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What is Google Tag Manager? (And 8 important reasons why you should be using it)

Posted on 13th June, 2018 by Greg Doyle

Web Design

Google Tag Manager (GTM) is one of those topics that a lot of people don’t really understand fully. Most marketers have heard of it but the majority of them only have a brief idea of exactly what it is and how it can benefit them. In this article, we’ll take a look at exactly what Google Tag Manager is and how it can help you to manage all of your tracking in a more efficient manner. So let’s jump in and get started.

What is Google Tag Manager?

This is probably the biggest question that those new to marketing have and one that is simple to answer. Google Tag Manager is a free tool that enables the management and deployment of multiple marketing tags on a website or mobile app without having to directly modify the coding of that property.

Or put simply, GTM lets you control the different website tracking codes from providers such as Google and Facebook in one place, without the need to manually update the code on your website.

Is it easy to use?

Yes if you are technically savvy and are used to working with tracking scripts. If you’re not comfortable managing existing tracking scripts then you are going to need to do a little bit of learning to get up to speed. But don’t be put off by this, we promise that once you start to learn how to use GTM you’ll wonder how you managed without it before.

How Google Tag Manager works

So now you know what GTM is let’s take a look at how it actually works and how to use it. There are three main things you’ll need to understand in order to enable tracking using GTM and these are Tags, Triggers and Variables.

Tags – Tags are snippets of Javascript or tracking pixels from third-party tools which tell GTM what action to take. Examples of tags include Ads conversion tracking code, Analytics tracking code or Facebook pixels.

Triggers – Triggers tell GTM when the tracking code should be fired on your website or application. From registering a page view to recording when a link has been clicked, triggers can be set for a variety of actions.

Variables – Variables provide additional information that may be required to get your tracking code to work on your website. A simple example of this is your unique Google Analytics tracking code number that makes sure your tracking data is sent to your Google Analytics account.

Top 8 reasons you should be using GTM

Prior to Google Tag Manager most advanced tracking code installations were reliant on getting a developer to hardcode Javascript snippets on pages which needed unique events or actions to be tracked. This meant that marketers weren’t fully in control of their tracking and often had to wait on the development team for any changes or updates to the tracking scripts.

1.     Fast deployment of tracking codes

One of the biggest advantages of using Google Tag Manager is the speed at which tracking code can be deployed on a live website. Probably the biggest advantage of using GTM is the ability to add new tracking code or set up new tracing events without the need to involve a web developer. This offers significant time savings as well as potential cost savings as well.

2.     In-built testing tools

It can be easy to make a mistake when you are adding tracking codes, particularly if you are working on an advanced or custom installation. That’s why the ability to test your tracking solution prior to going live is such a beneficial feature. In GTM there is a Preview and Debug mode that shows what tags are being fired on a page. This lets you debug any problems and quickly see when things aren’t working as expected.

3.     Everything in one place

Remember when you had to manually update tracking codes on individual pages on your website. Or had to set events on page level actions that you couldn’t just put in a separate header file? Well, thanks to GTM that is no longer the case. All your tags can be controlled within GTM under the Tags section.

4.     Free recipes

Your tags, triggers and variables can be exported from one account and imported into another which is a great option for agencies or businesses with multiple properties that they want to track. These settings are known as recipes and there are plenty of free pre-set recipes that you can download for free to help make your installations even quicker and easier.

5.     Automatic event tracking

Whether tracking clicks, forms submissions or time spent on page, GTM makes this process easy. By enabling relevant triggers Google Tag Manager will automatically listen for those triggers on your website and send these as events to Analytics. New events are being added all of the time and include things like: recording Facebook likes, comments on a blog article or scroll depth.

6.     Version control

Need to rollback some tracking changes that you made? With Google Tag Manager’s version control, this is a breeze. As well as version control, GTM lets you setup environments so that you can install tracking code on a staging server prior to moving to the production environment. The final feature in this section is workspaces which lets several team members work on the same container without causing a conflict.

7.     Tag templates

Google Tag Manager works with a huge number of third-party tracking providers and not just Google-owned solutions. Affiliate Window, Crazy Egg, ClickTale, Marin, and Twitter are just some of the tracking tags that can be installed with templates using GTM.

8.     Security

All tracking codes that are added using custom HTML tags through GTM are automatically scanned and will be paused if they are found to match known malware domains, IP addresses or URLs. You can further improve security by using whitelists on the data layer of your website to stop custom scripts being run on your website through Google Tag Manager.

Conclusion

If you’re looking to streamline the process of adding tracking scripts to your website or want to be able to add new code whenever you need, then it makes a lot of sense to use Google Tag Manager. Not only can it help you save time and money, but it also simplifies complex tracking setups and lets you test everything out prior to putting it live on your website.

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