Google Tag Manager for Beginners
by Costel Anton
May 24, 2017
A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO GOOGLE TAG MANAGER
Monitoring your site’s performance can be done in a number of ways – with most hosting platforms offering native analytics suites, but there are none as yet that quite manage Google Analytics. Similarly AdWords is the go to option for managing ads and buyer journeys, then there are a number of other add-ons, monitoring platforms, tracking options and more – all of which will require you to add a ‘tag’ (a snippet of code) to your site’s HTML in order to function.
This is why Google Tag Manager represents not just an organisational or time-saving device but also a method of improving your site’s performance and your site’s user experience (UX). By allowing you to manage and configure all of your site’s tags from a central location, you can ensure that you are able to place and reconfigure tags without requiring a web developer, saving time and money as well as allowing you to respond quickly to the needs of your brand.
WHAT IS A TAG?
A tag is a small section of code which executes on loading of a webpage, sending information to a third party. If your website currently reports to Google Analytics, serves ads through Google AdWords or tracks conversions from your own ads, then you will likely already have tags in your site’s source code.
The purpose of these tags is to be executed by a page view, duration or other site visitor action and report this action to one of many third party platforms (DoubleClick and a host of others – there’s an exhaustive list of Tag Manager supported third parties here).
WHAT IS GOOGLE TAG MANAGER?
Google Tag Manager is particularly well named insofar as describing its function – it allows you to manage your site’s tags from a main dashboard.
While you will generally need only a single Tag Manager account per brand, it does permit the administration of multiple websites or apps. This saves having to manually (or via an external web developer) edit site code, thereby eliminating most coding errors and reduces the time lag between deciding to configure or reconfigure tags and having changes implemented (if you work through a web developer) info provided by Google SEO.
HOW TO SET UP TAG MANAGER
The set up process for Google Tag Manager will be one you’ll be familiar with if you have used AdWords or Analytics as part of your digital strategy (and you should be) insofar as it requires a section of code to be entered between your site’stags and another immediately after the tag, but there are a few minor considerations before we get that far.
1. HOW MANY ACCOUNTS DO YOU NEED?
As stated, for the most part you will need only one account per brand, but for brands with multiple properties it is a little less straightforward.
App developers, for example, will require separate ‘containers’ for each app and each major update of an app, while brands that use multiple domains may be able to share containers and configurations provided the properties operate in a similar manner to one another (and require similar data to be collected).
2. ARE THERE ANY CURRENT TAGS THAT REQUIRE MIGRATION?
For those with minimal coding experience, there will likely be few existing tags (as stated, probably limited to AdWords and Analytics), but if you are deploying custom tags to gather specific data or prompt custom actions, Google’s developer guide has a fantastic and comprehensive instructions for tag migration.
CREATING AN ACCOUNT
Your account is your top level in Tag Manager and it represents your brand overall – meaning that individual intellectual properties (IPs) or sections of the business will fall under this main account. On the right hand side of the top bar, click your profile image and select ‘Add an Account’ which will take you to the following screen:
Here, you can either sign in with your existing Google Account (the one you use for Analytics and AdWords), or create one if you don’t have one at present.
CREATING A CONTAINER
You will then be able to begin creating your first container :
Here you will need to enter a container name (descriptive and memorable – most often the site url) and then the type of content the container will serve. Once you have entered your name and selected your container type, click ‘create’.
Having created the container, you will be presented with a pop-up box containing the code you need to add to your site and where to add it.
You can add it to your site at this point and come back or you can okay out of the dialogue box and configure the container first * it doesn’t matter which at this point, though if you have to add it via a developer, it can save time to configure while waiting for the developer to add the code snippets.
Once you have a container and have either added the code to your site (or arranged for same), you can begin managing your “tags” by selecting the “Tags” option in the side-menu:
From here you can begin selecting tags to add to your container:
Once you select your tag, you can then begin configuring its settings:
…until you have a tag which has been configured to your requirements, allowing you to pull data from your site to your chosen third party application:
HOW MANY TAGS PER CONTAINER?
Tags are another case of ‘less is more’ and, while there are no hard limits set by the tool itself, there is an external limit set by browsers – most of which cannot deal with more than six-eight simultaneous HTTP requests for a single domain.
It is for this reason that the first advice in this guide is to consider carefully what data you want the tags to deal with. If you have a number of similar configurations, it may be best to combine them and use variables to dynamically change fields that need to.
I'm a staff writer covering SEO Consulting and startups.A short-lived but much-beloved former homepage editor at Promo-SEO.com, I wrote for multiple magazine from 2014-2015 and was a proud IBM emploee before that. I've served as a regional manager for a test prep company along the way. My love of tech would've been amusing to my college self. Follow me on Twitter at @promoseoireland and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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