Introduction to Google Tag Manager (GTM): A Beginner's Guide
Marketing & Advertising

Introduction to Google Tag Manager (GTM): A Beginner’s Guide


Google Tag Manager helps bring harmony to the cacophony of marketing tags that power your web analytics and digital marketing. Let us check out this vital marketing enabler.

Dive into this blog to unveil how Google Tag Manager simplifies the tag management process, making it accessible even if you’re not a tech wizard.

Understanding Tags and Their Importance

Use Google Tag Manager to understand your site visitors

What are Tags in Digital Marketing and Web Analytics?

A tag is a snippet of code placed on a website that collects specific data about that site’s visitors and their interactions. Imagine it as a small beacon or sensor that monitors and reports back on all sorts of user activities. These can range from which pages they’ve viewed and what they’ve clicked on to even more complex actions like making a purchase.

The Diverse World of Tracking Tags

Tracking the activity on your website isn’t a one-size-fits-all endeavour. Different objectives require different types of tags. 

Let’s delve into some of the most common ones:

Analytics Tags

Capture user behaviour data, including page visits, duration, and traffic sources using Analytics Tags. Tools like Google Analytics utilise these tags to analyse website performance.

Conversion Tags

Measure your Google ads campaign’s success by recording visitor actions like newsletter sign-ups or purchases with Conversion tags. Gain insights into your most effective strategies through conversion tags.

Retargeting Tags

Retargeting tags enable Google ads that follow users across the web based on prior interactions. They ensure relevant Google ads display after users browse for specific products.

Affiliate Tracking Tags

Identify traffic and conversions from partner websites or influencers. Affiliate tracking tags evaluate the effectiveness of collaborations and traffic sources.

Event Tracking Tags

Monitor precise on-site actions, such as button clicks or form submissions, using event tracking tags. They provide valuable insights into user interactions.

Introducing Google Tag Manager

Now that we have a fundamental understanding of what tags are and why they’re crucial, let’s introduce you to a powerful tool that simplifies the entire tag management system’s process: Google Tag Manager (GTM).

What is Google Tag Manager?

Google Tag Manager is a free tool by Google for all tracking codes. Its key roles include:

Simplified Implementation

Google Tag Manager simplifies adding tracking tags to ensure accurate attribution and analytics.

Version Control

Google Tag Manager supports multiple tag configuration versions, which is ideal for testing and rollback scenarios.

Event Tracking

It excels in event tracking, capturing specific user interactions like clicks, forms, and downloads.

Faster Load Times

GTM loads asynchronously, ensuring optimal site speed for a seamless user experience and reducing bounce rates.

It’s Free and User-Friendly

Google Tag Manager is not only powerful but also budget-friendly. It comes at no cost, making it accessible to businesses of all sizes. 

Furthermore, its user-friendly interface caters to non-technical users, ensuring that you don’t need coding wizardry to utilise its potential.

The Purpose of Google Tag Manager

The Challenges of Manual Tag Management

Before the arrival of Google Tag Manager (GTM), handling tags on a website was a daunting and error-prone endeavour. 

Let’s delve into the challenges of manually adding and updating tags within website code:

Code Complexity

Websites are intricate creations, and tampering with their code, even for seasoned developers, could be daunting. The slightest mistake could disrupt the entire website.

Dependence on Developers

Altering tags often entailed waiting for developers, causing delays that frustrated marketers needing rapid responses to changing requirements.

Risk of Errors

Manual Google tag insertion into code introduced the risk of human errors, such as typos or misplacements. These errors jeopardized data accuracy and website functionality.

GTM as a Centralised Tag Management Solution

Google Tag Manager acts as a tag management system that addresses these challenges by serving as a centralised container for all your tracking codes. Here’s how Google Tag Manager simplifies the process:

Container Concept

GTM operates via a “container” – a single code snippet placed on your website’s pages. This container code centralises the tag management system in the Google Tag Manager interface, eliminating the need for repeated code edits on your site.

Streamlined Deployment

GTM streamlines tag deployment and updates without website code changes. Tags, triggers, and variables are configured within GTM’s intuitive interface, reducing the risk of errors during updates.

Flexibility and Agility

GTM’s flexibility facilitates rapid adaptation to evolving tracking needs, campaign objectives, or marketing strategies, enabling swift responses to digital landscape shifts.

Key Benefits of Using GTM

Simplified Tag Implementation

A standout benefit of Google Tag Manager (GTM) is its streamlined Google tag implementation process. It eliminates code editing and uses a container code for the tag management system. Prebuilt tag templates help with popular services like Google Analytics, Google Ads, Facebook Pixel, and more.

Reduced Dependency on Developers

GTM empowers marketers, website owners, and digital professionals by reducing their dependency on developers. They need almost zero coding skills. This enhances speed and agility for quick responses in marketing. It also promotes collaboration between marketing and development teams, streamlining workflows.

Faster Deployment

GTM provides a mechanism for faster deployment of tags via instant publishing for real-time data collection. The version control ensures safe and controlled deployments, including thorough testing options.

How GTM Works

Now that we’ve explored the benefits of Google Tag Manager (GTM), let’s dive into how this powerful tool operates and how Google Tag Manager works.

Installing GTM Code on Your Website

The first step in harnessing the capabilities of GTM is to install the GTM container code on your website. You need a GTM account to begin with. Within your Google Tag Manager account, you’ll create what’s called a “container.” Think of this as a virtual container that holds all your tracking codes, known as tags, as well as other crucial elements like triggers and variables.

Next, you get a small code snippet that you place on every page of your website just before the closing tag. Then, you can publish this edited page to configure and manage your tags, triggers, and variables without having to touch your website’s code again.

The Concept of Containers

Containers in Google Tag Manager serve as organised repositories for your tracking components—tags, triggers, and variables. Think of them as virtual containers that house and manage these elements. Containers provide structure and control within GTM, allowing you to:

Group Elements

Containers organise tags, triggers, and variables, making it easy to keep track of different components for various tracking and analytics needs.

Streamline Management

They act as a central hub where you configure and modify your tracking configurations. This centralisation simplifies the process of managing multiple tags and their associated triggers and variables.

Maintain Version Control

Containers enable you to create and manage different versions of your tracking setups. This feature facilitates testing, experimentation, and controlled deployments, ensuring that your tracking remains accurate and up-to-date.

Components of Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager (GTM) is a robust tool that revolves around three core components: Tags, Triggers, and Variables. In this chapter, we’ll delve deeper into each of these components to understand their roles and how they work together.

Tags – The Tracking Snippets

Tags are used to collect data, measure user interactions, and transmit valuable information to analytics and marketing platforms. Here are some common examples of tags:

  • Google Analytics Tracking Tag – Measures website traffic, user behaviour, and more.
  • Facebook Pixel Tag – Tracks conversions, audience data, and user interactions for Facebook advertising.
  • Conversion Tracking Tag – Monitors specific actions like form submissions or product purchases.

In GTM, you can configure and customise tags to suit your tracking needs. Tags are deployed when specific conditions, known as triggers, are met.

Triggers – The Activation Signals

Triggers are the conditions that determine when a tag should fire. Common examples of triggers include:

  • Pageview Trigger – Fires a tag when a particular page on your website is viewed.
  • Click Trigger – Activates a Google tag when a user clicks on a specific element, like a button or a link.
  • Form Submission Trigger – Fires a tag when a user submits a form on your site.

Triggers can be set up to be as broad or as specific as needed. For instance, you can create a trigger to fire a tag on all pageviews or one that only activates when users view a specific product page. This flexibility allows for precise tracking.

Variables – The Dynamic Data Holders

Variables are like dynamic placeholders that store and provide values that can be used in tags and triggers. Here’s how variables work:

  • Built-In Variables – GTM provides a set of predefined variables, such as Page URL, Click Text, and Referral Sources. These built-in variables are readily available for use in your tags and triggers.
  • Custom Variables – You can also create custom variables to capture and utilise specific data points relevant to your tracking needs. For example, you might create a custom variable to store the price of a product a user viewed.

Variables add a layer of sophistication to your Google tag manager account. They allow you to adapt your tags and triggers to changing circumstances, providing greater flexibility and accuracy in data collection.

Setting up Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager (GTM) is a powerful tool, and setting it up is the first step towards harnessing its capabilities. 

Creating an Account

  1. Go to the Google Tag Manager website
  2. If you have a Google account, sign in. If not, you’ll need to create one. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete this step.
  3. Once you’re signed in, click on “Create Account.” Enter a suitable name for your account. This account name can be your company name or a relevant identifier.
  4. After creating the account, you’ll be prompted to set up your first container. A container is a GTM workspace for a specific website. Enter the name of your container and select the platform (Web, AMP, or iOS/Android) where it will be used.

Creating a Container

  1. Give your container a descriptive name. This helps you identify it later if you have multiple containers.
  2. Select the platform type that matches your website. In most cases, this will be “Web.”
  3. GTM will generate a unique Container ID. This ID is crucial for connecting your website to the GTM account. Make a note of it.
  4. Review Google’s terms of service and privacy policy, and click to accept them.
  5. Click the “Submit” button to create your container.

Installing GTM Code

Now that you have created a container, it’s time to install the GTM code on your app or website. This code is what connects your website to the GTM interface, allowing you to manage tags, triggers, and variables.

  1. Inside your container, you’ll find an “Overview” tab. Click on it to access the container settings.
  2. In the Overview section, you’ll find two code snippets – one for the `` of your website and one for the ``. These snippets make up the GTM container code.
  3. Copy the first code snippet and paste it just below the opening `` tag on every page of your website. This is typically done in the HTML template of your site.
  4. Next, copy the second code snippet and paste it immediately after the opening `` tag on every page of your website.
  5. Once the code is added to your website’s templates, click save all your changes and publish them. You’ve now successfully installed GTM!

To ensure that GTM is working correctly, you can use the “Preview” feature within the GTM interface. This allows you to test your container before publishing changes. It’s a valuable step to confirm that tags, triggers, and variables are functioning as intended on your site.

Adding Tags Using Google Tag Manager

Now that you’ve set up Google Tag Manager (GTM) and created a container for your website, it’s time to dive into the exciting world of tags. 

Adding a Tag – Step by Step

Let’s consider the example of adding the Google Analytics tag to your website using GTM. Google Analytics is a popular tool for tracking user behaviour and website performance.

Step 1 – Log in to GTM

1. Visit the GTM website.

2. Sign in to your GTM account.

Step 2 – Access Your Container

1. Click on the container where you want to add the Google Analytics tag.

Step 3 – Create a New Tag

1. In your container, go to “Tags” in the left sidebar.

2. Click the “New” button to create a new tag.

Step 4 – Choose a Tag Type

1. In the “Tag Configuration” section, you’ll be presented with various tag types. Select “Google Analytics: Universal Analytics.”

Step 5 – Configure Tag Settings

1. In the tag configuration panel, enter your Google Analytics Tracking ID. This is the unique identifier associated with your Google Analytics account.

2. Configure other settings as needed, such as enabling enhanced eCommerce tracking, enabling cross-domain tracking, or specifying custom settings.

Step 6 – Define Triggers

1. In the “Triggering” section, you’ll specify when this tag should fire. Click the field and select an existing trigger or create a new one.

2. For Google Analytics, a common trigger is a “Pageview” trigger, which fires the tag every time a page is viewed. You can also set up more specific triggers, like firing the tag only on certain pages or after specific interactions.

Step 7 – Save Your Tag

1. Give your tag a descriptive name for easy identification.

2. Click the “Save” button to save your tag configuration.

Step 8 – Publish Your Changes

1. Once you’ve added and configured your tag, it’s crucial to test it in a controlled environment. GTM offers a “Preview” mode that allows you to see how your tags will behave without affecting your live website.

Step 9 – Preview and Debug

1. Click the “Preview” button in GTM to enter preview mode.

2. Visit your website in a new browser tab. You’ll see the GTM debug console, which shows you which tags are firing and any issues or errors.

Step 10 – Validate and Debug

1. Interact with your website as a user would and observe how tags behave in the debug console. This step ensures that tags fire correctly and capture the data you need.

Step 11 – Publish Your Changes

1. After thoroughly testing your tags and ensuring they work as expected in preview mode, return to GTM.

2. Click the “Submit” button to publish your changes to the live website.

Congratulations! You’ve successfully added a Google Analytics tag to your website using Google Tag Manager. 

Preview and Publish

The Importance of Previewing  

Before deploying changes to your live website, it’s essential to validate your configurations in a controlled environment. The “Preview” feature in GTM allows you to do just that. Previewing your changes helps catch any potential issues or errors before they affect your live site. The GTM debug console in preview mode provides valuable insights into how your tags, triggers, and variables behave in real time.

With the thorough testing of your changes, you can have confidence that your tracking and analytics will work as intended on your live website.

Previewing Changes

1. In your GTM container, click the “Preview” button located in the upper right corner.

2. Visit your website in a new browser tab. You’ll see the GTM debug console, which displays information about tags, triggers, and variables as they fire.

3. Interact with your website as a user would. Pay attention to the debug console to ensure that tags fire correctly and capture the expected data.

4. If you encounter any issues or unexpected behaviour, use the debug console to diagnose and debug the problem.

Publishing Changes

Once you’ve thoroughly validated your changes in preview mode, it’s time to push them to your live website. Here’s how to do it:

1. Return to your GTM container.

2. Click the “Submit” button.

3. In the submission dialogue, add a version name and description. This helps you keep track of changes, especially when you have multiple versions over time.

4. Review the list of changes to ensure everything is in order.

5. Click “Submit” to publish the changes.

6. Your changes are now live on your website, and the new tracking configurations are active.


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Ending note

This blog post clearly sheds light on the pivotal role of Google Tag Manager (GTM) in revolutionising website tag management. We now know how GTM simplifies the otherwise complex task of deploying and managing tags, freeing businesses from the burdens of manual code editing, coding dependencies, and version control hassles.

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