How Google Tag Manager Can Save Your Tracking

Over the years, Google has introduced many useful tools and programs. Gmail and Adwords have to be on the top of my list, but in recent months Google Tag Manager has also joined my list of favorites. If you do any sort of tracking for your online marketing and you don’t already use Google Tag Manager, you’re missing out! In a nutshell, it streamlines all of your tracking so that you only have to ask your developers to put one tracking code on your whole website. Oh, and did I mention that it’s free?

How It Works

First, Google Tag Manager has you set up a container code. This is the code that you ask your developer team (or whoever manages your website) to add to your entire site – every single page that you could ever possibly want to track. The container code then acts like an empty piece of Tupperware on each page of your site. From within Google Tag Manager, you then add tags with tracking codes you need to implement from Analytics etc., and set up a firing rule to tell it where to place those codes. The terminology can get a bit complicated, so I’m going to continue with the Tupperware metaphor:



Container Code – the Tupperware that sits on all of your website’s pages, waiting for tracking codes

Tag – the code from Facebook or Adwords that you’d like to place within the container code on certain pages of your site (the leftover Chinese food that needs a Tupperware container for storage)

Firing Rule – the rule that actually tells Google Tag Manager which pages on your website that you want to insert your new Tag on (this is the rule that says Chinese food goes into the Tupperware on this shelf in the fridge)

Hopefully, that metaphor helps clarify things, because now I just want to order Chinese!

Setting It Up

So you’re sold on using Google Tag Manager but aren’t sure where to start? Say you want to implement AdWords conversion tracking, here’s how you would set it up:

1. Create a container code for your entire website and ask the developers/website manager to place the code just after the opening <body> tag of your entire website (you’ll only have to do this once, when you first set up your Google Tag Manager account).

2. Create a new tag. For AdWords conversion tracking, Google gives you a specific pixel/code, so choose “Custom HTML Tag” and paste the Google pixel in the HTML code box.

3. Create a new firing rule. Say that this AdWords conversion tracking was to track completed donations – you will want to track anyone who has reached the thank you page specific to donations. Often for thank you pages we’ll only use part of the URL in the firing rule, because many parts of the URL might be different for each user if you use session IDs or anything similar. In this instance we want the common part of the URL that will always show whenever anyone reaches the thank you page, say “ThankYou/Donation=Completed”. In the firing rule guidelines, select “URL contains” and then paste the common part of the donation thank you page URL.

That’s it! If you’re worried and want to double-check that the tracking is working, you can download the Tag Assistant by Google Chrome extension. It will tell you exactly what tracking codes (Tag Manager and otherwise) are on any of your webpages.

To me, tracking discussions can often feel over my head, but I promise that once you set up one or two new tags in Google Tag Manager, you’ll get the hang of it. Utilizing Google Tag Manager will not only take some load off your developer team, but it will also help your tracking overall. I know that I have a lot of experience with tracking codes getting accidentally erased because there are 10 tracking codes all on one webpage, and it’s hard for everyone to keep track of. The ability to have only one code to put on the entire website (and keep track of) has saved me more than a few headaches. Hopefully, it can do the same for you!

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