What the Heck is Google Tag Manager? | Converge

What the Heck is Google Tag Manager?

Have you ever been asked by your manager about how well your marketing spend is going? Or what is top driver of traffic to your site? Did you know the answer? If not, my hope is that by the end of this you have a better idea of how to get that information easily and with confidence that it’s correct. If yes, then this might introduce you to a whole new analytics toy to play with that will impress the socks off your dean and administration!

What is Google Tag Manager?

Google Tag Manager (GTM) is a platform that allows you to quickly and easily update tags, which are bits of code that track traffic (usually Google Analytics) and marketing efforts (like Facebook, Linkedin, etc.). The biggest benefit is that it allows marketers more access to changing these tags since traditionally this would have to be done through a developer within a school’s IT department.

How does GTM work?

Google Tag Manager basically takes all the tags that are normally put within the page source and pools them all in one central place and then deploys them according to rules. Think of Google Tag Manager (GTM) as a taxi dispatcher; where the taxi(es) are the tags and the destinations are the various platforms. So as a user’s request goes in, GTM sends the taxi(es) to the various destinations (platforms) including Google Analytics, AdWords, Linkedin, or even other third-party tags. GTM (Taxi Dispatcher) knows where the destinations (Platforms) are and has all the info it needs to get each taxi (tag) to fire and what driver to send to that location (Platform).

Why should I switch to GTM from GA?

You should use GTM instead of just Google Analytics for multiple reasons, but the biggest one that I tell my clients is that it really puts more power in the hands of the marketer and less pressure on the IT/Development department(s) to constantly change source code to include/not-include marketing and other tags. This allows you to track events (like link clicks, downloads, contacts, form fills) much more easily than in the past so you can track users engagement with just a few clicks versus having to install code directly into the page source. That being said, having a game-plan for your university or at least your school is extremely helpful since it’s best to think about the big picture and how tracking will affect the entire institution. Having a game plan and a centralized team or management of the GTM helps reduce the chance of problematic tags being placed and makes it easier to understand how changes in the container affect tracking.

Plus, GTM has its own user interface that is super user friendly without sacrificing flexibility where you can test new changes before making them live, revert to previous versions, and manage users. Marketing professionals can implement and test changes in the same day, even in the same hour, and then publish the container so that it becomes live immediately. All that with little-to-no coding experience required! All of the components are reusable and there are so many free “recipes” that you can try out for yourself that other developers have built for almost every solution you can think of!

Where do I start?

When clients are making the switch from GA to GTM, I always recommend that they conduct an audit of their current Google Analytics setup so that they can identify what is most important to continue tracking and document how current tracking is setup to make the transition smoother. I would recommend checking out my previous blog post (5 Steps to Actionable Metrics) and following the steps there to truly set you up for proper tracking.

But actually implementing Google Tag Manager is super simple and very similar to Google Analytics. Once you create a new Google Tag Manager container, then you can begin to add tags, triggers, and variables. Assuming you are mostly on one domain, in order to make GTM live you just have to replace Google Analytics code with the GTM code snippets as described in the Google Quick Start Guide and then publish the container onto the pages that you desire to track! If you have multiple domains/multiple Google Analytics accounts then this can add complexity, but please don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for a consultation! 🙂 Until then, hope you have fun fellow data-lovers!

Note: GTM is NOT a replacement for Google Analytics, but rather a helping partner in managing and add tracking for key insights on your website. So while the code for Google Analytics will be removed and replaced with Google Tag Manager, you will still receive the same insights inside Google Analytics!

Maddie Cantrell
Maddie Cantrell
February 14, 2019