ActiveCampaign Tags Explained [3 Problems/3 Solutions]

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I’ve found there are three common causes for why people end up with a list of ActiveCampaign tags in a total mess which means…

They become pretty much useless.

In this post, I’m going to share all three and a solution for each.

(If you find these apply to you, you might also want to check out my post that will help you fix up your ActiveCampaign lists as well)

1. No Tag Categories

At the time of writing this post, ActiveCampaign has no built-in function to put tags into categories.

This is one of the few things I absolutely hate about ActiveCampaign!

One of the things I love about them is the pace at which they improve their weak points but for some reason…

This widely request feature (that seems pretty straight forward), has been overlooked for years. Don’t ask me why because I don’t understand it.

So unless you have a system like what I’m going to share with you now, it’s likely that your related tags are all over the place.

A Solution For Organising ActiveCampaign Tags

Here’s how I do it…

All of my contacts, whether they are leads or clients, interact with my business through some kind of campaign.

So I choose to segment my contacts by campaign.

For example, if you were a personal trainer, you’d be likely to segment your contacts based on their interests which might be lose weight and build muscle.

But for each of these two groups, it’s likely that you would also have different ways of attracting new leads.

You might run a free six-week weight loss online boot camp…

tag category

And a free two hour live weight loss workshop…

another tag category

Group Your Tags Together Using "Campaign Codes"

For tag naming purposes “Free 6 Week Weight Loss Online Boot Camp” is a bit of a mouthful. So I like to create three-digit codes for all of my campaigns, for quick use in things like tag names.

In this case, I would use something like…

6WB – 6 Week Weight Loss Online Boot Camp
2HW – 2 Hour Live Weight Loss Workshop

alternative to tag categories

There aren’t any set rules or formulas you need to follow for these, just pick codes that make sense to you. If you prefer codes with more or fewer digits, that’s fine.

Adding the three-digit code to the start of each tag keeps the tags grouped together by their campaign.

Add Numbers For Sequential Tags

To go one step further, if you apply a tag at each step in your marketing funnel, after the three-digit campaign code add a two-digit number for each step in the funnel.

Now your tags will be grouped by campaign and in the same order as the steps in your marketing funnel. Here is an example…


I use these same three digit codes on everything I create for my marketing campaigns. This includes Custom Contact Fields, Automations, Deal Pipelines, Website Pages, Integrations… basically everything!

2. Confusion Between Tags & Custom Fields

If you’re new to ActiveCampaign, this can be a bit of a tough one because even if someone explains when to use tags and when to use custom fields, it’s usually not until you’ve had some time using ActiveCampaign, that you really start to understand when to use each.

By then you’ve had plenty of time to make a mess!

Take The Quiz

Thankfully ActiveCampaign has actually made this much easier for new people by adding this Take The Quiz link. Which may still be a little confusing if you are new…

ActiveCampaign Tags Explained

By “customized in email” they’re referring to something that is often called “dynamic content”…

personalisation tags

An example would be a first name where you use a line of code in the email (that looks like this %FIRSTNAME%) which automatically inserts the first name of the person receiving the email. 

If you answer “yes” to this question then you will likely need to use a Custom Contact Filed but I’ll cover that in another post.

The most useful tip to help you decide if a tag is the right choice is where it say “Does this describe an action, behavior, interest, or engagement?”

Action, Behavior Or Engagement

Action, behavior or engagement are all similar. Keep in mind, they could refer to actions you’ve taken, not the contact. Or they could refer to actions that haven’t happened as well.

Some examples would be…

Contact's Actions
Your Actions

Pretty much any action that may be used to trigger some kind of automation.

Topic Of Interest

“Interest” on the other hand, is a little different.

For example, the action they’ve taken might be opting in to your Free 6 Week Weight Loss Boot-camp but your tag could be based either on the “action” of opting in or it could be based on the topic of “interest” which is weight loss.

Triggers And Segmenting

And if you’re still not sure when adding a new tag, consider how you might use it. Tags are used as triggers or to segment your contact lists. Here are three quick examples.

You want to use it as a trigger for something such as an automation where you send a welcome email after a purchase…

trigger automation with tag

You want to use it to segment contacts based on whether they have or have not taken a specific action like sending a follow up email sequence to people who opted in for a free resource but haven’t yet made a purchase…

Or you want to use it to segment contacts based on what they are interested so you can send offers about weight loss products to your weight loss contacts…

segmet contacts with tags

3. Adding Dates Into Tags

I’m not trying to say you shouldn’t add dates into tags, even though personally I prefer to add date related information to Custom Fields. It can be done but you’ll make a mess if you don’t do it properly so in the event that you do want to add a date to a tag, here is the best way to go about it.

Let’s continue on with the personal trainer example just to keep things simple.

Lets say you run a monthly workshop on the first Sunday of every month which means the date won’t be the same each month.

add date to tag

Usually in a case like this I see people add tags similar to these…

As tags are listed alphabetically, we can see they’re not showing in chronological order. Which I find to be very confusing (It’s not good for my O.C.D.).

Out of the above examples, having the “attended workshop” text first is the best option because at very least, all of your workshop tags would be listed together but not in chronological order so it’s still not ideal.

If this was all that you did, your tags would look like this…

To fix this, reverse the order of the date to show year, month then day.

Lastly, add your campaign code to the start and here is what the end result looks like…

Tip: No need to have the word “Workshop” in there anymore either because you already know from your campaign code that the tag is related to your workshop.

If you do it this way, it won’t matter how many tags you add, all related tags will be grouped together and in chronological order.


And this is a big but…

Sure you can do this, but do you need to?

Remember, tags are only useful for triggering an automated event or segmenting contacts into different groups.

Any time I’ve ever seen someone create separate tags for events on different dates is because they were using them to trigger automations for that specific event.

I see people do this by creating their original automated email sequence for the first event which looks like this…

Then they copy the automation, change the dates in all the emails and repeat the process every time they run the event.

If this is the reason you want to add dates to tags, then there is a much better way to do it!

A Smarter Way To Store Date Information

Forget about adding the date to the tag and just use a single tag for all your event attendees regardless of the date they attend.

Following on from our earlier example, a tag such as 2HW Attended would be suitable.

If you then create a related Custom Contact Field called something such as 2HW Attended Date…

You can then eliminate the need to create an automation for every event because you can use a single automation for all your events by dynamically updating the dates in emails using your Attended Date custom field.

If for some reason you do actually need to contact attendees of a specific workshop date you can still do this using the advanced search function…

activecampaign advanced contact search

Adding dates via custom fields actually gives you lots more options than using tags. In fact, custom fields can be a very powerful tool and they can be used for much more than storing information about your contacts.


There’s no one single tagging strategy that is the absolute best in the world, the important point is that you have a plan for your tags that makes sense to you and keep them well organised.

A plan for tags starts with thinking about how you intend to use them and then making sure related tags are grouped together with a similar system to what I covered earlier with my campaign codes.

On ActiveCampaign’s post Avoid a Tagging Crisis in One Hour, they suggest keeping a record of tags in a spreadsheet. This could be helpful but it’s not what I do.

I use ClickUp as a project management tool (because it’s awesome) and every single marketing campaign I create is well documented inside ClickUp.

Every single step of my ActiveCampaign automations is documented as you can see here…

I do this so I can easily refer back to it in future if I need to remind myself how the automation was built and how each step is related.

It can get very confusing when you create complex automations and it’s near impossible to remember everything months later!

Sometimes you will need to add or modify an Automation later on, if you don’t have the steps documented it’s very easy to break the entire automation and be left clueless as to what you’ve done.

Having a system for your tags will not only make things less confusing, it will also help you get the most out of ActiveCampaigns features which will ultimately lead to a better return on your ActiveCampaign investment.

Did I miss something?

My goal is to make this blog post the best resource available on this topic. If you didn’t get the answer you were looking for, something wasn’t 100% clear or maybe you did get the info you wanted… Either way, I’d love for you to comment below so I can make any necessary improvements.

Look forward to hearing from you!


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