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Google Tag Manager

What is Google Tag Manager?

The basics

Google Tag Manager (GTM) is a Google integration that makes it easy for you to add and modify ‘tags’ on your website. 

Tags are short snippets of code that can measure user behavior on your pages. They can be used to track conversions, give richer analytics data, and help with retargeting. 

Google Tag Manager makes using tags simple by allowing marketers to add and edit them without changing any code, manage all tags from a single interface, and send the data captured by the tags directly to Google Analytics. 


Though GTM is a relatively simple tool focused on making marketing easier and less cluttered, it opens the door to a number of helpful applications. 

The GTM tool itself already comes with a number of pre-set tags for use gathering traffic data for Google Analytics, tracking ad performance with Google Adwords, as well as others for remarketing, including Facebook pixel. 

If you want to track some other action on your pages, you’ve got a number of options:

  • You’ll find that there are loads of readymade third party tags available on the web for thousands of possible actions
  • There’s a big community of marketers and developers online who help build new tags and standardize existing ones
  • If you have the know-how, it is possible to create your own tags 

The benefits of using Google Tag Manager

No more developers 

It’s great that your marketing team has a good relationship with your developers, but GTM makes sure you’re not wasting dev time on minor code changes. 

Once GTM has been implemented on a page, tags can be added, edited, or removed without having to make changes to the source code. This takes responsibility for tagging away from devs and empowers marketers to make the necessary changes.

Since tagging is often time-sensitive, and is of exclusive interest to marketers (as it doesn’t affect the functioning of a web page) making it accessible to non-developers is a no brainer. 

Empowering small and medium-sized businesses

One of the many unfair advantages big companies have over smaller businesses is their technical know-how and access to technical support. 

While smaller businesses can benefit hugely from the insights provided by tags, without GTM the ability to confidently deploy tags might be out of reach. 

The tool levels the playing field by making tag management possible with a minimum of easily learned knowledge.

Speedy website

By collecting all the tags on a page together in the most effective way, GTM ensures that your pages can load unencumbered by messy tagging code. 

Since site speed is important not just for user experience, but also search engine optimization performance, Google Tag Manager can help improve both. 

No extra cost 

The best part? Google Tag Manager is totally free to use, and comes included as an integration with all Zyro paid plans. 

This means that you can benefit from the speed, ease, and convenience of the tool at no extra cost. 

The drawbacks of using Google Tag Manager

Some technical ability required

While GTM exists to make tagging accessible to marketers as well as devs, that doesn’t mean just anyone can jump in and start using it. 

If errors or omissions are made during setup, your tags may provide you with unhelpful or misleading information. 

It’s recommended that you ensure you fully understand how to deploy tags correctly using GTM before you start. 

Missing data 

You should be aware that not all visits and actions are captured by GTM and Google Analytics. 

Say, for instance, a visitor is using a tracking blocking plug-in, a proxy server, or a private browser like DuckDuckGo. GTM would not be able to gather usable data from these visitors. 

Speed issues 

While managing all your tags through GTM can help to dramatically improve your page speeds, there is also the potential for it to hinder loading. 

Do be mindful that multiple tags firing simultaneously can still slow down page speeds. Just something to keep in mind before you get tag-happy. 

How Does Google Tag Manager Work?

  • Google Tag Manager collects the data you want by inserting tags into the code on your pages. 
  • These tags include triggers, which are each on the lookout for a specific action to be carried out by a visitor. 
  • When a visitor carries out a specific action the associated trigger will cause the tag to fire. 
  • The tag will then send the information about the tag firing to Google Analytics, where you can compare it with other analytics data.

The Components of GTM

When you start working with tags, it’s helpful to understand a few of the key components and terms which will pop up. 

The Container

A container pretty much does exactly what its name suggests; it contains all your tags for a given page. 

When you create a container on Google Tag Manager, the tool will provide you with some container code that must be added to the code of the page. 

You only need to add the container to a page once. All tags will be added via the GTM interface. 

The Tags

At their core, tags are short pieces of code in a web page’s HTML or Javascript which are tasked with extracting very specific information. 

When applied to marketing, tags might be embedded onto a page to tell the marketer anything from how long visitors spend on a page and where they came from, to whether visitors completed a contact form or added a specific product to a shopping cart. 

Every tag has a specific action to track and forwards the information it collects to an analytics tool like Google Analytics. Since you might want to collect lots of different pieces of information from a single page, you can quickly end up with a lot of tags. 

Coding each tag into individual pages is not only time consuming, but can be risky if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. That’s where Google Tag Manager comes in. 

The Triggers

Put simply, triggers are the actions which, when carried out by a user, ‘trigger’ the tag associated with the action. 

Triggers might include when a visitor completes a contact form, clicks on a specific link, or downloads a file from the page. 

Triggers themselves have two constituent parts: events and filters. Events are pretty simple, since these are just the actions that you want to track. Filters are a little more complicated, as they decide whether an event should be counted. 

Filters are made up of operators, variables, and values. The value is a condition that needs to be met, and the operator decides whether the event needs to equal, be greater than, or be smaller than the value. 

Values can be numbers, but they can also be things like keywords or URLs. 

The Variables (and Constants)

Variables are what triggers use to decide whether to fire. 

In variables, triggers find a value. It compares this value against the value of the trigger. If these two values meet the condition defined by the operator, the tag will fire. 

Variables are also used by tags to gather data to be communicated through the data layer during a visit to a page. 

For instance, if you want to know how far down a page users usually scroll, you might set up a variable that makes the tag fire when a visitor reaches a specific point on the page. 

How to install Google Tag Manager

1. Create a Tag Manager account 

Before you can use Tag Manager, you’ll need to set up an account: 

  • Head to Google Tag Manager, and select “Start for Free” button
  • Input your account name; it’s best to use your company name
  • Select your country and provide your website URL
  • Define where you want to use GTM; this might be on web, iOS, Android or AMP
  • Hit the “Create” button.

2. Create a container

This is the step where you’ll need at least a basic understanding of your pages’ coding, or the help of someone with more technical knowledge. 

To add containers:

  • Copy the code for the “<head>” section, and paste it into the “<head>” section of each page on your website
  • Copy the code for the opening “<body>” section, and paste it into the opening “<body>” section of each page on your website
  • Navigate back to GTM and hit “Ok”

3. Add and activate tags

This is the step in which you create your tags, define their triggers and variables, and activate them on your pages. 

To create and activate your tags, you need to:

  1. Head to the GTM dashboard and select “Add a New Tag”
  2. Configure your tag by adding a title and choosing a tag type in the “Tag Configuration” box
  3. Link the tag to Google Analytics using the “Web Property ID” found in your Analytics account, selecting “Track Type” and choosing “Page View”
  4. In the “Triggering” box, define your trigger in GTM to determine when the tag will fire
  5. Once you’re happy with the values in the “Tag Configuration” and “Triggering” boxes, you can hit “save”
  6. You can activate your new tag by clicking “Submit”; if you don’t, your tag will remain inactive

What is the difference between Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager?

Though they work closely together, Google Analytics (GA) is a completely different tool than Google Tag Manager. 

In short, GTM is only used for storing and managing tags for your website. There is no reporting function, and you can’t use it to analyze any of the data you collect. 

GA is where you’re going to head when you want to get some actual reporting and analysis. All reporting of conversion rates, traffic sources and volumes, sales, bounce rate, and other user behavior is found here. 

If you want the best out of either GA or GTM, you’re best off learning how to use them together. 

Written by

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Duncan is obsessed with making website building and eCommerce accessible to everyone. He explains the best tools and the latest digital marketing trends in ways that are clear and engaging. His focus is on supporting the sustainable growth of small to medium-sized enterprises. When not writing, he enjoys deep sea fishing and endurance cycling.

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