Google Tag Manager: Focus on Marketing Instead of Marketing Technology

The new Google Partners program launched in May 2013, and 6S Marketing became one of the first Canadian marketing agencies to receive the new Partners badge. As a Google Partner Agency, 6S is always at the forefront of industry innovation, and gets access to beta versions of Google’s latest software and tools.

Google Tag Manager (GTM) officially launched on October 01, 2012, and 6S was quick to jump on board as early adopters. Since its launch, GTM has evolved and improved; it has undergone a few user interface (UI) changes. To date, 6S Marketing has 145 client accounts tied to our main Tag Manager account — as an agency we have taken the policy to switch all our client accounts over to GTM where possible.

What is Google Tag Manager?

There are various types of ‘tags’ in the search engine marketing (SEM) industry. In this case, tags are tiny bits of code that let you measure traffic and visitor behavior. So what exactly is Google Tag Manager? According to Google’s description, “Google Tag Manager is easy, free, and reliable. It gives marketers greater flexibility, and it lets webmasters relax and focus on other important tasks.”

GTM is essentially a tag deployment tool that is used to add website tags — including Google Analytics, AdWords conversion tracking, remarketing, and DoubleClick Floodlight — to a site easily and whenever required. GTM is not an upgraded version of Google Analytics (GA); it is merely a way of placing the GA code on a site. GTM also includes support for custom image, HTML, and JavaScript tags and templates for non-Google Tags such as AdRoll, Turn, Bizio, Marin and Mediaplex.

Google Tag Manager Tool

As an agency, using GTM gives us added flexibility and control, and allows us to test and add tracking code or other tags without having to wait for IT to change the code on the site. Once the container code is deployed on a site, little or no IT/webmaster involvement is needed to deploy new tags or edit existing tags.

Benefits

Some positives for us as an agency include the ability to:

  • Easily manage clients’ tags (as soon as the container code is added to the site and we have user permissions)
  • Deploy tags from within the GTM interface without touching site code (once the container code is deployed correctly, we can change the contents ourselves)
  • Quickly test, troubleshoot, and adjust site tags thanks to the live debugging feature — no more waiting weeks (or months) for website code updates
  • Deploy tags safely to avoid broken iframes and other tagging challenges

Why this is significant

At an agency, speed is important–we often have to launch last-minute campaigns across a number of mediums; using GTM allows us to set up and deploy campaign tags quickly. Using GTM’s previewing and debugging tools allows us to make sure a site’s tags look and function as anticipated. We can test preview versions to examine which tags are firing as we browse and interact with the site. We then push the final code live only when things work as expected. A version history means that we can revert to earlier variants if required; a complete record of all edits and versions is also readily available.

When it comes to tracking results in Google Analytics, goals and events are key. With GTM, we can easily add customization to GA through auto event tracking; this fires tags automatically based on a user’s on-site actions. No custom code is needed. GTM also works with ecommerce tracking.

Tag Manager

Other Benefits

Other technical benefits include increased performance or page load time; because GTM is an asynchronous tag, when it fires, it does not block other elements from rendering on the page. It also causes the other tags that are deployed via GTM to be deployed asynchronously, meaning that a slow loading tag won’t block other tracking tags. While it doesn’t reduce the number of tags on a site, it does simplify the task of managing them.

GTM is protocol relative, meaning that it will work on secure and non-secure pages alike. It even supports dynamic pages through events by firing an event when a new page loads.

It gives us the ability to prioritize how tags are fired. While there is no hard limit on the number of tags that can be deployed on a site using GTM, best practice is to keep the number of tags as low as possible due to browser limitations.

GTM is mobile-ready; it works smoothly across devices, supporting mobile websites and native mobile apps. It allows users to reconfigure app tracking after someone downloads it, ending tedious release cycles.

Tag-Assistant-for-Chrome

If you need even more positives, the UI is very user-friendly and intuitive and there’s also a very handy Chrome browser plugin called Tag Assistant to help verify installation and check which tags are firing. As mentioned, Google have also been busy improving the UI and launched a new interface and new API that was in Beta for the past few months. This month (January 2015), all GTM users will have their accounts and containers migrated to the new interface, after which the old interface will no longer be available.

Despite being around for over two years, adoption for this powerful tool has not been as rapid as expected. Perhaps 2015 will be the year when it becomes adopted by the masses. If you have a website and use Analytics, you should really take advantage of this free tool. Get in touch if you would like to learn more.

Do you already use GTM? What benefits have you seen from the tool? Leave a comment below.

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