Google Tag Manager (GTM) is a software solution that helps website owners track their site’s results without having to access or alter its code. It is designed with marketers and non-technical people in mind.
By learning some of the essential features of GTM, you can start to implement key actions that’ll give you greater insight into how users are interacting with your website. Some of the most important to understand are events, tags and triggers, and in this article, we run through how each works and why it should matter to you.
How Do Events, Tags and Triggers Work?
Events, tags and triggers all serve an important purpose within GTM. An event is an action that takes place on your website (e.g. a page view), a tag is a code that allows you to track said actions, and the trigger is the code that contains the conditions determining when tags will fire.
What Are Events?
An event is any interaction that takes place on your website. Depending on the goal of a page, events may come in many different forms, such as page views. Events like these are tracked without the need for further integration as the data is pushed automatically to Google Analytics. For more complex interactions, a user needs to set up custom events in GTM.
A custom event is used to track interactions and data on your website that may not be tracked by conventional methods. For example, a user’s time on page is automatically pushed to Google Analytics without the need for a custom event, but more complex interactions such as form submissions or video plays can only be tracked using custom events.
What Are Tags?
A tag is a piece of code that allows you to integrate code into websites and mobile applications. GTM allows you to add tags directly to your website or app without needing to edit the source code, meaning that you don’t need the direct assistance of a software developer to make such edits.
There are many tags readily provided in GTM that can be used on your website. The majority of these tags come from integrated Google products such as Google Analytics and AdWords, but there are also some third-party tags supported by GTM from service providers such as Adobe, LinkedIn and Twitter. A full list of GTM-supported tags can be found here.
If the data set you’re looking for data on isn’t in this list, you can import custom tags that contain tracking codes not provided by GTM. Using GTM’s custom tag tool, you can create custom image tags or custom HTML tags, although Google’s recommendation is to use the tags supported by GTM or to ask the provider of the tag you wish to use to apply to the GTM Tag Vendor Program.
What Are Triggers?
A trigger is a coded condition that tells the tag when to fire after an event. Triggers are based on Boolean variables (i.e. they can only be true or false) and are created at the same time as tags, as each tag must have a corresponding trigger.
There are two types of trigger: firing triggers and blocking triggers. Firing triggers are more commonly used and are mostly rules that must be met to tell GTM when a tag should fire. Often triggers are set to fire when a particular page is visited, for example, a post-transaction page.
There are also two types of firing triggers - built-in firing triggers and user-defined firing triggers. As the names suggest, GTM allows you to create built-in firing triggers when setting up a tag, whereas user-defined firing triggers (also known as custom firing triggers) are more complicated to implement.
Blocking triggers work slightly differently in that they require a condition to be met for the tag not to fire. Blocking triggers can be created by clicking the “Add Exception” button when creating a tag. An example of when you may wish to implement a blocking trigger is when a user visits a gated area of your site.
Now that you understand how these elements of GTM correspond to one another, as well as how they can influence the way in which the others behave, you should be better placed to implement GTM for your website and collect more insights as to how your users are behaving.