How to Approach Google Tag Manager In 2019

26 Apr 2019

Everyone involved or even just interested in Digital Marketing has heard about Google’s suite of applications: Google Analytics, Google Ads, Google Data Studio and Google Tag Manager to name a few.

These are all powerful tools in their own right, but today we’re going to focus on just one:

Google Tag Manager

(If you’re already comfortable with the basics of GTM you can skip this next bit)

What is Google Tag Manager?

Simply put, it is a tag management system which allows you to implement tags on your website so you can track how visitors behave. It will code all the tags you need and embed them for you.

It is directly related to Google Analytics and Google Ads so you can extract information through those tags and analyze it directly on those platforms.

But... what is a tag?

A tag is a piece of code on your site that sends a signal every time a specific criterion is met. At the simplest level, this could be every time someone views a page on your site, but that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what you can do with tags.

Google Tag Manager is an interface that allows you to manage all of your third-party tags in one place, while also trimming the amount of excess code you’re putting on your site.

(All caught up? Great!)

So, the main goal of Google Tag Manager is to simplify the whole tagging process, but is it really successful in doing so?

Why Should You Use Google Tag Manager?

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons:

  • Free: Like most of the marketing services offered by Google, Google Tag Manager is provided completely free of charge.
  • Integrations: As part of the Google Suite, Google Tag Manager can easily integrate with other properties such as Google Analytics and Google Ads.
  • Ease of Use: Once you get past the learning curve, Google Tag Manager makes it a whole lot easier to add tags to your website.
  • Accessibility: You don’t have to be a coder to benefit from the majority of Google Tag Manager’s features.

One of the main benefits of Google Tag Manager is a special feature called “Preview mode” which opens a debug console window at the bottom of your website page.

This window will allow you to have a look at detailed information about which tags are firing on your site in real time, making it easier to know when something has gone wrong.

GTM’s Preview Mode in Action

In addition to all of this, Google offers a vast help section which tries to answer all the questions you might have about the service.

Everything has to have cons, so why might GTM put you off?

Well, for one thing, the aphorism ‘easy to learn and difficult to master’ holds true for Google Tag Manager.

As we said earlier, Google Tag Manager is an incredibly powerful tool, but that doesn’t make it any easier to handle. Try to do too much, it becomes easy to get confused due to the technical and somewhat unintuitive nature of the tool.

  • Spoilt for Choice: It can be easy to get confused by the high degree of configuration options for tags, triggers and variables.
  • Learning Curve: When you are new to the platform, it can take some time to get used to it. It can be even harder to troubleshoot when something goes wrong.
  • Lack of Information: Due to gaps in the current literature, it can be difficult to grasp all the opportunities Google Tag Manager is offering.

So what can you do to overcome these issues?

Practice Makes Perfect

There are many aspects of Google Tag Manager that are highly dependent on the specifications of your individual tech stack (form tracking being a particularly notorious example).

The solution that works for someone else may not work for your site, so make sure to rigorously test any changes you make before submitting them to your live website.

Tip: Make regular use of GTM’s built-in Preview and Versioning features to make sure you don’t accidentally break something when testing changes.

Does this mean you should ignore the available literature altogether?

Definitely not! The educational resources provided by Google will help you develop a strong baseline understanding of what you can do with the tool, and more importantly, how to go about doing it.

Google Tag Manager in the Google Academy

Having worked in marketing for a while, you’re most likely already familiar with Google’s Analytics Academy, a training resource provided by the company to help marketers to get to grips with the capabilities of the Google Suite.

What you may not know is that Google has now reintroduced an updated version of its Google Tag Fundamentals course to the Analytics Academy. This course tries to answer four main questions:

  • What Google Tag Manager is for
  • How data is collected on a website through Google Tag Manager
  • How to configure simple Google Tag Manager tags
  • Which additional tags exist for marketing and remarketing

If you feel lost, then this course is a really good way to get a general understanding of the platform; however, it is limited in the scope of what it teaches you.

This course is a good start if you want to learn the basics, but it will not be enough if your goal is to install a complete tagging system on your website.

What are the course limitations?

The main limitation of this course is that it tries to cover the full breadth of Google Tag Manager in one go: It starts off in a very accessible way but quickly ramps up in complexity with regard to specific use cases that may never be relevant to you.

In fact, a tangible gap exists between getting the Google Tag Manager certification and actually implementing a tagging system from A-to-Z on your own through this platform.

Although the second half of this course is great at providing examples of the full capabilities of what Google Tag Manager can do, we would recommend dipping in and out as the different topics become relevant to you.

Help is on its Way—Ask Us About Our GTM Services

How does Together Digital work with Tag Manager?

Purpose is at the heart of how we approach digital: i.e. what is the purpose of your site and what do you want to achieve with it? How we approach tracking is no different.

We will break down the key conversions for your business goals, and recommend the best course of action to track them.

At Together Digital, we are lucky to have strong marketing and development teams that work very well together. This means it’s easy for us to implement much more complicated tracking code for our clients whenever it’s needed.

Our team can implement your entire tracking system and make sure all your tags are working properly, providing you with valuable insights about how people interact with your site.

(We also have lots of experience integrating CRMs and third-party analytical tools).

If you need more information about the Google suite of tools, or if you are looking for specific help or expertise, feel free to contact our team of Google experts to see what Together Digital can do for you.

Thomas Hand

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