What is Google Tag Manager and why use it?

What is Google Tag Manager (GTM)?

Google Tag Manager is a free tool that allows you manage and deploy marketing tags (snippets of code or tracking pixels) on your website (or mobile app) without having to modify the code.

Here’s a very simple example of how GTM works. Information from one data source (your website) is shared with another data source (Analytics) through Google Tag Manager. GTM becomes very handy when you have lots of tags to manage because all of the code is stored in one place. A huge benefit of Tag Manager is that you, the marketer, can manage the code on your own. “No more developers needed. Whoo hoo!”

Is Google Tag Manager easy to use?

I may get run over in the comments section for saying this, but I’m standing my ground. Google Tag Manager is not “easy” to use without some technical knowledge or training (courses or self-taught).

You have to have some technical knowledge to understand how to set up tags, triggers and variables. If you’re dropping in Facebook pixels, you’ll need some understanding of how Facebook tracking pixels work.

If you want to set up event tracking in Google Tag Manager, you’ll need some knowledge about what “events” are, how Google Analytics works, what data you can track with events, what the reports look like in Google Analytics and how to name your categories, actions and labels.

Although it is “easy” to manage multiple tags in GTM, there is a learning curve. Once you’re over the hump, GTM is pretty slick about what you can track.

 

Let’s go over how Google Tag Manager works…

There are three main parts to Google Tag Manager:

  • Tags: Snippets of Javascript or tracking pixels
  • Triggers: This tells GTM when or how to fire a tag
  • Variables: Additional information GTM may need for the tag and trigger to work

What are tags?

Tags are snippets of code or tracking pixels from third-party tools. These tags tell Google Tag Manager what to do.

Examples of common tags within Google Tag Manager are:

  • Google Analytics Universal tracking code
  • Adwords Remarketing code
  • Adwords Conversion Tracking code
  • Heatmap tracking code (Hotjar, CrazyEgg, etc…)
  • Facebook pixels

What are triggers?

Triggers are a way to fire the tag that you set up. They tell Tag Manager when to do what you want it to do. Want to fire tags on a page view, link click or is it custom?

What are variables?

Variables are additional information that GTM may need for your tag and trigger to work. Here are some examples of different variables.

The most basic type of constant variable that you can create in GTM is the Google Analytics UA number (the tracking ID number).

Those are the very basic elements of GTM that you will need to know to start managing tags on your own.

If you’re bored reading this right now, you won’t have any issues managing your tags. If you are completely lost, you are going to need help from someone more technical.

How is Google Tag Manager different from Google Analytics?

Google Tag Manager is a completely different tool used only for storing and managing third-party code. There are no reports or any way to do analysis in GTM.

Google Analytics is used for actual reporting and analysis. All conversion tracking goals or filters are managed through Analytics.

All reporting (conversion reports, custom segments, ecommerce sales, time on page, bounce rate, engagement reports, etc…) are done in Google Analytics.

 

What are the benefits of Google Tag Manager?

Once you get over the learning curve, what you can do in Google Tag Manager is pretty amazing. You can customize the data that is sent to Analytics.

You can setup and track basic events like PDF downloads, outbound links or button clicks. Or, complex enhanced ecommerce product and promotion tracking.

Let’s say we want to track all outbound links on the website. In GTM, choose the category name, action and label. We chose offsite link, click and click URL.

In Google Analytics go to Behavior > Events > Top Events > Offsite link.

Now select either event action or label to get the full reports. The data that we setup in Google Tag Manager is now appearing in the Analytics reports. Nifty!

Want to try out a tool on a free trial basis? You can add the code to Tag Manager and test it out without needing to get your developers involved.

Other perks:

  • It may help your site load faster depending on how many tags you are using.
  • It works with non-Google products.
  • Flexibility to play around and test out almost anything you want.
  • All third-party code is in one place.
  • GTM has a preview and debug mode so you can see what’s working and what’s not before you make anything live. It shows you what tags are firing on the page. Love this feature!

 

What can you track in GTM?

  • Events (link clicks, PDF downloads, add to cart click, remove from cart click)
  • Scroll tracking
  • Form abandonment
  • Shopping cart abandonment
  • Video tracking