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What is Google Tag Manager?

What is Google Tag Manager?

Google Tag Manager

What is Google Tag Manager?
Released in 2012, Google Tag Manager is a free tool that consolidates your website tags with a single snippet of code and lets you manage everything from a single point. Anyone can add and update their own tags, with just a few clicks, whenever they want, without bugging the IT folks or rewriting site code. It gives marketers greater flexibility, and lets webmasters focus on other important tasks.

Furthermore, it’s not limited to Google-specific tags. It includes asynchronous tag loading, so “tags can fire faster without getting in each other’s way,” as Google puts it. It comes with tag templates for marketers to quickly add tags with Google’s interface, and supports custom tags. It also has error prevention tools like Preview Mode, a Debug Console, and Version History “to ensure new tags won’t break your site.”

How Does it Work?
Google Tag Manager is an asynchronous javascript snippet that is placed across your entire site after the opening tag. This tag snippet looks something like the following:

Google Tag Manger Sample Code

Once this tag (i.e. script) is in place, the tag will asynchronously load from Google’s worldwide CDN (content delivery network), pulling in all of the tags that can fire as well as rules and macro information that you’ve set up within your tag manager account. When the page loads, gtm.js parses rules that you’ve applied to determine if a tag should fire. If it should fire, then it adds the appropriate tag to the page. Ultimately, you will have fewer tags firing on a per page level – in theory reducing noise and load time.

How Do I Use it?

For basic setup:

  1. Sign up for a Google Tag Manger account here
  2. Set up you account & container – typically you will have one container per site/client
  3. Once you have your container created, you will be given the tag manager code
  4. Then add the tag manager code to the website you are tracking – leaving your old tracking codes in place for now
  5. After publishing the tag manager code on the website, I’ll test my tags and debug within tag manager to ensure my tag manager code is firing properly.
  6. Once the tag manager code has been verified, I will then start the process of moving all of the pre-existing tracking codes from the website into tag manager. I would suggest creating a new version for every new code and labeling it appropriately so that you can test and verify performance easily.
  7. And finally, once all of the tags have been transitioned, I will remove the duplicate (old) tags from the website and we are ready to move on to the next level of analytics setup  – including event, link and conversion tracking.

Nick Lindauer
Nick is the vice president, client services and operations at Forthea. He’s been working in internet marketing since 2002, when – ironically – he answered an ad in the newspaper. When he’s not at work, he’s off spending time with his family, working on his house, building furniture, cooking on his two Big Green Eggs & brewing hot sauce.


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