Intro to Google Tag Manager

analytics / Google / google analytics / google tag manager / gtm / tag manager   Posted on May 9, 2017 by Cameron Cook

Google Tag Manager (GTM) is a wonderful piece of software. For the uninitiated, it allows non-developers to place tracking and analytics tags on websites, apps, and more without having to edit the source code. The gist of it is that GTM serves as the master "bucket" that is placed on your site, and is then used to load in your conversion or other tracking tags. 

What are the benefits?

For our clients: faster loading sites; Tag Manager is the only code directly on your website, so only one thing to load. Everything that's placed via GTM is loaded in the background and won't stop the core of your site from loading.

For developers: this means less time placing those directly, or fixing broken tags when non-technical folks were inserting various things in your code.

For the rest of us: faster deployment of tags ahead of rapid-response campaigns.

How to use it?

The first step is getting the master tag placed. In most cases, you'll still need a developer to do that. You may also have a plugin installed that allows you to just input the ID of your GTM account. There are popular ones for WordPress and Drupal. We typically just place the code from Google rather than rely on a plugin to do it for us.

After that, you have to start adding in your tags (think Google Analytics, Facebook Pixel, or other remarketing or conversion tags) and create triggers / rules for when they have to fire.

There are simple rules, like firing your main analytics tag on all pages. Other pieces may be more complex and require some thought or trial and error.

To help with that, a while back I created a sandbox to help our team learn the ins and outs of triggers / rules:

My challenge to the team was to figure out how to fire tags in a few different ways:

  • Form completion
  • Button click
  • Link click

Those cover our most common use cases: someone completing a form, or clicking on a button or link to say, download a PDF. The tricky part is that on my sandbox, there are multiple buttons, forms, and links. So part of the challenge is firing rules on the right element.

If you're looking to hone your GTM skills, I've packaged up the sandbox and you can download it here. It's built on Foundation, so it's lightweight and (mostly) responsive.

For those of you that blow through the examples, there's really no end to what you can do with GTM to track behavior on your software. We've used it to: 

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