you stay organized or cause an action; sometimes they do both. In ActiveCampaign, these are the three main functions of tags:


    Tags’ preliminary purpose — to help with organization — is not lost in our platform. You can filter your contact database by tags, and you can also view tags on individual contact records. Such functionality provides you a snapshot of your contacts’ journeys, which sometimes is all you need to answer a question.

    crupgtjqc tagsvisualstill

    By using tags, you do not have to scroll through contacts’ “Recent Activities” streams to find crucial information. Actionable data is just two clicks away at all times.

    Serving as start triggers 

    The addition or removal of tags can be the criterion for start triggers. How you configure your start triggers determines who enters your automations and how often they can.

    Conditional Content

    As we note in our segmentation guide, tags are one of many conditions you can segment contacts by. That means you can target contacts that have or lack certain tags.

    You can target contacts via automations (which already are set to engage a segmented audience based on the start trigger you chose), and you can also leverage tags to send relevant messages in your one-off campaigns by crafting conditional content, as shown in the image below. That way, you can hide or show content blocks in emails based on contacts’ tags.

    2yeaxd36u screenrecording2016 11 01at09.04am

    Lastly, you can use tags to display conditional content on third-party integrations. That is, you can use membership plugins like ActiveMember360 and Memberium to hide and show content on a WordPress website based on tags that contacts have or lack. One common use of such function is the configuration of members-only content.

    Need Help Naming Your Tags? Consult This Naming Convention

    Now that you’re (hopefully) starting to see how powerful tags can be, we offer this warning: with great power, comes great responsibility. The most responsible approach to tags in our potent platform is to keep things simple.

    Just because you can name a tag anything you want in ActiveCampaign does not mean you should. Doing so poses two problems. First, without some semblance of a naming strategy, you will experience option anxiety and obsess over tag names. Second, naming tags without a system can result in random names, and remembering the purpose of randomly-named tags can be difficult (regardless if you develop a system or not, you can always use our tag description feature — see below screen recording — to help remind you why you created a given tag).

    omdqiow4s tagdescriptions

    To help you avoid such harrowing situations, we created a naming convention below. We find that users typically create tags as a response to one of these scenarios. Thus, if the data the tag applies to fits in one of these categories, we suggest that you name the tag with that category in mind.

    Note: Avoid using symbols when creating your tag names; we recommend you limit your non-letter characters to hyphens ( – ) and colons ( : ) and underscores ( _ ).


    Mainly reserved for migration purposes, source-related tags remind you where your contacts came from. Did you import contacts from MailChimp? The goal is to associate just one source with each contact. Users often import contacts from separate lists in MailChimp. In that case, you’re best served including in the tag name the specific list contacts came from.

    Examples: SOURCE – MailChimp, SOURCE – MailChimp List A, SOURCE – Infusionsoft


    These are the tags you use to indicate a contact’s status in a process. One piece of data that requires such tags is the status of contacts in your database (reachability). Are they opening emails and/or clicking email links (engagement)? Are contacts email addresses confirmed (active) or unconfirmed, unsubscribed (email address voluntarily left your list), or bounced (email address no longer valid/doesn’t exist)?

    Such tags help you make sense of deliverability data.

    rtrs59c4q tagscontactstatus

    As the image above shows, ActiveCampaign automatically tracks that data. But, the platform does not automatically create tags to represent such data. Plus, if you’re segmenting contacts in an automation, you’ll notice that you do not have the option to segment based on contacts’ reachability. You can, however, segment by tags that contacts have and lack. Thus, by using tags to indicate reachability you can segment contacts according to those tags —  the same result you would achieve if you could segment by raw reachability data.

    Another piece of data that could call for status-related tags is the date of last engagement. For example, you could have tags for contacts who haven’t purchased in 30 days, in 60 days, and in 90 days. Such tags allow you to personalize engagement for contacts in each stage.

    Examples: STATUS  – Unconfirmed, STATUS – 30 Days Not Engaged, STATUS – 60 Days No Purchase

    Note: Status-related tags often require tag swapping. You technically can assign multiple status tags to one contact at one time. However, such function is illogical. A contact cannot simultaneously be active and unconfirmed. So, for every action in an automation that adds a status tag, you have to remember to remove the previously applied status tag (see the below screen recording).

    8xb4lb5ww screenrecording2016 11 28at01.50pm

    If you forget to swap status-related tags — via automations or manually — contacts receive contradictory messages (e.g., if you create an action in an automation that adds a “STATUS – 60 Days No Purchase” tag, you must create a subsequent action that removes a “STATUS – 30 Days No Purchase” tag; if you don’t, you engage contacts as though they possess both tags).


    Generally speaking, trigger-related tags represent actions that enter contacts into automations. Of course, the addition or removal of any tag can enter contacts into automations. However, when we talk specifically about trigger-related tags, we refer to tags that exist to trigger contact entry into automations (or other actions within automations). As soon as the contacts execute the action you desire, the trigger-related tag is applied.

    Typically, trigger-related tags are used for actions that you expect contacts to repeat over time. Therefore, as soon as a contact completes the action, the trigger-related tag is removed from their contact record. In other words, trigger-related tags are temporary. They exist on a contact’s record long enough to execute the desired action and should not be present afterward.

    For example, you could create a “TRIGGER – New Purchase” tag, the assignment of which enters contacts into an automation everytime they make a new purchase. For that process to work, the first action in that automation must remove that tag. Then, when contacts purchase again in the future (hooray!), they are able to re-enter the automation.

    Trigger-related tags are commonly synced with third-party apps that integrate with ActiveCampaign on a tag level. Thus, any actions that users take on third-party assets can result in a tag being added to their contact record.

    Also, users can leverage trigger-related tags to send contacts from one automation to another.

    lkq62pscj startautomation

    Simply insert the “Start an automation” action (indicated in the above image) immediately following the addition of the trigger-related tag.

    Examples: TRIGGER- New Purchase, TRIGGER – Refund Request


    Every business should have product-related tags. They allow you to easily segment customers based on what products they bought. You can apply multiple product tags to contacts at one time.

    For example, one contact could have a “Product – Online Class” tag and a “Product – Sweatshirt” tag. Many ActiveCampaign users keep a separate customer list. That way, sending mass campaigns to all their customers is as easy as emailing their customer list.

    If you prefer to use a customer tag — essentially a global representation of who has paid you money — the easiest way to apply this tag is an action step in an automation. For more information about actions within automations, check out our “What Are Automations?” guide.

    Note: If you’re not using a customer list, go ahead and apply a customer tag (“CUSTOMER”) to contacts immediately after they purchase. Doing so allows you to easily identify and engage all of your customers, and you can use product-related tags to get more targeted.

    Examples: PRODUCT – Comic Book, PRODUCT – Illustration Pad, PRODUCT – Action Figures


    Action-related tags are linked to status-related tags in the sense that they signify behavior that alters a contact’s status. Such tags could be “Visited checkout page” or “Downloaded white paper” or “Attended webinar.”
    Remember, your business needs may require tags that fall outside the above categories. But, as a rule of thumb, keep those categories in mind. Your tags relate to one of those scenarios more often than not.

    Examples: ACTION – Attended Event, ACTION – Visited Checkout Page

    Closing Remarks

    Tags are a versatile feature in ActiveCampaign. You can use them to start contacts’ journeys in automations, hide and show relevant content, and display essential information about contacts in an easy-to-digest fashion.

    To achieve your desired results, we recommend that you do not go tag crazy. If you create tags for every single piece of information, your data will become too noisy. Again, tags are the CliffNotes version of your contacts’ stories. If you assign hundreds of tags to each contact, you defeat the vital purpose of tags, which is to quickly tell an important story.

    If you seek more advanced tagging strategies, feel free to check out these resources from two of our top users: Barry Moore’s Ninja Tagging Guide and Daniel McClure’s Tagging Strategy for Improved Marketing Automation.

    Do you use tags differently or do you employ another naming convention? Let us know in the comments!

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