Online Marketing Essentials: Google Tag Manager

When I talk to people about my career, I find that they get excited at first exclaiming: "Oh digital marketing, that’s like Facebook right!?" Sadly, nothing seems to put someone to sleep faster then explaining that digital is so much more than social media and that an integral part of digital marketing is ensuring data quality and integrity – but it’s the truth. By ensuring that you’re working with quality data you are able to make quality decisions for the benefit of your clients, and how do you do this?

Enter Google Tag Manager.

So what is it?

Tag manager is an excellent (and free) tool offered by Google that allows any analytical marketing manager the ability to track and measure anything that goes on inside a website. That’s right - anything.

It is simply one single piece of code that gets pasted into each page of your website allowing you to ‘plug-in’ any piece of code to send through your Tag Manager container. What this means is that you can now throw away your Analytics code, your remarketing code and your AdWords conversion tracking code on the ‘/thankyou’ URL. All you need is Tag Manager as it lets you do all of this and more!

Here is how I like to explain it to my clients. Google Tag Manager is a piece of code that you put into the back end of your website which allows you to track events on a website. Essentially, it takes Google Analytics to a whole other level enabling you to identify any single action on a website, isolate it, and track/measure it via Google Analytics.

Google Analytics is a great tool for showing what pages on a website people look at, how long for and in which order. All of this information is great, but we know that just because a page is open on a screen doesn’t mean that someone is actually engaging with it. That’s where Google Tag Manager comes in. It allows you to track many things, but for the most part, it allows users to accurately set-up event tracking and feed the gathered information into Analytics. From there, users can easily view not just what site visitors are looking at but what they are interacting with. Essentially, businesses can identify something on a website as having a unique, identifiable attribute, create a rule in Tag Manager and feed the tracking into Analytics.

So, how does this help you – the SME?

Well for starters, once the code is in your site you won’t need to spend time and money on developers to install new code each time you want to track something. Google Tag manager ensures the integrity of your data and allows you to see it being triggered in real-time via Analytics. This means that you are able to achieve instant gratification from your tracking – which you have to admit is pretty special.

Some of the tags available via Google Tag Manager include:

  • Form submit listeners
  • Link click listeners
  • Timer listeners
  • Click listeners
  • History listeners

I find that each individual listener is useful, but what is really cool is when you begin to get creative about how you use tracking and build a campaign strategy around how people interact and engage with your site.

Let’s say you run an independent building company. Your website would probably rely heavily on content and you would most likely have a number of brochures available for download. For now, let’s presume your brochures contain information on the plans your company uses to build. With Tag Manager, you can easily set-up a ‘click listener’ tag to listen to the link click of the brochure download and identify each brochure by its element URL. This means that you can track which brochure or design generates the most interest. Not only that, but you can then take these events (in this case - the brochure download) and begin to funnel them into their own re-marketing lists within Analytics. By segmenting your re-marketing based on the events that have been triggered and how people interact with your content, you will build a targeted, effective re-marketing strategy showing people ads only relevant to the brochure they had previously downloaded. In doing this, you are more likely to remain ‘top of the mind’ as people move forward on the path to conversion – cool, right?

And this is only the tip of the iceberg. Through Google Tag Manager, you can quickly and easily set up any variety of event tracking making life so much easier when it comes to making those big marketing decisions.

In case you can’t already tell, I’m a huge fan of Tag Manager. I like how it puts the control in my hands as a digital marketer and allows me to quickly and easily determine what needs to be tracked. Once I know this the set-up, tracking and analysis couldn’t be easier. And the best part - I can be confident in the decisions I’m making for my clients because I’m confident in the data I’m using. It’s that simple.


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Ling Lee

Ling Lee , at Digital Marketing and Personal Branding

Hey David, may I just ask what is the difference between Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics?

David Mooney

David Mooney , Employee at SponsoredLinX

Hi Ling, Great question. Google Analytics is a tool that shows us (for the most part) what people look at. If you think about it, you can see what pages people view, how many pages they view and how long they view them for. Its all based around site content and time spent viewing that content. Google Tag Manager is a tool that allows you to set up tracking which reports into Analytics. More often than not I use it to track events. Events can be things such as mouse clicks, link clicks, video plays, brochure downloads etc. It takes any singe identifiable element within a website, tracks engagement with that element and reports it into Analytics for us. The great thing about GTM is that it is not limited to event tracking. We can use GTM to run remarketing, AdWords conversion tracking, custom javascript tags or pretty much anything you can think of!