An Introduction to Using Google Tag Manager

Using Google Tag Manager

From Google Analytics and A/B testing to remarketing and custom image tags, the average company website is packed with extra code to track visitors and optimize visitor experience. That’s all well and good – aside from the fact that all these tags can get a bit overwhelming and difficult to effectively manage. Worse, since many small and medium-sized businesses employ a part-time webmaster – or even outsource their web master and hosting services ­– if your company needs to make a quick tag update, it could be days or weeks before the change is made. Your company’s solution? Meet Google Tag Manager.

Google Tag Manager is a free tool from Google that helps you organize all the pieces of code floating around on your website with a single Javascript code. All you need to do is pick a specific page where you want a tag to appear – and voila! – the magic of Google will do the rest.

Why Your Business Needs Google Tag Manager

You already know that tracking stats through services like Google Analytics is imperative to keeping tabs on your customers and continually optimizing their experience with your website. But as digital marketing and websites become increasingly sophisticated, many businesses are finding that they use multiple services to monitor pageviews, sales, shares and advertising. These services embed “tags” on your website’s pages to track interaction and customer experience. Tags are tiny bits of website code that allow you to track visitor behavior and measure site traffic. Tags are also key to tracking the effectiveness of online advertising, remarketing, audience targeting and other digital marketing campaigns.

The more services the better, right? Not entirely – especially if you need to quickly tweak one of these tags because you’ve changed your AdWords Remarketing program, for example. A simple tweak could mean a long wait from IT or your webmaster, and mean that you miss out on the key window of opportunity to execute a marketing campaign. Adding tags without an efficient management system in place can lead to big problems. Not only is it difficult to quickly tweak a tag, but all that extra code can seriously bog down your site, causing it to run sluggishly. Worse, an incorrect or redundant tag could distort your measurements, causing your analytic data to be way off. You could be making major strategic marketing decisions based on the wrong information – and not even know it.

Have you ever been frustrated waiting for a new tag to be implemented? Have you ever noticed that site performance has become sluggish or clunky? Has your bounce rate suddenly increased for no apparent reason? If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions – or are failing to track analytic data altogether because doing so seems “too complicated” – then your business could benefit from Google Tag Manager.

As the name implies, Google Tag Manager is a one-stop shop for the consolidation of tag management. Google Tag Manager offers a variety of templates and custom tag support that allow you to quickly consolidate all of your tags into one easy management system. And for the coding-challenged among us, Google’s tag vendor program allows third-party systems to provide integrated management. Is your business using Tag Manager? It should. Tag Manager is an entirely free service, so you can use your marketing and website budget on other activities. There’s no “premium” version either; Google built Tag Manager to be an enterprise-level solution for all businesses from the ground up.

3 Key Google Tag Manager Features

Google Tag Manager makes it easy for businesses to add or update website tags and mobile applications. Google Tag Manager has three key features (as listed on the Tag Manager site):

#1: Dependable data: Google Tag Manager’s error checking and speedy tag loading makes it easy to collect reliable data not only from an entire website, but also all your business’s domains. This dependable data empowers your business to make more knowledgeable decisions and better execute marketing and sales campaigns.

#2: Intuitive, quick and easy: Google tag manager is designed so marketers can add or change tags whenever they need to do so – without contacting IT. Even better, the IT and webmaster team can be confident that no matter what changes the marketing department makes, the tags will still be running and loading smoothly.

#3: Marketing agility: Google tag manager allows your marketing department to create a new tag in just a few clicks, powering remarketing and other data-driven programs. You won’t miss valuable marketing opportunities while waiting for core website code updates.

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How Google Tag Manager Works

To use Google Tag Manager, you will first need to create a Google Account. Next, you will create tags in Google Analytics, AdWords etc., just as you always have. Rather than adding this code directly to your website, however, you will paste it directly into Tag Manager and add specific rules for how this code should be used on your website. When a visitor comes to your website, the Tag Manager code will connect with Google’s servers and load a script file named gtm.js. The gtm.js file has a cache time of 15 minutes, so once the initial request is made, no additional requests are necessary. Tag Manager code is also requested asynchronously, which means that it will load while other elements of your page continue to load, so there is no additional waiting period.

Google Tag Manager also includes many features that are designed to make Tag Manager more secure when it comes to data control. These features include user permissions, a preview mode and debugging console, as well as a revision history manager. At no point will you ever need to enter additional account or password information for services other than Tag Manager, consequently keeping your Analytics tracking separate and secure.

Getting Started with Tag Manager

1- Migrate tags.
To get started with Tag Manager, you will need to migrate all current tags to a new Tag Manager container. From there, you’ll still maintain full control over how and when these tags will fire based on the rules that you establish. You will also be able to take advantage of Tag Manager benefits, such as previewing, syntax validation and synchronous firing. Most importantly, Tag Manager, all data will now flow into the same account and no critical history will be lost. You’ll enjoy the peace of mind knowing that your tags are firing correctly.

2- Integrate mobile.
Tag Manager can also be used on mobile websites, and Google is in the process of building support for additional platforms. You can manage both your mobile tags and standard website tags from the same Google Tag Manager account. In order to take full advantage of all the Tag Manager options, Google strongly recommends doing a site-wide deployment for both mobile and standard website tags. This way, if you want to edit or add future tags, you can do everything within Google Tag Manager.

3- Manage non-Google tags.
Have a non-Google tag? You can still manage this tag through Tag Manager. Simply add “custom code” for any tag that you like. Google Tag Manager has also unrolled many templates for integrating non-Google measurements and marketing tags into Tag Manager. Even if you have a very large website, setup is generally quick and easy. If you aren’t sure about the set up process, Google also offers “implementation experts” to help through the Google Certified Partners program.

Using Auto-Event Tracking with Google Tag Manager: Discover How Visitors Interact with Your Website

Google Tag Manager also features “Auto-Event” tracking, which lets you measure events on a page without any HTML or Javascript. As sites become increasingly dynamic, it also because more important than ever to fully understand how long visitors are staying on a specific page and how they are interacting with these different elements. For example, how many visitors are scrolling through product images, clicking outbound links or clicking the “Add Item to Cart” or “Contact Me” buttons?

Unfortunately, for many years, the only way to answer these questions was by adding custom Javascript code to a website. This code was necessary to tell Google Analytics that an event had occurred. In order to track events, the HTML for each page needed to be modified. This meant that any time you wanted to track a new website behavior or interaction, you would need to modify the site code directly – which could lead to long delays waiting for busy or less-than-responsive webmasters. Auto-Event Tracking changed this.

The “Event Listener” tag lets Tag Manager know when you want to “listen” for events, such as a button click or page scroll. Next, you can write a detailed rule in conjunction with the event. For example, let’s consider a shopping cart “Form Submit” button. On the “Form Submit” button, you can add specific firing rules for faster campaign response measurement and more robust codes. The best news? You can deploy event tracking directly to your site and even send event tracking data straight to Google Analytics – without ever adding addition code to your site.

Craig Bailey

Craig is the Founder and Technical Director at XEN Systems. He’s been involved in IT, web development and digital marketing for more than 25 years.

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