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Getting Started with Google Tag Manager

Introduced in 2012, Google Tag Manager (GTM) became a top tag management solution and Google released an updated version in October 2014.  Google Tag Manager saves a lot of time once it is set up, since deciding what to track all occurs within the GTM interface.   There is no longer a need to wait for code updates and marketers can confirm immediately that it was set up correctly.

Although some may be hesitant to use it because of the different set-up and interface for managing tracking, once it’s installed, it is very easy to make additional changes.  After the code is installed by the tech team, marketers can use the tool to insert other tags based on the desired metrics without a need for tech support.  The ability to make changes without contacting the tech team every single time is a huge win for marketers.


Although a GTM set-up can get complex, below are the initial steps for getting started with GTM.

  1.  To get started, you need to first set up a company account using your Google Account log-in.  This is very similar to best practice with Google Analytics, where one account is setup for one company with the company name.  If GTM will be managed by a third party agency, the company who owns the site should still be the one to set it up and then add their agency as a user with appropriate rights.
  2. The next step is to create containers within the account with the container named for the web address.  These containers hold information about what you will track and has a piece of JavaScript that needs to be installed on the website in order for it to work.  Best practice when setting up is to install the JavaScript after the opening <body> tag on the site.  If GTM is used for Analytics, the original JavaScript tracking in Google Analytics should be removed.  Separate containers should be set up for any mobile apps.
  3. The tags are snippets of code that track the things you wish to measure.  These are done within the GTM rather than requiring a separate install for each individual tag on the website.  Google Analytics is an example of a tag and a good starting place for people new to GTM.  Rather than setting up analytics at, the set up is done in GTM.    AdWords Conversion Tracking is another built in tag template that makes it easy to get started right way.  Those who need to take it even further with what they want to measure with GTM can create custom HTML tags.
  4. A trigger tells the tag when to fire and is often used when a page is viewed or a user interacts with the site.  For example, a common goal with lead generation sites is when a user reaches the /thankyou.html page on the site after completing a form.  In this case, the trigger is for page URLs that end with /thankyou.html, indicating that the form was completed.
  5. Once you’ve provided information about your containers, tags, and triggers, it’s time to Preview which will display the debug area.  If you see a message that tags fired, then you know it was set up correctly and can select Publish.  You must select the option to Publish since it does not happen automatically.  At this point, you can go back to your dashboard to add additional codes if desired.  If the tags did not fire, Google support files will walk you through possible scenarios that are causing the error.

In addition to making it easier to manage, there is less likelihood of duplicate tags since it is all in one interface.  It could also increase site speed since the single tag container snippet is the only thing loading.  Businesses using only the built-in features of Google Analytics may not need to rush to use Tag Manager but it is a must for sites that have an advanced installation using special features, such as Event Tracking.


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