In digital marketing, it is essential to be able to measure the results of our actions through metrics such as traffic, events, or conversions.
At a technical level, to measure what is happening on our website, we have to install a series of tags or code snippets. Previously, this process could be very complex and required specialized technical help. But thanks to Google Tag Manager, managing tags on your website is easier than ever.
What is Google Tag Manager?
Google Tag Manager is a free tool from Google that allows you to add tracking codes, web analytics, and measurement to any website or application. It is designed to be easy to use and does not require specialized programming skills, so marketers can easily link the measurement solutions they need to their sites.
Advantages of using Google Tag Manager
- Streamline tag management. Google Tag Manager allows you to add and modify tags to measure all the aspects of your marketing strategy that you need. Its design is easy and intuitive, so you can make all the changes you need.
- Reduces the risk of label management errors. Google Tag Manager has a very simple error-checking system, loads tags quickly, and allows testing in a pre-production environment. All of this makes it easy for you to make sure your website works perfectly at all times.
- You can implement Google and third-party tags. Google Tag Manager supports all types of tags and has a large number of pre-configured tag templates. Also, if you can’t find a specific tag, you can add it as a custom tag.
- Helps you collaborate with your team. Google Tag Manager includes granular access controls and workspaces so your team members can collaborate more effectively.
Main functions of Google Tag Manager
Google Tag Manager is packed with features to make tag management easier. Here are some especially helpful:
- Its tagging technology allows you to perfectly control how your site’s tags are defined and activated. It supports Accelerated Mobile Pages and mobile apps and includes features such as asynchronous tag loading and tag pausing, exclusion, or sequencing.
- It includes multiple solutions to improve usability for marketers and not just IT teams. It has a simple web interface, a preview mode, instant search and autocomplete, version history, workspaces, and much more.
- It allows you to control the most appropriate access level and permissions for each user so that your marketing and web development teams can collaborate more securely and efficiently. It supports multiple customer and user accounts at the same time and grants permissions at the user level.
- It includes different triggers to control when and how tags are fired to collect the necessary data, for example, automatic event triggers, clicks, custom events, form submissions, page views, and history changes.
- It has built-in marketing and measurement tag templates, both from Google and third parties, that makes it easy to select and implement the most used tags.
- It integrates with other Google solutions, such as Google Ads or Campaign Manager, to facilitate the management of advertising campaigns.
- It allows you to manage tags in an automated way and create custom solutions through the Tag Manager API.
How to configure Google Tag Manager step by step
One of the most interesting functions of Google Tag Manager is that it allows us to manage tags in a pre-production environment so that we can do tests before launching the pixels or tags. We will first see how to do the basic configuration of Google Tag Manager and then we will delve into the pre-production environment.
The basic configuration of Google Tag Manager
- Go to https://tagmanager.google.com and create your account. As it is a Google product, you will have to link it to a Google account.
- Create a container for the website or application that you want to monitor. The container is a piece of code that you will install directly on your site and that, as its name suggests, will “contain” all the tags that you will use for the measurement. This allows you to manage labels more flexibly than when you had to implement each of them directly in the entire header of the web or apart.
- Next, you will be shown a code that you will have to copy and paste on all the pages of your site.
- After installing the container on your site, go back to your website and click on Chrome’s Tag Assistant. You will see a yellow icon, which indicates that the container is empty for now.
- Go to the main Tag Manager screen and click the option to add a new tag. You can select one of the preconfigured tags or add any other HTML or image tag that is not related to the above. For this example, we are going to assume that we are adding the Universal Analytics tag since it is usually one of the first to implement.
- Click Tag Settings, select Universal Analytics, and choose the type of track you want, for example, “page view” or “event.”
- Select a Google Analytics configuration variable or create a new one.
- Click Trigger to choose the trigger for the tag. You can choose one of those that are already available or click on the + icon to create a new one.
- Click the submit button in the right corner of Tag Manager, create the first version of your container, and publish it. Clever!
Pre-production environments in Google Tag Manager
Google Tag Manager environments are used to preview the changes we have made to a container in a test environment before publishing them on our site.
Many companies have an established release process with multiple environments, such as development, test, and production. Each new version of the website is tested in an environment to verify that everything works well before releasing the final version online. Well, we can also use the function of the environment in Google Tag Manager to test that all the tags in our container work correctly before implementing them. To do this, follow the steps below.
1) Set up the sandbox in Google Tag Manager
To get started, go to the admin view and click Environments. You will see that there are already two default environments: Live (the one used by default for your production website) and Latest (the latest version of your container).
To create a new environment, click New, select a name and URL, and click Create environment. Then select Post Now. The new environment should appear in the Custom Environments list.
2) Test your tags in the sandbox
- Click on the version you want to publish in the sandbox.
- Choose Post to.
- Select the sandbox.
- Click Publish.
If you update the versions panel, you will see that the chosen version has been applied both in the “Latest” and in the test environment. Next, go to your test site and check that the tags you have included in the container are working correctly. Also, check that these tags have not been included on the production or “Live” website.
If something goes wrong, don’t worry! As they are not yet published on your production site, you will be able to make the necessary changes to your labels before finally launching them online.
3) Publish your tags in the production environment
Once you have verified that the new tags work correctly in the test environment, you are ready to release them to production.
To do this, go back into the Versions panel, click on the version you just tested, click Publish to and choose the production environment. Now the new version should be available in all environments. Check that it works correctly in production and voila! Remember that if something goes wrong, you can go back to a previous version at any time.
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