Google Tag Manager: The Complete Guide 2022

Google Tag Manager is a must-have tool if you want to understand how people interact with your website or mobile application, whether you are a self-employed entrepreneur, the owner of an e-commerce site, a showcase site, or a marketing manager in an SME.

To start With

Thanks to Google Tag Manager, you no longer need to wait several days for your developer to add a tracking pixel to your website, you can do it yourself.

This Google tool does not claim to replace your developer, but it will help you

Allow you to become much more agile in tracking and analyzing your web performance and in implementing new marketing campaigns.

As with many web and analytics tools, it is necessary to have a minimum of knowledge before starting to use Google Tag Manager, or “GTM” and manage your analytical and marketing tracking codes yourself, and this is exactly what we will talk about in the rest of this guide.

But before continuing, let’s go back a little and try to understand how the management and deployment of tags (tags), or “tagging” worked before the arrival of Google Tag manager on the market.

Whenever you want to install Google Analytics or another web tracking tool, it prompts you to add a piece of their JavaScript code (tag) to your website.

It can be Hotjar, Google Analytics, or another tool, but they all ask you to add their code on the pages of your website.

When a visitor arrives on your website, this tracking code, or “tracking code”, is also loaded, and as a result, this visitor is tracked.

Adding this type of tag to a website is not a big problem in itself. This only needs to be done once, and you just need to ask your developer to do it, and the work can be finished the same day.

But there is still a concern. Google Analytics offers many metrics and even some automatic event tracking capabilities. However, to make really good and thoughtful decisions, you actually need to “track” a large amount of information, such as interactions (for example, form submissions), sales, etc. continuously.

This means that you have to constantly add or modify tracking codes on your website, and delete the current codes, which is not a one-time type of project.

It is for this reason that calling on a developer or an IT department for the implementation of your tracking codes has certain limitations because you will necessarily have to rely on them while knowing that these tasks are not necessarily their priority.

This is where GTM comes in and gives you great autonomy in the management and analysis of your web data.

In this guide, we will go over everything you need to know about Google Tag Manager before taking the tool into your own hands.

I- Google Tag Manager, what is it?

Google Tag Manager, also sometimes called in French “Google Tag Manager”, is a tag management solution that acts as an intermediary between a website and marketing and web analysis tools (analytics).

This tag management system allows you to quickly and easily update your tags, i.e. your tracking codes and related code fragments (snippets), on your website and in your mobile application. Once you have added a small segment of Tag Manager code to your project, you can deploy your measurement and analysis tag configurations from a web user interface.

All you have to do is add your tracking codes to GTM and then configure a set of rules to define when they should be activated (when the page loads, when the form is clicked, when the form is submitted, etc.).

Google Tag Manager should therefore be part of your marketing toolbox to accompany other Google tools, such as Google Analytics, Google Ads, etc.

Google Tag Manager also allows you to test your tracking tags to make sure that they are triggered when you load a page or click on a particular button.

The other great advantage that this solution gives you is that it allows you to modify your tags and how they work without changing the source code of your website.

Indeed, it is enough to modify the tags in the GTM user interface and publish these changes via a simple click on a button.

II- Google Tag Manager Vs Google Analytics

Many entrepreneurs who are starting their e-commerce projects often wonder if they should use Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager.

You actually have to use both. These two tools are complementary and work together.

Google Analytics is a tool that collects visitor data and displays it in various reports, while Google Tag Manager is responsible for activating tools like Google Analytics.

In summary, Google Tag Manager allows you to manage various JavaScript tracking codes (Tags) on your website. The Google Analytics tracking code is one of these tags or tags.

Google Analytics is not the only tag compatible with Google Tag Manager, and you will be able to use GTM with many other tags :

  • Facebook pixel code
  • Google Ads conversion tag and remarketing tag.
  • Pinterest Tag
  • Any other kind of HTML tag/custom JavaScript code
  • etc.

III- The main advantages of Google Tag Manager

There are many advantages to using Google Tag Manager, but here are the most important ones, in our opinion :

1- The price

This tag manager is completely free, like most of the tools offered by the American technology giant, and in addition to the many features offered, GTM provides you with valuable assistance thanks to the self-service help center and the forums of its community.

However, Google Tag Manager exists in a paid version, under the name Tag Manager 360. It is a tool suitable for large companies that need a complete solution that has increased capabilities.

2- Rapid deployment of tracking codes

Instead of having to wait days or weeks for a developer to set up your “tracking codes”, or tracking codes, you will be able to do it yourself in most cases, without having to actually modify the code of your website.

3- All tags are controlled from one place: your GTM account

Previously, all tags were encoded directly in the source code of websites/mobile applications.

These small snippets of JavaScript code could therefore be scattered in the files of different websites, which did not make it easier for developers to find the codes and update them.

Suffice to say that the probabilities of making a mistake were high, which could lead to inaccuracies in the data collection.

Thanks to Tag Manager, this process is simplified: all tags are controlled from the same place.

4- Integrated and third-party testing tools

The resolution of problems and the correction of errors related to tags are simplified thanks to the “Preview and Debug” mode offered by Google Tag Manager, which indicates which tags are triggered on a page and which are not. It also includes information about the triggers that trigger the tags and the data contained in the tracking tags.

So why is it so important?

Thanks to the debugging solutions offered by Google Tag Manager, you can be sure that your tags are working before publishing them online. And then, GTM accepts several useful browser extensions such as Tag Assistant, Data Layer Inspector, etc.

5- Fairly simple event tracking

Event tracking involves custom JavaScript codes that a developer needs to add to a website to track events such as clicks, form submissions, etc. To make things easier, Google Tag Manager comes with a feature called “automatic event tracking”.

Once you have activated a certain trigger in Tag Manager, the tool will automatically start tracking the interactions of particular websites. There is a configuration to be done, but it is relatively simple to do. You can use these interactions to trigger tracking codes, for example, “Google Analytics Event Tag”.

Here are some basic events that you can track (by default) in Google Tag Manager :

  • CTR
  • Clicks on a link
  • Form submissions
  • Etc.

Thanks to the growing community of GTM users and enthusiasts, the number of automatic event tracking functions is constantly increasing. You can also add custom features that record things like new comments, video plays, and much more.

But you should still keep in mind that the implementation of more complex events may require the intervention of a developer.

6- Ready-to-use tag templates

Google Tag Manager comes with a number of built-in tags that are important for classic and universal analytics, Google Ads conversions, Facebook Ads, remarketing, etc.

This is very effective and it allows any marketer with little or no coding knowledge to customize tags, without having to add or modify complicated code or ask for help from a developer.

IV- How does Google Tag Manager work?

There are three essential concepts that must be integrated before starting to work with GTM: tags, triggers, and variables.

A tag is a piece of code that must be triggered on a website under certain circumstances. It can be a tracking code, a piece of code that changes the text or a particular element of the website, or even a code that changes the color of the browser’s address bar, etc. When you create a tag, you basically ask Tag Manager to perform a task, such as “track this visitor’s page views”, “track this click and send it to Google Analytics”, etc.

A trigger, as the name suggests, represents a situation or a condition that will cause the tag to trigger.

Will your tag have to trigger on all page views? Or maybe on some clicks? During successful form submissions?

All these examples can be likened to triggers. When a particular condition (or a set of conditions) is met, a trigger is activated and all tags related to it are executed.

Variables are the last element of this trio. Variables can be compared to small helpers that can be used in tags, triggers or even in other variables.

A variable can :

  • contain a single piece of data (such as the URL of a web page, the domain name of a website, the ID of a product, the extension of a link, etc.)
  • contain a set of data/parameters (the Google Analytics settings variable contains, for example, several GA-related parameters, such as the tracking ID, display advertising parameters, etc.)
  • take the form of a complex function (to be reserved for experts, therefore.)

Tag Manager provides a set of predefined built-in variables, which will meet most of your tag and trigger configuration needs.

You can also create user-defined variables for web pages or mobile applications to meet specific needs not covered by the built-in variables.

To better understand the relationship between these three items (tags, triggers, variables) in Google Tag Manager, let’s take a concrete example :

  1. The Google Ads conversion tag is a tag that will be used to track a conversion.
  2. When should this beacon be triggered? The answer can be found, for example, on a thank you page. This condition is going to be our trigger.
  3. Then it is necessary to use additional information in order to send more accurate data to Google Ads and make our trigger work.
  4. With the Google Ads conversion tag, we can send a variable called “Order Total”. Each time a purchase is validated, the Google Ads tag retrieves the value of the variable “Order Total” and sends it to Google’s servers. Variables are elements that make it possible to make Google Tag Manager tracking dynamic.
  5. Regarding the trigger, we must tell Google Tag Manager precisely when it should be triggered. A thank you page is understandable to a human, as a trigger, but with Google Tag Manager, you need to be more specific, and you ask what a thank you page consists of. This can be defined as follows, for example, the page whose URL contains “/purchase-successful/”. In this case, the URL of the page is a variable and we ask GTM to constantly check the URL of the page when it loads. If a variable (URL) contains “/purchase-successful/”, the trigger will be activated.

As you can see, variables can be used in both tags and triggers.

In addition to these three essential concepts of tags, triggers, and variables, we must also mention the “data layer”.

The data layer is used to store data temporarily. Its structured format is integrated with Google Tag Manager, and it allows you to easily transmit data from your web page or mobile application to tags, triggers, and other variables defined in GTM.

V- How to create a Google Tag Manager account

Before you can use Google Tag Manager, you must first create a GTM account.

If you are already using a Google product, such as Gmail, Google Ads, Google Analytics, etc., you will be automatically connected to Google Tag Manager. If not, create a Google account first.

Go to the official Google Tag Manager website and click on the main call to action (“Start for free”) in order to create a new GTM account.

Once logged in, you will be asked to create a new GTM account and a new container.

The “Container”, or container, is the place where all the tags of your website are stored.

In the “Account Name” field, enter a company name, either yours or your client’s, if you are a digital or web marketing agency. In the latter case, it is probably better to ask your client to create a GTM account and then share access with you.

In the “Container setup” section, enter the name of your website. It can be a domain name, for example, Monsiteweb.com, or just a name.

A Google Tag Manager account works in the same way as a Google Analytics account, and it is usually intended for a business, a company, or a customer, while a container is usually intended for a website or an application.

A single container can contain multiple tags, triggers, and variables.

VI- How to install Google Tag Manager on your website?

After creating a container, Google Tag Manager provides you with two codes and instructions for adding them to your website. There are two places where you can find them :

  • By clicking on the container ID
  • By going to Admin > Account > Container > Install Google Tag Manager

Each of these options will give you instructions on how to install Google Tag Manager codes on your website.

To add the Google Tag Manager container codes to your website, follow the instructions and place the first code (which is surrounded by <script> tags) between the <head> tags of your website.

This code is the key part: it tells your page to load your Google Tag Manager container asynchronously, which means that the rest of the page can continue to load while Google is operating.

The second Google Tag Manager code (called “NoScript”) must be placed immediately after the opening <body> tag. It works as a backup, allowing you to track users without JavaScript. The <noscript> tag tells the browser if the user has not enabled JavaScript, and then displays an iframe version of the Google Tag Manager container on the page.

If you use a popular content management system (CMS) like WordPress, which allows you to use plugins, chances are that there is already a plugin that is able to install Google Tag Manager for you, with ease. All you have to do is add your Google Tag Manager container ID.

GTM4WP is a good plugin for WordPress, while platforms like Magento and Shopify also offer several good plugins.

Some platforms, such as Wix, even offer a Google Tag Manager integration.

Once the GTM code has been inserted on your website, you need to make sure that it has been installed correctly. You have several options to choose from, and here is the simplest :

Activate the “Preview and debug” mode and see if it appears on the screen. Click on the “Preview” button in the upper right corner of the GTM interface, then go to the website (refresh it) and check if the GTM preview mode is working.

VII- What data can you track with Google Tag Manager?

Thanks to the GTM tool, you will be able to track dozens and dozens of different types of data concerning clicks, forms, your e-commerce sales, media players, cookies, etc.

First of all, here are the data that you want to track as a priority :

  • The page views on your website
  • Accelerated mobile pages (AMP)
  • Mobile applications
  • Clicks on the buttons “add to cart”, “buy”, etc.
  • Contact links (e-mails and phone numbers)
  • File downloads
  • Clicks on outgoing (external) links, to find out from which page your visitors are leaving
  • Clicks on affiliate links
  • Form submissions
  • The abandonment of forms
  • Media players such as Youtube, Vimeo, generic HTML5 players, etc., but also audio players such as Soundcloud and Mixcloud
  • Set, read and delete cookies, configure cookie consent banners, etc.

There are far too many data tracking possibilities to indicate them all here, especially in relation to your SEO, the quality of your data, navigation, your content, etc.

And above all, GTM will allow you to get the most out of Google Analytics E-commerce Tracking and have an overview of all aspects of your online business.

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