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A Beginner’s Guide to Google Tag Manager

Wilson Lau

Sr. SEO Marketing Manager @ AdRoll

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If you’re responsible for marketing an ecommerce brand, there’s a good chance you’ve already encountered Google Tag Manager, part of Google’s suite of digital advertising tools. Tag Manager is a crucial part of Google Analytics that helps channel data from your website to your platforms to create and publish ad campaigns. That data is essential for understanding how your users and potential customers navigate your brand ecosystem, and it enables more effective and personalized campaigns.

What Do Tags Do?

Tags are snippets of code that are embedded in web page source code. They collect specific types of data that can be sent to other platforms for analysis. Plenty of major marketing channels have tags of their own, such as social media websites and other ad platforms. You might also hear marketers refer to tags as “tracking pixels.”

There’s a wide variety of uses for tags, as they can be customized to collect almost any data point or track any action. For instance, an ecommerce marketer might create a tag that tracks how often users click on a particular link on a landing page to determine whether the page has the desired effect on visitors. Tags can target specific actions or events, allowing marketers to drill down into the details of how their customers use their website to create a better experience. Other data collected by tags could include:

  • Mouse movement or scrolling on all pages 
  • How long users spend on specific pages
  • “Heat maps” that reveal the areas on a page that users click most often
  • Form submissions or file downloads
  • Video or audio plays

Unfortunately for marketers without significant coding knowledge and experience, creating tags at this level of complexity can be very difficult. The more specific the task, the more complicated the code for the tag. Many marketers know some basic HMTL, but creating effective tags often requires a higher level of skill. That could mean relying on a developer to create and manage your tags, which can be costly and inefficient.

That’s where Google Tag Manager comes in.

Google Tag Manager Features

Google Tag Manager gives you a centralized hub for all your website tags. It’s a web-based tool that operates within your browser, similar to your AdWords dashboard. Some key features include:

  • Comprehensive tag review and status tracking — GTM puts all your tags in one place
  • Real-time tag management so that you can activate, pause, or remove tags with a few simple clicks
  • Tag templates — pre-created code snippets for the most common tag triggers, events, and data types that you tailor to your needs
  • Custom tags for unusual scenarios, as well as for tracking within images or Javascript
  • Third-party tag support so that you can monitor all of your tags, even those that aren’t Google tags

So why should you be using Google Tag Manager? Most marketers use Google Analytics to some degree, but they may not be as familiar with Google Tag Manager. GTM is one of the best and most user-friendly ways to enrich your data and create better campaigns and customer experiences.

Benefits of Google Tag Manager

  1. Create, track, and manage tags without the need for complex coding knowledge. You’ll be able to run more of your digital marketing strategy without needing constant help from developers. GTM does require a bit of up-front setup that can be a bit technical, and if you’re not comfortable editing your website’s HTML source code at all, you might still need some dev support. Still, its templates and interface are intuitive enough to make tagging much simpler.
  2. Flexible and scalable for different enterprises. Google Tag Manager is used by businesses of all sizes, from major established brands with thousands of employees to new ecommerce businesses run by a single person. It’s capable of managing a virtually unlimited number of tags, so as your business grows and your marketing tactics evolve, GTM will grow with you.
  3. Low-cost. Google Tag Manager is free, a big part of why it’s so widely used. It costs nothing to get started, outside of any help you might need in the initial setup.
  4. Data support for integrated tools. If you use a third-party marketing platform, such as AdRoll, you can easily integrate your website with other platforms with Google Tag Manager. Google Tag Manager also makes it easy to customize specific data points or user events to be passed to the other marketing platforms, which marketers can use to improve user experience and campaign performance. 

Google Tag Manager: How to Get Started

Let’s run through the basic steps for getting started with GTM.

  1. Create a Google account. Head to to create an account for your brand or business.
  2. Create a container. A “container” is where your tags are kept. After creating an account, you’ll need to create a container, which you can name with your website URL. Giving your containers and tags accurate, descriptive names will help you keep things organized in the long run.
  3. Install GTM. At this point, Google will provide two blocks of code. The first will go into the <head> section at the top of the source code, and the other will go into the <body> section.
  4. Explore the GTM dashboard. Once you’ve installed GTM into your source code, you’ll be able to use the GTM dashboard, where you can create new tags, build workspaces, create tag triggers for actions and events, and more.
  5. Create a tag and connect to Google Analytics or other marketing platforms. On the top left of the dashboard, you’ll find the link to create a new tag. GTM will ask you to name your new tag and select a tag type, of which there are dozens, along with custom tags. Under “Tag Configuration,” input your Web Property ID from your Google Analytics account. Then you’ll select a type of data for this tag to track and create a trigger that will activate when the action or task you’ve chosen has been taken. For instance, if you select “Event,” you’ll be able to define the event and choose the specific page (or pages) where you want to track that event. At this point, you can save and submit your tag to activate it.

Create Better Campaigns

Using Google Tag Manager is a great way to give yourself a leg up in your marketing strategy without the need for technical knowledge or experience. With its easy-to-use experience, highly customizable tagging functions, and low cost, GTM can help you gather more robust customer data and create more impactful campaigns.

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