Why is Google Tag Manager Important? An easy intro for non-techies.

GTM or Google Tag Manager is important because it makes inserting and managing “tracking tags” easy, organized, and optimal in terms of code. It also saves you a lot of time. So in general GTM is a very valuable tool.

This article explains why GTM is easy, why it helps keep things organized, why it helps optimize website performance, and provides an easy to understand overview of how it’s organized. 

Also, this article is part of my online mini degree in conversion rate optimization, so a lot of this information comes from Chris Mercers CXL.com´s course on Google Tag Manager.

Ok, so what are tracking tags?

Tracking tags are pieces of code that send information from one website or application to another about events that happen on a website and/or application. For example, this blog sends information about your visit to a platform called Google Analytics, where we later can visualize data and analyze trends, find problems and opportunities. 

So why don’t you just use the tag in the code?

As the internet becomes more competitive and data-driven decisions are key to any business, more and more tags are being created to measure performance. There are also more and more people involved in digital marketing or application performance. Ux developer, marketing experts, third party consultants, and vendors. 

For example, an online publication might have the following tags:

  1. Google Analytics tracking code to gather quantitative data about its article´s performance, inserted and managed by an editorial analyst,
  2. Then there might be an Amazon affiliate ads tag, that is inserting ads based on the content.
  3. There might also be a Facebook pixel tag managed by your social media marketing manager, who is tracking what social media-referred traffic is clicking the most on the amazon affiliate ads.
  4. On top of that, there might be an Adwords tag that is “listening” to see if a user lands on a page that might trigger a specific targeting campaign.
  5. And the last tag, from an online CRM that is checking if there already is a user profile for the active user and should activate more targeted content or should prompt the user to subscribe. So, note the tags are also triggering automated processes across multiple platforms. Each tag belongs to a separate process and is managed by a different group of people who will most likely need to tweak the code based on new information.

GTM allows for everybody to work simultaneously, keeping track of changes, and “versioning” by giving each user the possibility of creating a “workspace” to edit and manage their tags, to later “merge” their tags into the website, without having to orchestrate a complex team effort to “launch” a new version of the website for every change or reversal. It also makes it easy to undo the changes of specific tags, in case something is not set up correctly. 

Why is GTM the more organized option?

  1. It’s made to monitor and manage multiple users. GTM allows for the creation of multiple users with different permissions to work simultaneously thus permitting the organization to reduce risk by giving specific users specific permissions, and also tracking that user’s activities, making everybody accountable for their actions and keeping a log of all activities.
  2. It’s a neat and easy to understand digital work environment that offers tag organization tools. GTM allows you to practice your own naming conventions and to “store” tags in different files, GTM enables all of the benefits of being “organized” and “orderly”. (Not losing track of stuff, seeing conflicts easily, understanding what is where without spending a day making notes, and exploring code).

Why is GTM easier?

  1. GTM is a Google product and has easy setup wizards to add other gmail accounts (users), and set up other google products ( like google analytics, google optimize, Google AdWords, Google Adsense, …etc). It also means that most people are already familiar with its general UI logic, already have google accounts.
  2. It also has really easy “wizards” or simple instructions for third parties, that pretty much explains what they are doing and all you really have to do is press the “next” button. There are many installation processes for adding third party vendors, like HotJar ( UX and Funnel analytics) or LinkedIn insights tag. You still have to know what you are doing, but it really helps avoid stupid mistakes like the wrong ID or missing a complex setup step. So it also saves a lot of time.

Why is GTM better for website performance?

  1. It helps web and app performance by asynchronous code loading (tags are usually lines of html and javascript code). These scripts (specific lines of code) load at the same time, instead of the traditional way, where one code would load only after the previous code loaded.
  2. It allows for easy code “clean up” as GTM makes it easy to deduce and reuse code, avoiding code duplicity, it also makes it easy for developers to clean old code.

As the creator of wordpress put it many years ago, “Code is poetry”. Concise, clear and effective code is referred to as “elegant” and the experience of “elegant poetic code” is better. It’s faster, it’s less prone to bugs, it’s easier to debug, it does better in google search engine results and obviously, it’s better for business.

¿How is GTM organized?

Google Tag Manager has various “terms” that you should get familiar with, these represent specific parts. I´m not sure if the following is an “official” way of conceptualizing GTM, but it certainly helps me wrap my head around the many layers in a logical structure. Here it goes: 

Account > Container > Users > Tags

Accounts: The starting point of GTM is an “Account”. An account may have multiple containers. These might be for sub-elements belonging to the same project. For example, an online media company might have different magazines, for different audiences.

Containers: A container may be accessed by multiple users. Following the online media company example, a container might be accessed by the online marketing expert, the data scientist as well as the monetization expert.

Users: Users may have multiple tags. For example, the marketing expert might have a Facebook pixel tag, a google Adwords tag, and a third party affiliate network tag.

Tags: Tags might be created by using easy setup wizards available in GTM, they also need a specific “Trigger” or instructions on when to insert that specific .JS code or fire a specific “Tracking event”, for example, I want to place the google analytics code every time a page is viewed, but I want to “fire” a conversion event every time a user subscribes to my newsletter. So, every tag needs a trigger. 

Variables: Variables are specific information you need to execute a tag, for example, Google Analytics setup needs to know what the Google Analytics ID is, so this is stored in a “Variable” with some obvious name. E.g. “Google Analytics ID for websiteA.com”  

Data Layers: Data layers are easy ways of storing temporary data for specific tracking and triggering strategies. For example, data storage can keep track of a user´s referral data and load that data across multiple sister websites in order to track a complete customer journey or provide critical information in order to suggest products while moving around an eCommerce website. So if a user is coming in from Twitter into a marketing training website, they suggested courses could include a Twitter marketing course. 

Featured image composite used and Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay and my own.

J.F. Aguilar

Juan F. Aguilar is a web advisor, a Psychologist and self taught web developer, with over 18 years of experience empowering people to leverage web technologies in a smart and cost effective way. Specifcially in UX, CRO and SEO. Juan has helped over hundreds of web based projects increase their utilities, either as a private contractor or consultant. He has worked with big fast growing brands like HealthCare.com, StarMedia.com, XYZNetowork.com, RepublicaInmobiliaria.com and AntorchaDeportiva.com to small and medium sizef businesses trying to maximize their lead generation and general online strategy and results. Connect with Juan on LinkedIn I also write about important social issues of our current times, that are probably very relevant for you, you can find theme here.

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