Newcomers to Digital Marketing may be intimated by Google Tag Manager. It’s new, powerful and at times unforgiving. However, Google Tag Manager is easy and incredibly useful. The tool has a sleek interface reminiscent of other Google products with an intuitive flow that makes tagging effortless. You can even say goodbye to the need of adding the Google Analytics script to your header!

In this post, I want to help you get started with Google Tag Manager with a few simple steps. This post is for digital marketing newbies with little Google Analytics experience.

What Is Google Tag Manager

According to Wikipedia, Google Tag Manager is a tag management system created by Google to manage JavaScript and HTML tags used for tracking and analytics on websites (variants of e-marketing tags, sometimes referred to as tracking pixels or web beacons). With Google Tag Manager (GTM), users are able to test, deploy and control versions of their tagging strategy with a few clicks. Before diving into GTM, I’m going to outline several helpful definitions.

What is a Tag in GTM?

Tags are tiny bits of code that let you measure traffic, track visitor behavior, understand the impact of online advertising, execute remarketing, run A/B tests and optimize site performance. In a word, a tag is a static instance of data being transmitted from your website to a given analytics platform.

What is a Trigger in GTM?

Triggers govern when a tag is fired or executed for data collection. All website tags must have at least one trigger in order to execute. Triggers are evaluated during runtime and associated tags are executed when trigger conditions are met. Trigger conditions could be anything from a particular link click to a set of page views.

What is a Variable in GTM?

Variables are name-value pairs populated during runtime. For example, the predefined variable Page URL returns the current page URL the tag was executed. Variables are used in both, triggers and tags. You use variables in triggers to define when a particular tag should execute, like when the page URL equals “example.com/index.html”. In addition, variables are also used in tags to capture dynamic values, like which page the tag was triggered on.

Simply put: you define a tag to transmit data based on triggers. You will find this to be helpful when you want to track things like button clicks, successful logins, product purchases or page views.

Getting Started with Google Tag Manager

To get started, sign into Google Tag Manager using your Gmail account. The first screen will ask you to setup a GTM account and container. Give your account and container a recognizable name. Unless you’re setting up your Google Tag Manager account for a mobile app, select “Web”.

google tag manager container setup

Once you’re done setting up your container, you’ll be greeted with a screen that asks you to add your Google Tag Manager script to your site. You will see two scripts: one for the to be placed right after your opening <head> and another one at the beginning of your <body>.

google tag manager code snippet

Please note, you may have several containers per account. You will find comes in handy when you have a company with several products you’d like to monitor.

Configuring Your First Variable

First things first: select Variables on the left navigation of your Google Tag Manager account. Once on the variables screen, click the red button that reads Configure. A panel will slide out from the right side of the screen. Make sure to select all of the variables in the following screenshot.

must-have-google-tag-manager-variables

To configure a handy variable, you’re going to want to open your Google Analytics account and navigate to the Admin screen. Once there, select Property Settings. Finally, copy your Universal Analytics code. I’ll explain what you need this for.

google-analytics-property-tracking-id

Next, go back to your variables screen and select New. Once the panel slides out, select the Constant variable type. Paste your Google Analytics property tracking ID into your Constant Variable field. Give your constant variable a name like gaProperty and click save.

google tag manager constant variable

This new constant variable will allow you to tell Google Tag Manager which Google Analytics account to transmit the data to. Instead of typing your Google Analytics property tracking ID each time, you’ll only need to enter this constant variable. Trust me, it’s a huge time saver.

Setting Up Your First Tag

Assuming you have a brand new site without Google Analytics installed, we’re going to want to collect pageview data. This tag will give us the foundation for our analytics strategy.

Navigate to the Tags screen and click the New button. In the top most region, give your tag a name. As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to communicate what your tag is at the front. Since this is a Google Analytics tag to capture all page views, I’ll give it the name GA – All Pageviews.

Next, click the tag configuration container and select Universal Analytics. From here, it will ask you to enter a tracking ID. This is where you’ll enter the gaProperty constant variable. Go ahead and enter {{gaProperty}}. Since this tag will transmit page view data, leave the track type as Page View. Don’t worry about More Settings or Advanced Settings options for now. That’s it. All you have to do now is setup your trigger.

Setting Up Your First Trigger

On the same screen, select triggering. For the purpose of this tutorial, select the All Pages trigger. This trigger will send data related to a session on every page. That’s it… no really, you’re ready to go.

your first google tag manager tag

Deploying Your New Tag

Once you’re done configuring your tag, click the red Publish button found on the top right corner of your screen. Google Tag Manager will ask you if you’d like to publish to production. If everything looks good, click Publish.

deploying your gtm container

Ensuring Your GTM Tag is Firing

To ensure your tag is firing properly, open up Google Analytics and go to the site with GTM installed. If everything is working, you should see a real-time visit from your location. In a future post, I will go over the different ways you can check to see if your tags are firing properly.

So now you have your first tag. Pretty neat huh? You can do all sorts of things with GTM and hopefully this tutorial starts the conversation between you and your team about this product.