Google Tag Manager: Mission Control for All Your Site Tags

When Google Tag Manager (GTM) was introduced, web developers cheered. GTM saves time—and lots of it—for adding, removing and editing the page tags orbiting your site.

Tag, You’re It

A “tag,” or “site tag,” is synonymous with a small snippet of code that sits on a web page until it fires. A tag is almost always used to communicate data back to a third party—for example, social sites like Twitter and Facebook, or analytic resources like DoubleClick and AdWords. Tags can be set to execute across many actions—such as when a user scrolls to a particular point on your page, or when they click a specific link.

Traditionally, if you wanted to update, change or remove tags on your site, you needed to hard-code each one separately. Developers began utilizing multiple tags on their sites, and as tags grew in complexity, hard-coding them onto site pages began to cause bottlenecks, especially when updates involved external agencies and contractors. Coordinating site updates between IT and external support became especially problematic.

Whether or not external parties are involved, changes to a company’s hard-coded site tags require IT involvement, adding tasks to a typically overburdened crew. Google Tag Manager addresses these and other tag frustrations with the “container” concept.

A Sensible Solution

Simply put, Google Tag Manager provides a single stop for managing multiple tags, even across multiple websites. Ideally, by implementing GTM, you’ll be able to eliminate all the hard-coded tags on your site, making it much easier to update in the future.

Rather than hard-coding multiple tags on a web page, with Google Tag Manager, IT only has to place a single “container” on the page. This container enables all the tags that fire on that page. Because tags are centrally managed, when you edit tag parameters, those edits are replicated on every page that uses that tag—a lot faster than hard-coding each page.

Is It Hard to Implement?

There are many videos and web pages that describe how to implement Google Tag Manager. At the overview level, the process can be divided into three steps.

  1. Create Google Tag Manager containers for each separate website you wish to track. If you don’t already have a Google ID, you will need to create one to create a Google Tag Manager account.
  2. Place Google Tag Manager code on every page of your site, just after the tag.
  3. Add tags to the GTM container; you will probably find a combination of prebuilt and custom tags most useful.

Once you have a container for Google Tag Manager on your site, you will no longer need to hard-code tags on your site.

Top 3 Benefits of Google Tag Manager

  1. Vastly improves response time to changing tag needs. A single interface where you can add, edit, enable, disable or remove any tag.
  2. Significantly accelerates testing and deployment of tags. With no hard-coding required, reliance on developers is minimized.
  3. Improves website page load times; tags are deployed asynchronously, so a slow-loading tag won’t prevent other tags from executing.

Save Time Now and in the Future

While some web developers might believe that their site is simple enough to continue using hard-coded tags, this is short-sighted. Any long-term website plan should incorporate Google Tag Manager; there’s no question that it saves an enormous amount of time and effort.

For more information:
Google Tag Manager site
Google Tag Manager documentation

(Lawrence Johnson, our Director of Technology, contributed to this informative post.)

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