What is Google Tag Manager (GTM)?

Google Tag Manager is a free tool that allows you manage and deploy marketing tags (snippets of code or tracking pixels) on your website (or mobile app) without having to modify the code.

Here’s a very simple example of how GTM works. Information from one data source (your website) is shared with another data source (Analytics) through Google Tag Manager. GTM becomes very handy when you have lots of tags to manage because all of the code is stored in one place.

A huge benefit of Tag Manager is that you, the marketer, can manage the code on your own. “No more developers needed. Whoo hoo!”

Sounds easy right? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

 

Is Google Tag Manager easy to use?

According to Google,

“Google Tag Manager helps make tag management simpleeasy and reliable by allowing marketers and webmasters to deploy website tags all in one place.”

They say it’s a “simple” tool that any marketer can use without needing a web developer.

I may get run over in the comments section for saying this, but I’m standing my ground. Google Tag Manager is not “easy” to use without some technical knowledge or training (courses or self-taught).

You have to have some technical knowledge to understand how to set up tags, triggers and variables. If you’re dropping in Facebook pixels, you’ll need some understanding of how Facebook tracking pixels work.

If you want to set up event tracking in Google Tag Manager, you’ll need some knowledge about what “events” are, how Google Analytics works, what data you can track with events, what the reports look like in Google Analytics and how to name your categories, actions, and labels.

Although it is “easy” to manage multiple tags in GTM, there is a learning curve. Once you’re over the hump, GTM is pretty slick about what you can track.

 

Let’s go over how Google Tag Manager works…

There are three main parts to Google Tag Manager:

  • Tags: Snippets of Javascript or tracking pixels
  • Triggers: This tells GTM when or how to fire a tag
  • Variables: Additional information GTM may need for the tag and trigger to work

What are tags?

Tags are snippets of code or tracking pixels from third-party tools. These tags tell Google Tag Manager what to do.

Examples of common tags within Google Tag Manager are:

  • Google Analytics Universal tracking code
  • Adwords Remarketing code
  • Adwords Conversion Tracking code
  • Heatmap tracking code (Hotjar, CrazyEgg, etc…)
  • Facebook pixels

What are triggers?

Triggers are a way to fire the tag that you set up. They tell Tag Manager when to do what you want it to do. Want to fire tags on a page view, link click or is it custom?

What are the variables?

Variables are additional information that GTM may need for your tag and trigger to work. Here are some examples of different variables. Those are the very basic elements of GTM that you will need to know to start managing tags on your own.

 

What can you track in GTM?

  • Events (link clicks, PDF downloads, add to cart click, remove from cart click)
  • Scroll tracking
  • Form abandonment
  • Shopping cart abandonment
  • Video tracking

Google Tag Manager can definitely make your life easier if you are willing to learn how it works. Make sure that you are actually using the data that you are setting up in GTM. Otherwise, what’s the point?