What is Google Tag Manager and why is it useful?

Google tag manager

Google Tag Manager is a so-called Tag Management System that manages tags, which are snippets of JavaScript. These tags usually send information to third parties from your website or app.

In a little more detail, instead of changing the source code of the page Google Tag Manager (or GTM) allows you to use its interface to create, modify and control what you want to track and how.

You only need to add a short script, called container tag to the web page or app and then control everything from GTM.

Creating, changing, and controlling the possibilities of analyzing your page/app from one place is also one of the great advantages discussed below.

GTM is not to be confused with Google Analytics, but a completely separate tool. However, it is possible to use Google Tag Manager to use Google Analytics and several other programs such as Hotjar, Adwords and others can be controlled via the interface on the GTM.

Implementing Google Tag Manager is both quick and easy, more on that here .

How did you do before Tag Management system?

Before GTM, JavaScript on web pages or mobile apps needed to be hard-coded in the source code. As the person responsible for the web analysis, you needed to go through the developers to get through even tiny changes to track or analyze.

It also meant a lot of tricking with JavaScript / jQuery / Other to make the tracking work for the developers. 

But, as I said, with GTM, this is a memory (almost).

Even now, you may feel that you have enough arguments to make sure to implement Google Tag Manager, but hold your horses! There is more!

What are the benefits?

To convince yourself and others that Google Tag Manager can be something to use and help your project/business, we have listed some benefits.

Free

We pick up this obvious benefit right away: It’s free.

You can use Google Tag Manager for free to a considerable extent. For larger organizations, there may be a need to step up to Google Tag Manager 360 at a cost, but for small to medium-sized businesses, the free version of Google Tag Manager is recommended.

Fast on implementation

That said, Google Tag Manager allows you to manage any form of tracking code from an interface separate from where you handle the source code. Which means you do not have to go through developers to change what you want to track.

In many cases, this saves a lot of time for the implementation of tags/tracking code.

Do you work with agile working methods, such as Scrum, there may be a risk that implementation of tracking code gets low priority over other tasks and stories. With Google Tag Manager, the analytics manager, code-savvy or not, can quickly implement tracking code changes without necessarily getting help from / interacting with developers.

GTM + Google Analytics

To clarify, Google Tag Manager is not a replacement for Google Analytics, but it is a way you can add Google Analytics tracking to your website/app.

You can use Google Tag Manager without Google Analytics and vice versa. Google likes Google, and both tools work well together.

As many people use Google Analytics to analyze their web pages and apps, this often seamless integration can be seen as a clear advantage of GTM as a Tag Management System.

Can be used by non-coders

Thanks to the fact that Google Tag Manager is free, open to all and well-documented, it is relatively easy to absorb and learn. It is full of tutorials, blog posts (meta) and materials from Google and others to help you get started.

That you do not have to be a programmer to use GTM is 99% true. By and large, you can implement most things with predefined tags provided by Google Tag Manager. The interface is very user-friendly, and usually, you do not need to write a line of code to be able to track something on your page/app. For some more complicated tags, it can be useful if you have some control over JavaScript / HTML / CSS when adding custom code, but even for this, there is a lot of documentation and guides online.

The fact that you do not have to be a programmer to use GTM is often advantageous as everyone involved in web projects or interested in the analysis does not possess that competence. With GTM, these people can be incorporated to a greater extent in the development process and relieve developers of some previously time-consuming tasks.

Event tracking

Event tracking, to track events that the user carries out on your page/app, is, e.g. click, video interaction, AJAX form, scroll or hoover. Previously, tracking events meant that one needed to add code snippet to the page/apps source code. Google Analytics was able to track page views and sessions during events like these required workarounds.

With Google Tag Manager auto-event tracking, you no longer need to add code manually. Instead, you can create events around links and buttons on your site/app directly from the tool with a clear structure.

It is often exciting to see how users interact with your service’s content, so of course, easier event tracking is something to count as a clear advantage with GTM.

Collect all third-party pixels in one place

If you spend money on ads on Facebook, AdWords or any other advertising platform, you have probably already hard-coded much marketing, retargeting and conversion pixels on your page/app. These pixels are essential to measuring how your marketing pays off on your page/app and is often used. It’s easy to get quite messy with all these pixels and code placed a bit everywhere on your page.

Now you may be such a person who already has all these pixels neatly and neatly documented in some way, but that just makes you like GTM even more.

With GTM, you get all these pixels gathered under one roof. Some of the pixels are even built-in! You easily overview what is happening on your page/app linked to pixels and marketing. When a campaign is over, you can easily disable or delete the campaign-specific pixel. New pixels can also be added from the same place. 

Debug mode and Version control

Another great benefit of Google Tag Manager is that it includes built-in debugging capabilities that allow you and your team to test and debug each update before publishing. This allows you to make sure that the tags work before you go live.

When you publish the updates, a new version of Google Tag Manager is created. An advantage of this is that one can easily go back to an earlier version, at any time, if desired. This allows you to easily get an overview of how you work and keep the tags organized. It also makes troubleshooting easier as one can quickly and easily go back to a working version and compare.

Cons + other options

As with most things in life, there are also disadvantages to Google Tag Manager.

Keep track of GDPR

Google Tag Manager can also be used to collect data about users, and thus, of course, also people. When the last word for Google and GDPR and data management is not said, it is difficult to predict how GDPR will affect the use of GTM. But it would help if you kept your ears and eyes open for how the GDPR affects both Google and your website or company in general.

User rights must be correct.

Since the tags and UX and design can be controlled from the interface on GTM directly, it places demands on who gets access to this.

Wrong person and it can be trouble. It’s not always easy to keep track of who’s authorized Google’s tools at first glance. Be careful not to neglect this!

Other alternative tag management systems

Of course, there are alternatives to Google Tag Manager. Although this blog post was intended to highlight GTM, it does not hurt to mention any alternative solutions. There are a bunch of tag management systems – and here are some that you can have a look.

  • Adobe DTM – It is used by many large companies with complex requirements and architectures.
  • Tealium – Is, like Adobe DTM, most used by larger organizations, which handle more than one site with high traffic and complex requirements.
  • Signal – is particularly focused on marketing tags.
  • Ensighten – Focused on security-focused and process-driven development projects.

There you have some advantages (and a few disadvantages) with Google Tag Manager. Hopefully, it can be something that helps you in both development and marketing in the future. Go for it!