what is Google Tag Manager

What is Google Tag Manager: An Introduction

In Google Analytics by Kaomi Team

When it comes to doing exactly what it says on the tin, Google Tag Manager (GTM) is a clear winner. 

No doubt you’ve heard the terms GTM or Tag Manager bandied about concerning your company’s website, but what exactly is it?  

What is Google Tag Manager?

Google Tag Manager (GTM) is a free tool courtesy of our friends at Google which allows for the quick and easy implementation of code on a website. That’s the short version – there’s so much more to it!

Whatever type of website you have, you probably want to know how it’s performing and where it can be improved, as well as understanding which of your marketing efforts are working.

To get a hold of this critical information, you will need code snippets (tags) carefully positioned in specific areas of your site which gather and report on the information that you’re asking for. Hold up. Isn’t that what developers are for? 

Well yes, but here’s the thing; developers usually have a lot on their plate and fiddling with code snippets will probably fall behind other essential maintenance or dev work. Also, good developers are not cheap, so having to call on one each time you need a snippet of code added to your site may prove both costly and frustrating.

Google Tag Manager is a clever vehicle that has been created to do most of the tech work for you and skip the queue for the developers. It is significantly easier to use than having to manually add and amend code to a website, and most of what you’ll need is pre-set. (Thanks Google!) 

But I Already Use Google Analytics

Google Analytics (GA) and GTM perform well in tandem but are in fact, quite different tools. 

GA can tell you how many people visited your site, where they went, and how long they spent there. It can tell you what time of day they were most active, what gender preferred your last ads, and what your bounce rate is. 

GTM, however, is a tool which saves and implements snippets of code on your website. These tags can track the same metrics as above if set up to do so, but they can also be configured to track, monitor, measure or fire code snippets at various times or according to a set of variables. It can be used to track your marketing efforts down to the smallest detail and send data to third-party applications. 

How to Use Google Tag Manager

Neil Patel says, “Generally speaking, the Tag Manager works in a three-part process:

  1. The tag: A piece of code, like a Google Ads conversion-tracking script, gets added to a page.
  2. Trigger: Next, you define when and where the code gets executed, for example, when someone lands on a page.
  3. Variables: Additional modifiers used to receive or store data from tags.”

Let’s explore this in a little more detail.

Containers

A container is like an online box which holds all your site tags. When you are setting up GTM for your website, this is your first stop. Thereafter, Google will give you a small section of code and tell you exactly where it needs to go on your site, essentially placing this box in its new virtual home.

Once your kindly developer has installed this code, there is very little need to bother them further. Everything else you need can be handled from your GTM dashboard which is entirely under your control. 

Each time you add a tag to GTM and push the changes out to the site, the container code receives and implements the new instructions without you having to touch the website yourself. Handy? Yes! Secure? Certainly!

Triggers

Once your container is in place you will then go about setting up triggers. To better explain these triggers, let’s take an example. 

Imagine that you have loaded a new blog post and you are interested in seeing how well received it is. Google Analytics can help, telling you how many people visited your page and how long they stayed. But you need more. 

Event Triggers

In this case, you will set up an event trigger within your container which will monitor vertical scroll depth. You set this trigger to fire when, say, a user has scrolled 50% down this specific page. This will tell you how many people read half of your blog, as opposed to those who merely landed on your page and perhaps went to make tea. (Which Google Analytics will read as the time on the page but wouldn’t be an accurate marker in this instance.)

If you want to get really technical, you can set triggers to fire at 20%, 50% and 70% which will go some way to showing you where people drop off or lose interest.

Further examples of triggers could be a form submission, click on a phone number or a link, or an add to cart action from your new ad campaign. 

Filters

In the example above, you can choose to set this trigger to fire on all blog pages or just that specific one. Your filter would be set up then to include All Pages or those pages within the blog section with a specific URL. 

Filters can be further broken down into variables, operator, and value which we will discuss in a future article. 

Additional Benefits 

Iron Paper gives us a few more clues as to why GTM remains such a widespread tool.

“Users and permissions management. GTM makes it easy to set permissions for individual users and control internally who has the ability to make changes to the website and assist with creating tags, macros, and rules.

“Version control. A new, archived version is created every time you publish a change through GTM, making it easy to roll back to a former version at any moment. This is ideal because it keeps tags organised; makes troubleshooting simple; and allows you to easily implement similar installations on new GTM containers.” Now those are beneficial, no doubt about that.

Google Tag Manager Extensions

So, we’ve seen how we can create a GTM account, create a container for our website and then add in and configure triggers – all without the constant input of our trusty devs. 

What else can GTM do? It must be said that we are incredibly grateful to the brains out there who take something great and make it even better. 

This is the case with GTM extensions, which are kind of like apps that you’d find in the Play Store for your phone, only for Google Tag Manager. Hundreds of extensions exist, most of which can be added to Chrome and which integrate with GTM with some pretty awesome results. Would you like an example? One of the most popular extensions is Google Tag Assist. 

Online Metrics sums it up like this, “Tag Assistant can be used to create, validate, diagnose, and troubleshoot your Analytics data on each of your pages. Once you create a recording and detect a problem, you can check again to verify whether your tags are firing correctly following a fix.”

What about GTM Spy? “This free tool (no signup required) lets you check what’s inside of the GTM container of any website. This can help you with spying on the competitor or just recreate the content of the container that you lost access to.” (Source) Well that’s interesting, isn’t it?

GTM For WordPress

While GTM is a gilded gift for businesses or marketers who work on custom-built websites, it’s just as useful when implemented on a WordPress site. 

WordPress websites are well-known for being easy to create, simple to use, and highly customisable which makes them the perfect choice for small businesses or start-ups. There are several plugins available to allow even the most technically challenged website owner to add in the GTM container code and start down the productive road of Google Tag Manager. 

Why Choose GTM?

It’s easy to see why Google Tag Manager is so popular at website parties, what with it being an all-singing, all-dancing addition to your business arsenal. To sum up, we think these are some of the best reasons to use GTM on your site:

  • Closely track and monitor ad campaigns 
  • Easily add or amend tags on your site to match company goals
  • Grant access to your website to third-party companies without creating security issues
  • Track specific events or actions sitewide with one tag
  • Quickly filter events to track only the most relevant 
  • Improve site speed by using GTM tags instead of hardcoding them

Neil Patel, in his article mentioned above, confirms this saying, “When it comes to collecting actionable data and insights, you always need tags.”

We believe that if there is an easier, faster, or more cost-effective way of doing something for our clients, that’s what we’ll do. Therefore, routinely implementing GTM on client websites is, as you will agree by now, a serious value-add.  

About the Author

Kaomi Team

We aim to maintain a culture of empowering people. The way we do this, changes on an individual basis. Fundamentally we want to find the strengths and drives of each individual, then build around their unique individual traits. This allows us to build dynamic teams with roles that overlap - as the goal is to create a culture of powerful problem-solvers, not just an organisation with a corporate structure forcing individuals into a mould.