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Google Tag Manager: The Basics

posted by Michael Epps Utley Michael Epps Utley
Google Tag Manager The Basics 2

The most successful businesses depend on data to power their digital marketing strategies. Understanding how people engage with your website, landing pages, and other digital assets is critical.

Google Analytics (GA) provides many valuable insights. However, when used alone, it has limitations. You can overcome these limitations by tagging your site with Google Tag Manager (GTM). Using GTM with Google Analytics allows you to collect more and better data than with GA alone.

This guide explains the fundamentals of GTM so you can begin enjoying the power it can bring to your digital marketing efforts.

Tags: The Basics

A tag is a snippet of code added to a website to collect and transmit data and information to third parties. Tags can be used for many different purposes, including:

  • Scroll tracking

  • Creating heatmaps

  • Remarketing

  • Collecting conversion information

  • Tracking form submissions

  • Monitoring downloads

  • Tracking clicks on specific links

  • Capturing information about items removed from shopping carts

If you need to track something on your website, there’s likely a tag to do it.

The Benefits of Google Tag Manager

Here are some of the key reasons for using GTM.

Simplifies Tagging

Websites typically use several different types of tags. The amount of coding required to develop them all can be overwhelming. It’s also easy to make mistakes while creating tags. Plus, manual tagging is time-consuming. Google Tag Manager simplifies and speeds up the tagging process through a user-friendly interface that makes adding, editing, and disabling tags easy.

Lessens the Need for Web Developers

Bypassing the need to work with source code makes it possible for business owners and marketers to create tags without having to depend on developers, who typically have more critical priorities to focus on. Developers may only be needed for tasks like adding container codes to a site and developing complex customized tags.

Manages Third-Party Tags

While GTM is a Google product, you can use it with tags from third-party services, including Bing Ads, Crazy Egg, and Facebook pixels. If you come across a tag that doesn’t have a template in GTM, you can create one with custom code.

GTM Tags Load Asynchronously

Another issue with placing tags directly in source code is when they fire synchronously. When that occurs, it can slow down site speeds. That’s because a long-to-load tag slows down all the other tags loading afterward. Of course, the longer a site takes to load, the more likely visitors are to abandon it.

By contrast, tags created in GTM load asynchronously by default. Each tag can fire at any time with no sequencing requirements. If you need to control the order in which your tags are fired, GTM offers functionality to allow you to set tag sequencing and firing priority.

GTM Can Be Used for AMP Sites and Mobile Apps

GTM’s use is not limited to standard websites — it can also manage tags for AMP sites and mobile apps. The process is similar to using it for a regular website, with a few differences (through which it will guide you).

Working With GTM

Here are the basics of getting started with Google Tag Manager.

Creating Accounts and Containers

Open Google Tag Manager to create an account. You’ll be taken to a screen with two sections: Account Setup and Container Setup.

  • Account Setup: Add the name of the company whose site is being managed or the site’s name.

  • Container Setup: Enter your domain name as the container name, select which type of page or app it will be used on, and click “Create.”

Note: You can manage multiple containers through a single GTM account. However, Google recommends creating one container per domain. You don’t need to add separate containers for each tag or every page on a site. Pages and tags can be placed within a single container.

Tag Planning

Before you begin creating tags, it’s a good idea to do some planning. Even though there isn’t a limit to the number of tags you can include in a container, it’s best to keep it to a minimum for top performance.

If you’re migrating tags from another tag manager, take some time to review the tags currently on your site. It’s common for sites to end up with many outdated and useless tags.

Creating a Tag

On the GTM dashboard, click “Add a New Tag,” which will open a window where you can name and configure your tag.

Clearly name your tags to avoid confusion about which tag serves which purpose. The naming convention you choose for your tags should be used consistently to keep you organized.

Next, click on “Tag Configuration.” You will be presented with a list of tag templates to choose from, including many of the most commonly used ones. Click on the one you need and enter the information requested (if you don’t see the type of tag you want to create on the list, choose “Custom HTML” and add your own code).

After you click on the tag type you need to create, GTM will take you to a screen where you can configure it. The information you need to provide will depend on the tag type. When you’re done, click the “Save” button. You can either keep creating more tags or preview your tag and then publish it.

Google Tag Manager: The Final Word

If you’ve never created tags for your website, you’ll find it easy to produce them through GTM. If you’re familiar with the tag development process, you’ll find it easier and more effective to do so through the tool than with custom coding. Leverage the information in this guide to get started with Google Tag Manager so you can take your digital tracking capabilities to the next level.

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