What is Google Tag Manager and why to use one?

Recently, one of my clients asked me why do we need to use Google Tag Manager on his website? “Well, we don’t.” I answered briefly “, but it will help us a great deal to have it deployed on your website.” I tried to explain how it probably seems like an unnecessary addition of complexity to his already complex process of tracking traffic to his online assets. But in reality, it’s exactly the opposite. And then I went on explaining further.

Google Tag Manager vs Google Analytics – what’s the difference?

If all we wanted was to track data such as how many people visited our website, what country they came from or how many pages they visited per session, then Google Analytics would be just perfect. No need for additional complexity. It would be our simple-to-implement solution that works. And also a fairly easy-to-use tool. Even though the simplicity of Google Analytics depends on many factors, the most important being, what we actually want to track and measure. More on that in an upcoming article.

So why to bother with Google Tag Manager?

The answer is simple. If we want to track more arbitrary “events” or “actions” such as how many people clicked on a specific button or how many visitors used some other unique feature on our website (or our app) things get much more complex very quickly.

We would need to ask our website developer to add a bunch of new tracking tags to our website. Not a big deal, you might say. But what if there were tens or hundreds of interactions we would like to track with Google Analytics? Can you see the gloomy clouds on the horizon? Frowning web-developer.

Let me clarify something first. Google Tag Manager isn’t a replacement for your Google Analytics. Instead, it’s an additional tool to make your Google Analytics even more powerful. GTM was designed to simplify the process of creating, editing, handling and deploying TAGS (code snippets) on your websites. It’s an additional layer between your website and Google Analytics.

Google Analytics is a great tool, but its main purpose is to generate simple reports and statistics about our websites, such as:

  • how many people visited your website yesterday.
  • what country are they from.
  • how many pages they visited per session.
  • how many visitors bounced off your website (without performing any action).
  • which pages were the most popular, etc.

For anything more granular we need a more sophisticated solution. For example, if we want to track:

  • Track sale and purchases
  • Google Analytics Events such as button clicks or downloads – in other words, something that fires only when our visitor completes a particular action on our website.
  • Making phone calls from our websites

The above are just some of the common examples of when Google Tag Manager comes handy.

So what exactly is Google Tag Manager?

Google Tag Manager is free software from Google that allows us to deploy various types of code (tags) to our website. “And what the hell are those TAGS?” I hear some of you asking. Well, TAG is just another arbitrary name for a piece of code that needs to be deployed somewhere on your website. Usually in the header or the footer of all pages that you want to track. A good example of a TAG would be Google Analytics tracking code, Google Analytics event code, or Google Ads conversion script or remarketing code.

GTM helps users (marketers, web-developers) to easily add Google Analytics tracking code (tag) to their website but more importantly to add Google Analytics event code snippets, Google Ads conversion scripts and remarketing codes to their websites and also define rules, when these GA event scripts should (must) fire. All that is super important for the tracking to work correctly.

If it all sounds a bit too complex for you to handle on your own, feel free to drop me a line. I’ll be more than happy to assist you in setting up GTM and Google Analytics.