Google Tag Manager: the best tag management tool

Google Tag Manager is one of the most powerful free online tools digital marketers use today. Since its launch in October 2012 to today, this formidable tag management tool has been updated and expanded in its functionality, thanks to the continuous implementation of new integrated tags, even from third-party platforms, i.e. external to the Google universe.

Tags are parts of a website’s code that allow traffic and user behavior to be analyzed, to check how effective online advertising is, in carrying out remarketing and targeting activities.

The goal of this mini-guide is to explain what Google Tag Manager (GTM) is for. I want to show you, in the simplest way possible, how vast the potential of GTM is and the positive impact it can have on your online marketing activities.

Starting with a brief introduction to the functions offered by this tool, we will get to see how to create the fundamental tags that any website should have to be considered an effective marketing channel.

After reading this guide, it will then be up to you to continue working with Google Tag Manager to get to know it thoroughly and use it to the fullest, according to your needs.

What is Google Tag Manager for?

Google Tag Manager is, as we mentioned at the beginning, a free tool from Google that allows you to install code snippets (the famous tags) within the HTML code of a website. It is possible to do this because it is a Tag Management System, i.e. an integrated system that allows you to manage, in a simple way and without having to possess great developer skills, the marketing tags on the pages of a site.

google tag manager logo

Inserting tags without effective management leads to serious problems. The abundance of code compromises the smooth functioning of the site. Redundant or incorrectly applied tags could invalidate measurements and cause data loss or cost duplication. Additionally, adding new tags can be time-consuming for your IT department or webmaster team, which can lead to delays in activating important marketing and measurement programs. Thanks to Google Tag Manager you can solve these problems and publish campaigns according to your needs.

Going concretely, if you don’t have Google Tag Manager, to implement the marketing tags generated by tools such as Google Analytics, Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Hotjar, etc. you must implement these code snippets, one by one, in all the pages of the site. This often translates into the need to involve people with technical skills (developers). As a result, development times are longer, which is added the risk of making mistakes when inserting tags.

Instead, with a tag management system like GTM, you just need to insert a single snippet of code, within which you can include the tags of all the tools you need for your digital marketing activities. The code snippet is called a container because, as you might guess from the word, it replaces all the scripts placed in your site’s source code with a single script.

This tool will allow you to avoid malfunctions on your website due to a large number of tags, and slowdowns that impact your activities. Last but not least, you can be sure that the data relating to your site is collected correctly.

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Benefits of Google Tag Manager

Before getting to the heart of this guide on Google Tag Manager, let’s see what are the actual advantages of using GTM. We can reasonably say that the tag management tool created by Google has no “cons”, but it has a lot of “pros”. Let’s look at some of them in more detail.

Greater autonomy and control

First of all, Google Tag Manager allows a digital marketer to be more autonomous, or in any case less dependent on developers, because it makes it possible to add, modify, update, or remove tags without having to act on the source code.

In just a few steps, you can implement tags and tracking on sites and apps, without necessarily having to wait for the technical times required by code development interventions. The contribution of computer scientists is in any case precious, if not essential, but thanks to GTM both they and those in charge of marketing can save time and energy to devote to optimization and other activities.

Furthermore, the risk of creating programming conflicts is reduced and you can constantly keep an eye on all the scripts added to a website, knowing exactly how many and which cookies are active.

Ease of use and practicality

The Google Tag Manager interface is very intuitive and user-friendly, therefore, once you understand how the tool works, it will be easy for you to create and edit tags, activators, and variables (don’t worry, you’ll find out what it is shortly).

Upload speed

GTM has an asynchronous script, which allows you not to slow down the loading times of the pages of a website. So you can implement as many tags as you need without worrying about your site’s loading performance degrading.

Preview and debug

You can test everything you do in your GTM account before publishing it via a preview. So you can find out in advance if there are errors or problems and do the necessary debugging without having any nasty surprises at the end.

In addition, the system automatically creates a log (diary) with the history of the versions you have worked on over time and this allows you to easily recover all the previous stages of your work on the platform.

Cost reduction

It is quite easy to guess from what we have said so far that optimizing time, resources, and energy thanks to Google Tag Manager allows you to significantly reduce development costs. Remember, then, that it is a completely free tool. More savings than that…

Privacy management

Using the tag management system correctly, you can easily manage all the settings necessary to make your website compliant with the directives of the recent GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).

Create your Google Tag Manager account

We’ve seen what Google Tag Manager is, and we’ve talked about what it can do for a digital marketer and its multiple benefits. Now we can get to the heart of the matter and see how to create and set up your GTM account. Follow step by step and you will have no problems.

Google Tag Manager Login

It’s quicker to do than to say. To create your account on Google Tag Manager, just log into your Gmail account, visit the official GTM website, and register. From now on, you can create container tags, rules, variables, triggers, or activators, to be inserted in the HTML of your website or of the sites that have entrusted you with management.

Set up Google Tag Manager

After signing up and logging in, the first thing Google Tag Manager asks you to do is create your first container.

A container is an object that holds all your tag settings and looks like you see in the image below.

set up google tag manager

Within a single account, you can create multiple containers associated with websites and apps, for both iOS and Android. You simply need to enter the account name, the domain where the container will be inserted, and the type.
You can flag or not the setting “Share data anonymously with Google and other services”, to allow Google to analyze your usage data and the settings you have set to perform progressive optimizations of the system.

We are almost there! You just have to accept the conditions, copy the two javascript snippets that appear, and paste them respectively like this:

The first snippet must be as high as possible within the <head> tag
The second snippet immediately after the <body> tag

Once this is done, your first account with your first container is ready to use.

For your convenience you can follow the video in English on installing Google Tag Manager, so you will be able to see step-by-step everything I have described above and you will be sure you won’t be able to forget a single step. It will be useful to you.

How to insert new tags in GTM, update and publish them

Now that you’ve created your first container, I’ll briefly explain how to add new tags, then I’ll go into more detail in the following paragraphs. However, these indications are useful to you and are always valid, follow them step by step, it’s simple.

Go to the menu and click on Tags, then:

  1. if you need to add a tag, select New, then the type of tag, and be careful to identify the triggers concerning when you want the tag to be activated;
  2. if you need to edit an existing tag, search for the tag in the list, click it, and make the changes in the appropriate Edit tag page (you can update the activators there);
  3. if you need to delete a tag, as in point 2, search for the tag, click, go to the Edit tag page, and from the menu with the three vertical dots (in the upper right corner of the screen) select Delete.

To verify that you have done everything correctly, use the function that I explained to you previously, i.e. the preview mode. In this way, you will immediately test and check the configuration of your GTM, on your site or your app, based on the changes you have made and you can be sure that everything works consistently with the changes made. If you are on your site, with the debug function you can see while browsing, which tags are activated.

After adding, modifying, or deleting a tag, and after verifying that everything is correct with the preview and debugging, then proceed and publish the changes, to make them effective. Then go to the top right corner of the screen and select Publish, enter Name, Version, and Description, and click Publish.
The process is quick and easy, you won’t have any problems!

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How to install Google Tag Manager in WordPress

Now that you’ve created your account and your first container, you can implement Google Tag Manager into your website. In this paragraph, I show you how to install Google Tag Manager in WordPress because it is the most used CMS today to create websites.

You can install GTM on a WordPress site using two methods: via the internal editor of the CMS or a plugin.

Let’s see together the steps to perform:

1. INSTALLATION USING THE EDITOR COPY THE SNIPPET

Once you have created your account, you will need to copy the two snippets provided by Google Tag Manager.

PASTING SNIPPETS INTO THE HTML PAGE

From your WordPress dashboard, go to the Appearance section, and then click Editor.

On the right side of the screen, you will see all the .php files that make up your WordPress site template. At this point, click on the Header.php file to edit it.

The two codes to insert go in two different sections: <head> and immediately after the opening of the <body>.

You just have to look for the <head> and <body> sections in the code of this file and paste the two Tag Manager snippets according to the instructions.

Click the Update File button below and Google Tag Manager is now installed!

2. INSTALLATION THROUGH PLUGIN

Let’s now see how to carry out the same procedure, but with the help of a Plugin (it is a program that is used to expand or extend the functionality of another program).

INSTALLING THE PLUGIN

From your WordPress dashboard, go to the Plugins section and click Add New.

Look for the Plugin with the query “Google Tag Manager”. You will see several available. I advise you to install “DuracellTomi’s Google Tag Manager for WordPress“.

google tag manager plugin

Why do I recommend this Plugin? It is the Plugin with the most installations and positive reviews.

CONFIGURING THE PLUGIN

After activating “DuracellTomi’s Google Tag Manager for WordPress”, just enter your Tag Manager ID (GTM-XXXXXX) in the appropriate section inside the Plugin.

The first solution (Footer of the page) I advise against, I don’t understand why the author puts it as an option.

You can select the Custom or Codeless injection option under “Container code placement”.

In case you select Custom, you will have to copy the small line of code you see and paste it into the <body> of the header.php file via the editor, just like we did before.

The Codeless injection option, on the other hand, is more convenient because, as the name suggests, no code is required. Attention, the more convenience, and simplicity, however, are reflected in a greater margin of error: as warned by the Plugin’s author himself, it is an experimental option that could eventually cause small problems. The Plugin is integrated with the Data Layer and other elements of Google Tag Manager.

Through the Plugin, you can then easily enter data within the Data Layer. To do this, just go inside the Plugin, in the second tab: Basic data. Here select all the data you want to include in your Data Layer, such as post author, post date, post tag, site search terms, user status (logged in or not), etc.

Thanks to this Plugin you will also be able to set event tracking and scrolling in an extremely simple way and you will be able to insert some tags in a black list so that they are not executed. I’ll tell you a gem: Javascript libraries developed by third parties are implemented for these features. Google Tag Manager is very powerful, but don’t fill it with countless tags because the site is affected at the loading level (even if it is asynchronous!).

All this information is transferred to Google Tag Manager allowing you to have a large number of useful information available for your business.

GTM and Google Analytics

To carry out precise and punctual traffic analyses (tracking), which you need to make your digital marketing strategy, you will certainly use Google Analytics; here’s how to hook this tool to Google Tag Manager too: just create a Tag by going to the Tag menu and click “New”.

At this point, you should choose the Universal Analytics product type. Then choose “Page View” as Tracking Type: in this way, the tag is activated every time the page is viewed.

You now have two choices:

Go and enter the Analytics Variable that you should have previously created in Google Analytics Settings. You can Override by ticking “Enable override settings in this tag”. If you choose this option then you will need to enter your UA code on Tracking ID. You can do this by entering the gaID constant we created earlier. I remind you that you could directly enter the value of the Google Analytics tracking code UA-XXXXXX-X.

At this point, the penultimate step that remains is choosing where to activate the tag. Under Activation choose “All Pages/Page View”. The last thing left for you to do now is give the tag a “sensible” name (you can rename it on the left where it says “Untitled Tag”).

Now you can click on Save.

To verify that the Tag is working, you can use a very useful Google Tag Manager function, namely the Preview and Debug Mode, which we have already talked about.

Simply activate it and go to the site, where you will see a window at the bottom showing the active and inactive tags on the page. If you see the new Google Analytics tag among the “Tags Fired On This Page” it means that the Tag is functional and ready to be published.

GTM and Google Ads: conversion tracking and remarketing

Ads, another Google tool that is used daily, can also be linked to GTM. I’ll explain how to do it. Enter Google Tag Manager now. You’ll need to create the Trigger so that the conversion tracking tag (which we’ll create in the next step) will only fire on the page we want. This must be a page that can only be reached by those who have made a conversion, such as filling out a form or completing a purchase. In our example, it will be a page whose URL ends with “/thanks/“.

Then go to Triggers > New.

Trigger Configuration: Page View.

Trigger on: Some page views.

Set: “Page URL ends with /thanks/“.

Save the Trigger. For example, you can name it the “Thank you Page”

STEP 3 – CREATE THE TAG

The last thing you have to do is create the actual Tag to implement the Google Ads tracking code on your web page.

Go up:

Tags > New > Tag Setup > Ads Conversion Tracking

Now enter the following settings:

Conversion ID: Enter the ID indicated in the Global Site Tag. In the old snippet, it was called google_conversion_id

Conversion label: enter the value of the label, which you find instead in the event snippet and uniquely identifies the conversion. Previously the value was called google_conversion_label.

You can also specify the conversion value and currency, but these are optional parameters.

Choose where to activate the Tag. Trigger on: Select the “Thank you page” Trigger you created earlier.

Save the Tag.

Facebook GTM and pixel

After Google Analytics and Google Ads, Facebook and its Pixel can also be included in Tag Manager to facilitate data tracking. The steps to follow are up to you, it’s not difficult.

Enter Google Tag Manager.

Click on the Tag > Create a new section.

In Tag configuration choose: “Custom HTML tag” (the Facebook tag is not present among the default tags of GTM).

Now paste the tracking pixel that you copied in Step 1.

Then click on Advanced settings > Tag activation options and select “Once per page”

Activate on: you can activate it on all pages or only on specific pages. In my example, I select All Pages (all pages, in fact).

All you have to do is rename the Tag and save it. For example, I renamed it “Pixel Facebook – Demo TagManagerItalia”

Learn more about how to track conversions on GTM.

Use and effectiveness of GTM in the world

To let you see for yourself how much Google Tag Manager is a widely used tool, as proof of its effectiveness, I’m bringing you an interesting graph taken from Google Trends.

use and effectiveness of gtm

As you can see, in the last five years, in the world, Google Tag Manager has had a steady growth in its use. This proves that it is a valid and useful tool to simplify the activities of marketers, that it is simple to use, and that it is increasingly popular.

Google Tag Manager Glossary

I have tried to write this guide simply, without using too many technicalities, but the subject has its terminology which cannot be ignored. With this glossary, some terms will certainly be clearer to you.

What is a tag?

Tags are parts of a website’s code that allow traffic and user behavior to be analyzed, to check how effective advertising is, both online and on social networks, to carry out remarketing and targeting activities. The tags are used to send the information collected from the site where it is installed to third parties (eg G. Analytics, G. Ads, Facebook, etc.).

What is a variable?

For computer scientists, it is a symbol in code that is used to indicate a value subject to change. Also in Google Tag Manager the variables have the same function and are used both in activators and in tags. A variable is therefore an element that contains a value subject to change depending on the event.

What is an activator?

In IT terms, by activator or trigger we mean an event that must make the information true or false when it is activated. About tags, we can therefore say that activators are needed when the tag is activated or deactivated. In simpler words, a trigger contains information about the timing and execution methods of the instructions contained in the tag. When the event contained by the trigger occurs, the tag starts working.

What is the data layer?

By data layer we mean a Javascript object that is generated by Google Tag Manager and that is useful for managing the information of the tags present on the site. It does nothing but carry data from the site to GTM.

What is an event?

An event is nothing more than any behavior held by a user during his stay on the site. For example, clicks made to links on the page the user is looking at are events, or the permanence itself on a certain page beyond a pre-established time interval. An event therefore serves to monitor behavior on a website and this helps to understand how interesting the contents created and published on the site are. Correctly setting the events becomes fundamental.

Conclusions

After reading this guide, you will agree that GTM is easy to install, its usefulness is indisputable and it has no costs like all the tools from Google. I don’t think we need to add anything else. Watch this video in English from Google which in just over 3 minutes gives you a complete overview of Google Tag Manager.

If reading this guide was interesting and you are curious about the more technical aspects related to digital marketing, Digital Coach offers you a broad panorama of courses to follow, for example, you may be interested in the web analytics course.

Have questions about Google Tag Manager? Don’t hesitate to ask us

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