A Beginner’s Guide to Google Tag Manager
Monitoring your site’s performance can be done in a number of ways – with most hosting platforms offering native analytics suites, but almost all require that you place a tag (code snippet) on your site – this, among a host of other possible uses, make Tag Manager a great tool to help keep your site on the right track.
Google Tag Manager represents not just an organisational or time-saving tool, but also a method of improving your site’s performance and user experience (UX). By allowing you to manage and configure all of your site’s tags from a central location, you can ensure that you are able to place and reconfigure tags without requiring a web developer, saving time and money as well as allowing you to respond quickly to the needs of your brand.
What is a tag?
A tag is a small section of code which executes on the loading of a webpage, sending information to a third party. If your website currently reports to Google Analytics, serves ads through Google Ads or tracks conversions from your own ads, then you will likely already have tags in your site’s source code.
The purpose of these tags is to be executed by a page view, duration or other site visitor action and report this action to one of many third party platforms (DoubleClick and a host of others – there’s an exhaustive list of Tag Manager supported third parties here).
What is Google Tag Manager?
Google Tag Manager is particularly well named – it allows you to manage your site’s tags from a main dashboard.
While you may need only a single Tag Manager account per brand, it does permit the administration of multiple websites or apps. This saves having to manually (or via an external web developer) edit site code, thereby eliminating most coding errors and reducing the time lag between deciding to configure or reconfigure tags, and having changes implemented (if you do work through a web developer).
How to set up tag manager
The set up process for Google Tag Manager will be one you’ll be familiar with if you have used Google Ads or Analytics as part of your digital strategy (and you should be). It requires a section of code to be entered between your site’s HEAD tags and another immediately after the BODY tag, but there are a few minor considerations before we get that far.
1. How many accounts do you need?
For the most part you will need only one account per brand, but for brands with multiple properties it is a little less straightforward. App developers, for example, will require separate ‘containers’ for each app and each major update of an app, while brands that use multiple
domains may be able to share containers and configurations provided the properties operate in a similar manner to one another (and require similar data to be collected).
2. Are there any tags that require migration?
For those with minimal coding experience, there will likely be few existing tags (as stated, probably limited to Google Ads and Analytics), but if you are deploying custom tags to gather specific data or prompt custom actions, Google’s developer guide has a fantastic and comprehensive instructions for tag migration.
Creating an account
Your account is your top level in Tag Manager and it represents your brand overall – meaning that individual intellectual properties (IPs) or sections of the business will fall under this main account. On the right hand side of the top bar, click your profile image and select ‘Add an Account’ which will take you to the following screen:
Here, you can either sign in with your existing Google Account (the one you use for Analytics and Google Ads), or create one if you don’t have one at present.
Creating a container
You will then be able to begin creating your first ‘container’:
Here you will need to enter a container name (descriptive and memorable – most often the site URL) and then the type of content the container will serve. Once you have entered your name and selected your container type, click ‘create’.
Having created the container, you will be presented with a pop-up box containing the code you need to add to your site and where to add it.
You can add it to your site at this point and come back – or you can okay out of the dialogue box and configure the container first – it doesn’t matter which at this point, though if you have to add it via a developer, it can save time to configure while waiting for the developer to add the code snippets.
Once you have a container and have either added the code to your site (or arranged for same), you can begin managing your ‘tags’ by selecting the ‘Tags’ option in the side-menu, and from here you can begin selecting tags to add to your container:
Once you select your tag, you can then begin configuring its settings and triggers until you have a tag which has been configured to your requirements, allowing you to pull data from your site to your chosen third party application:
How many tags per container?
Tags are another case of ‘less is more’ and, while there are no hard limits set by the tool itself, there is an external limit set by browsers – most of which cannot deal with more than six-eight simultaneous HTTP requests for a single domain. It is for this reason that the first advice in this guide is to consider carefully what data you want the tags to deal with. If you have a number of similar configurations, it may be best to combine them and use variables to dynamically change fields that need to.
While there are different opinions on the impact of GTM on site speed, the consensus is that it’s a kind of chaotic neutral – sometimes it’s faster to deploy scripts via GTM, sometimes slower, often about the same. What it does offer, however, is ease of implementation and removal of various tags. You won’t find yourself in a position years down the line with masses of Java Script slowing down your site for software that you no longer use. For that reason, the use of tag manager could be seen as a long term investment in speed and a general investment in utility and convenience. It makes for cleaner insertion and removal of the various scripts necessary to operate a successful website and, therefore, is well worth the investment