The Ultimate Guide To Google Tag Manager
by Justin Brooke
Does your website have lots of tracking/retargeting/conversion codes these days?
In recent years, tags and tag management have transformed the way marketers controlled their analytics tags.
To help make things even easier and simpler for marketers, Google launched their own tag management system in 2012 called Google Tag Manager (GTM) with the goal of freeing marketers from waiting for days for site codes to be updated, allowing them to launch new tags with just a few clicks, and letting them focus on marketing instead of coding.
Despite the fact that there are some marketers who are now enjoying the benefits of being able to own, collect, and act on their data in real time, there are still those who are new to this idea. With that in mind, this article will talk about tags, tag management, and most especially Google Tag Manager to help you get started on reaping the rewards of incorporating these in your marketing toolbox.
First things first, what are tags? To the uninitiated, it can be deceptively easy to associate tags with keywords and blog posts. However, in the realm of digital marketing, tags take on a different meaning.
A tag, in this context, is a snippet of website code that
lets you measure traffic and visitor behavior, understand the impact of online advertising and social channels, use remarketing and audience targeting, test and improve your site, and more.
Typically, tags are added to the source code of a website and are designed to send information from a website to a third party. Tags fire or execute when a page loads or in response to user interaction on a page.
Generally, tags can perform a number of tasks which can help facilitate digital marketing and analytics including instructing web browsers to collect data; setting cookies; extending audiences between multiple websites; integrating third-party content like social media widgets, video players, and ads into a website; and run things like Google Analytics and other digital marketing services.
Tags can perform a number of tasks which can help facilitate digital marketing and analytics including instructing web browsers to collect data; setting cookies; extending audiences between multiple websites; integrating third-party content like social media widgets, video players, and ads into a website; and run things like Google Analytics and other digital marketing services.
Tags can gather different kinds of data including user context (information like the IP address od a mobile phone, the type of mobile browser being used by a site visitor, and how a visitor was referred to the site); user profile (data stored in cookies like unique Profile IDs or targeting criteria); and user behavior (the products, content, or ads viewed by a visitor, links clicked, time spent on a page, and more).
Tags and Its Pain Points
Despite the apparent practicality of using tags to aid the digital marketing process, there are still concerns and issues that arise from using these pieces of code. A few of these pain points include:
- It slows down website performance. Often, there are at least 50 tags installed on a website and this number can grow by the hundreds depending in the needs of a marketer. Installing hundreds of tags can introduce additional latency which degrades customer experience.
- Manually adding tags to a website’s source code can take a while and needs the involvement of a webmaster. This can delay campaigns and result in lost revenue opportunities.
- Tags can sometimes fail to fire resulting in data loss.
- Implementing tags can be error-prone. Again, when tags are manually added to a site’s source code, there is always a possibility that errors will occur and fixing this will take away precious time that could otherwise be used for more meaningful work.
- Changes on a page can break a tag’s functionality. In other words if a site’s design is tweaked then some tags might lose their connection with previous data and may not complete its function.
Tag Management as a Solution for Tag Blunders
The good news is that there is a way to address these problems related to using tags in the form of tag management.
Tag management allows marketers to address issues pertaining to agile marketing measurement and accuracy of tracking. There are systems available that allows for third-party tracking, analysis, reporting, remarketing, conversion tracking, optimization, and more.
In a study conducted by EConsultancy, 73 percent of content management system users reported tag management expense and 45 percent of users described it as significantly less expensive than manually updating tags.
The Rise of Google Tag Manager
Google released its own free tag management system (TMS) on October 1, 2012 called Google Tag Manager (GTM). As a TMS, it promised marketers the capacity to launch new tags with just a few clicks. This results in faster and tighter control over digital marketing and analytics programs. Since its release, is regarded as one of the most widely used systems in the market.
GTM uses a container tag or a small snippet of code that allows marketers to insert tags into their websites. This container tag acts as a bucket to hold other types of tags that a marketer might need to install on a website including Google AdWords tags, Google Analytics tags, DoubleClick Floodlight tags and many non-Google third-party tags
The best part about GTM is that marketers no longer need to edit their website’s source code. Instead, tags are added using a simple web interface thereby reducing errors, eliminating the need to involve a webmaster, and quickly deploying tags on a site.
Moreover, GTM keeps track of a set of tags and tag-firing triggers that define when those tags should be made available on your site. When a user visits the site, the most up-to-date tag configuration is sent over to the end-user’s browser with instructions for which tags should fire.
Users can use one GTM account to administer tags from one or more websites or mobile apps. Although you can set up multiple accounts from a single Google account, you’ll typically only need one GTM account per company or organization.
GTM comes in a wide variety of features that will help marketers at the enterprise level. These features ensure the best experience for users without compromising the integrity of a website. Among its long list of attributes include:
- Asynchronous tag loading. Google Tag Manager fires all tags asynchronously. This means tags load as they’re ready to load, in parallel with other page elements. So slow tags won’t hobble your site or prevent other tags from firing. This can lead to faster page loads and more data collection.
- Define reusable variables. Google Tag Manager lets you select important data elements on your site pages and collect them easily. For example, you only need to define once where “total price” is found on your page, and then Google Tag Manager can pass that value through to all of your tags.
- Smart caching. Google Tag Manager minimizes the number of requests made to our servers through the use of intelligent caching, allowing bandwidth to be spent on firing all your other tags.
- Tag Blacklist. Tag Blacklist lets administrators define specific tags or tag types that can never be added to the site. This helps keep your site safe from malicious software.
- Preview mode and Debug Console. Want to see how the changes you’ve made actually work before deploying live to your site? Preview Mode gives you a glimpse into how a new tagging configuration would work before you publish it. As part of their Preview Mode, Google Tag Manager provides an additional tool to help you understand how your tags are functioning. Rather than wading through lots of extra detail in standard web-developer tools, you can use our specialized Debug Console to self-check which tags are firing.
- Site tag overview. The overview lets you see all tags within your container—and any associated triggers—at a glance. You can easily select a particular tag if you need to make changes or remove it, or you can add new tags at any time.
- Version history. Thanks to its versioning feature, you keep a history of what’s been published on your site. If changes are made and you’d like to go back to a prior version, it’s easy to flip back.
- Multi-account and multi-user support. Agencies that manage multiple accounts for different clients can see all of their accounts in one place, and can switch between them seamlessly. Moreover, multiple users can access the same account, making it easy to work with different members of your team.
- User level permissions. When making a tagging change, there are often two sets of users: a non-technical user who knows the business needs around tagging and a technical user who understands website technical needs. Their user-permissions system allows you to select the level of access for different users; so, for example, marketers can specify what changes they want made, and trusted members of the IT or webmaster team can actually push changes live to the site.
- Custom macros. Design your own custom macros to fire a tag based on the value of an element or data in the page, such as if a user buys an item worth more than a certain amount.
- Tag templates Tag Manager comes with built-in templates for Google AdWords Conversion Tracking, AdWords Remarketing, Google Analytics, and DoubleClick Floodlight.
Google Tag Manager also offers its users benefits that will make digital marketing that much easier. This includes:
- Marketing Agility – Users are able to update tags in their own with just a few clicks. This means that conversion tracking, site analytics, remarketing, and more can be done almost instantaneously eliminating the need to wait for weeks or even months for website code updates.
- Dependable Data – Google Tag Manager boasts of its easy-to-use error checking and speedy tag loading. This means marketers will always know that every tag works so they can rely on collecting the right data at the right time.
- Quick And Easy – Google Tag Manager is designed to let marketers add or change tags whenever they want, while giving IT and webmasters confidence that the site is running smoothly and quickly.
Getting Started with Google Tag Manager
Setup and installation of Google Tag Manager is nothing but simple. To get started managing your tags using Google Tag Manager:
- Go to google.comto create a Google Tag Manager account (or to access an existing account).
- Create a container for your site or app.
- For websites:Add the container snippet to your site while removing any existing tags. For mobile apps: Implement the Google Tag Manager SDK for Android or iOS.
You’re then ready to add tags (such as Google Analytics and AdWords Conversion Tracking tags) to your site via the Google Tag Manager user interface.
Many tag management operations can be achieved by just doing the basic code installation, but if you’d like to have finer grain control over tag events or data, you may want to use some customization using our asynchronous methods.
Take note that the Google Tag Manager snippet must be placed directly in the page that you intend on tracking. Placing it in a hidden iframe or deploying it within another tag management system will prevent certain tags from accurately tracking the parent page.
Adding, Updating and Publishing Tags
You’ll need to add tags to your new container. Begin by replacing any tags you removed from the site in the previous step. For example, if you deleted an AdWords Conversion Tracking tag, add it back in Google Tag Manager. Once a container has been created and the container tag has been added to the site, you’re ready to add and update all tags from the Tags page.
- In Google Tag Manager, select an account. The Containers page appears.
- Click your site’s container in the list. The Tags page appears.To add a tag: Click New Tag from the Container screen. Select the tag type (for example, Google Analytics) and specify triggers for when the tag should fire.
- A trigger is a condition that evaluates to either true or false at runtime. It does this by comparing the value in a variable with the value that you specified when you defined the trigger.
A Tag Manager variable is a configured name-value pair for which the value is populated during runtime. Tag Manager has many built-in variables, and you may configure custom variables as well.
For example, the predefined variable “url” always contains the URL of the currently loaded page. If you want a tag to fire only on the page example.com/purchase/receipt.html, you would define a trigger that looks like this:
- Event:Page View
- Trigger Type:Page View
- Fire On:Some Page Views
- Fire the tag when these conditions are true:
Page URL matches example.com/purchase/receipt.html
You can define variables to suit your needs, each containing some piece of information that needs to be available at runtime. You can then use these variables in trigger conditions, or to pass information to tags. For example, you might define a variable that contains the price of an item that the user is viewing. Or, you might define a variable to contain a constant value such as your Google Analytics account id string.
- To edit a tag: (for example, update the triggers for when the tag should fire) Click the tag in the list. Make changes on the Edit Tag page.
- To delete a tag: In the left navigation bar, click Tags. Click the tag in the list. On the Edit Tag page, click the Delete button in the lower right corner of the screen.
- Preview your site. Previewing gives you an opportunity to perform quality assurance (QA) on your site. You can make sure the site looks and behaves as you expect and, using the debugging option, see which tags fire as you browse and interact with the site.
- From any page in a container with unpublished changes, click the Publish button in the upper right corner of the screen, then click Preview and Debug.
- Publish the changes live to your site. When you are ready to make your changes live on your website, click the Publish button in the upper right corner of the screen, then click Publish Now.
Excellent Uses for GTM Tag Templates
As previously explained, GTM supports tag templates that makes digital marketer simple and practically fuss-free for its users.
- Display Ad Tracking templates include DoubleClick Floodlight Counter, DoubleClick Floodlight Sales, Mediaplex – IFRAME MCT Tag, Mediaplex – Standard IMG ROI Tag, and Turn Conversion Tracking.
- Remarketing templates include AdRoll Smart Pixel, AdWords Remarketing, Turn Conversion Tracking, and Turn Data Collection.
- Analytics templates include ClickTale Standard Tracking, comScore Unified Digital Measurement, Google Analytics, and Universal Analytics (beta).
- Search templates includes AdWords Conversion Tracking only for the time being.
- Audience templates include AdAdvisor, Bizo Insight, comScore Unified Digital Measurement, and Media6Degrees Universal Pixel
These tags can be added to the tag container by following the steps indicated above.
Tags are excellent tools for digital marketing campaigns and Google Tag Manager helps marketers focus more on their work rather than fidgeting with site codes or waiting for webmasters to finish updating website tags.
GTM allows for easy testing, it plays well with Google and non-Google measurement and marketing tags, it is IT-friendly, it is rule-driven, and it has a robust feature list that takes the pain out of tags and tag management.
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