Working in a digital agency, it’s no surprise that, even after nearly 5 years since the announcement of Google Tag Manager, the term is still flying around the office. It’s not until recently, though, that I have had any involvement with it and, as an Account Manager, trying to learn something technical is never an easy job! Naturally, I had a lot of questions…What is it? How does it work? Why would we use it? So here is a guide on all you need to know about Google Tag Manager.
What is Google Tag Manager?
Google Tag Manager - or more commonly known in the office as GTM or simply ‘tag manager’ - is a container snippet that is added to your website (once), allowing you to easily make modifications for tracking within the system itself.
Google Tag Manager has been designed for marketers or anyone non-technical to track results without the need to have access to a website’s code, eliminating the requirement for a developer. Previously, a developer would have had to manually make any edits to the hardcode on each of the site pages of a website to make updates or changes, whereas now, Google Tag Manager will do this for you, allowing you to track and control a variety of different elements through a user-friendly interface.
Here are just a few elements you can track with GTM:
- Events (link clicks, PDF downloads, add to cart click, remove from cart click)
- Scroll tracking
- Video tracking
- Form abandonment
- Shopping cart abandonment
How does it compare to Google Analytics?
Although Google Tag Manager does provide tracking, it does not and should not replace Google Analytics. Google Analytics is used for analysing and reporting activity about your website, but Google Tag Manager is a way to embed code into your website. Both tools can live independently from one another or they can work together in conjunction. Google Tag Manager has many tag templates (explained further down) and Google Analytics tracking code is just one of those tags.
Google Tag Manager Components
There is a lot of terminology associated with Google Tag Manager, but two of the main pieces of jargon are Tags and Triggers.
Tags are snippets of code that send information to a third-party service. Tags share one data source (your website) with another data source (analytics) and tell Google Tag Manager what you want it to do. For example, “send a page view to Google Analytics.”
Once a tag template is selected, in this case Google Analytics, it will automatically generate the correct code and fire the tag using the triggers, you’ll then be able to manage your tracking in Google Tag Manager.
A tag must have a minimum of at least one trigger to fire.
Triggers are the events used to witness an interaction and decide when a tag should or shouldn’t fire.
Google Tag Manager automatically ‘listens’ for actions happening on a web page. When an action occurs on a page, tag manager will compare it against a list of anticipated interactions (triggers) and, if a match is found, the trigger will act and fire the corresponding tag. For example, “anytime someone visits [X] page.”
Google Tag Manager has many pre-defined triggers within its system…
- Page View: listens for the page being fully loaded and ready to view
- Click trigger: listens for any click on the page (on any type of elements)
- Form Submission: fires when a form is successfully validated and submitted
- History Change: fires when the browser history changes, i.e. a page change
- Custom Event: trigger listens to the events being pushed via the data layer
- Timer: fires after an interval of time
The diagram below helps to better explain how the Tags and Triggers work together within the Google Tag Manager container:
Why use it?
Google Tag Manager helps to improve the performance of your site by allowing marketers to quickly determine the status of the tags. If any tags aren’t working properly they can weaken the website performance, resulting in slow load times, website unavailability or loss of functionality.
There are many tag templates already set up in Google Tag Manager such as Analytics, Facebook, Twitter, Google Adwords and Doubleclick. With these in place, they help to simplify the publishing of tracking codes and eliminate the risk for errors if these were to be added or changed manually by a developer.
Google Tag Manager can also help to track more relevant data, giving you a better understanding of your audience and what areas of your site are doing well and what can be improved.
Hopefully, this overview has provided you with a better understanding of Google Tag Manager. These are just the basics, as Google Tag Manager is a very sophisticated tool and can be used as complex or as simple as you need - depending on the results you want to track. The Google Tag Manager tool is free, so why not give it a go and see what you can achieve?
Have any questions or queries about Google Tag Manager? Tweet us at @FastWebMedia and we’ll see if we can help!