By Natalie Boyd
Unless you’ve been literally sucked into an episode of Mad Men, you’re currently sitting in the year 2020 and have probably heard of Google Tag Manager (GTM) and understand that it’s related to advertising.
Maybe you’ve heard GTM can help you track visitors way easier than other tools? Or maybe you heard that it will eliminate the need for developers? That you can install tracking codes/pixels all by yourself? That it’s free? Whatever you’ve heard, you’re reading this because you’re looking for information.
What Is Google Tag Manager (GTM)?
Some of what you’ve heard is correct: Google Tag Manager is a free software tool that gives you the ability to install different types of tags on your website. You may have done this already without realizing it. Have you ever added code to your website to track Google Analytics? That’s one type of tag. Other examples include: Google Ads remarketing code, Google Ads conversion tracking code, heatmap tracking code (LuckyOrange, Hotjar, Crazy Egg, and so on), and Facebook pixels.
In the past, companies needed a web developer on their team in order to track codes, which had to be hard coded into each individual page and got a bit complicated to update and maintain with hundreds of codes to track. GTM came in and solved this by storing all tags in one place—the GTM account. Some have described GTM as a toolbox where all of a company’s essential web tools are stored: a tape measure (Google Analytics), a fishing hook (Google Ads), and so forth.
Is Google Tag Manager Hard to Use?
Although GTM is designed for the non-programmer with easy-to-use functionality (e.g., editing tags in the GTM interface and publishing changes with just the click of a button), the software will still take some getting used to. There may also be some programming language you’re not familiar with. Before we get into the benefits of GTM, let’s have a little vocabulary lesson.
Tags: Tags are code snippets. These are used to send information to perform a specific action within a webpage. In other words, these tags tell GTM what to do and how to do it.
Triggers: Triggers determine whether a tag is active and functioning, or not. For example, if you want a user to see a form when they enter your website, a trigger activates the tag that will make that form appear.
Variables: These are the values used, the information necessary for Google Tag Manager to operate tags and triggers correctly.
Top 10 Benefits of Google Tag Manager
1. So Darn Easy to Use
This is one of the biggest advantages of Google Tag Manager: no programming knowledge is required. Almost anyone can easily make updates, add new tags, test each change, and deploy tags without needing to perform complex website coding. This provides you and your team with autonomy and streamlines your process, thereby speeding up launch times and giving your IT department the time it needs to focus on more important matters, like why your website is so slow.
2. Saves Loads of Time
GTM saves you time by allowing you to implement tracking codes all by yourself. You no longer need a marketer to send tracking code to a developer, only to get the code installed a week later because the developer was busy. No longer will you have email back-and-forth when you need to track additional events during that week. All tracking code (aka tags) can be added, edited, and removed via the GTM platform.
3. Everything Is in One Place
4. Easier to Troubleshoot
Because everything is in one place, it’s easier to troubleshoot and correct tag errors—even before they’re published. GTM’s Preview Mode will automatically show you what tags are working and which ones aren’t, along with information about triggers and detailed information about the data within tracking tags. Other helpful GTM tools include Tag Assistant and Datalayer Checker.
5. You Can Create Templates
GTM allows you to export all your tags, triggers, and variables into one file which you can then use to create your own templates of commonly used codes. This can come in handy when you’re looking to implement the same Google Analytics event (e.g., page view tracking, outbound link clicks) for various clients. In early 2019, Google also released Custom Templates, a feature that allows the community to build and share custom templates that anyone can use.
In addition, GTM has a bunch of built-in tags that you can use for things like Google Ads conversions and remarketing. This allows team members without coding experience to customize tags without learning complicated code or being dependent on the help of a developer.
6. Auto-Event Tracking
7. It’s Free!
We sort of glossed over this early on but let’s not forget: GTM is absolutely free, and it's perfect for small and medium-sized businesses. Larger organizations can upgrade to the premium GTM version in Tag Manager 360.
8. Version Control
Anytime you make a change in GTM, an archived version is saved. This makes life easier when you need to roll back some changes, restore a previous version, or if you accidentally published a bunch of changes to a live site before the tags were complete. Version control gives you the fluidity to go back and forth without worrying about causing any permanent damage.
9. Users and Permissions Management
GTM gives you full control of who can make what changes. From no access to read only to editing to publishing rights, you can easily control who has the permissions to make changes (such as creating tags, macros, and rules) to the website.
10. Peace of Mind
Worried about picking up a malware domain, IP address, or URL in your tags? Fear not! Google automatically scans all tracking scripts and immediately pauses those that match any type of known malware.
What Are You Waiting For?
Simply put, Google Tag Manager (GTM) will improve your marketing by giving you insight into what can cause an increase (or decrease) in website activity. For example, does publishing a new blog increase or decrease your website visits? Does changing the color of a call-to-action button increase or decrease clicks? With GTM, you’ll get these insights and be able to better analyze your website analytics to make more informed marketing decisions and improve the performance of your website.