Our Take: Marketing Made Better with Google Tag Manager

October 1, 2012

Want to lear more about Google Tag Manager?  Attend our free Webinar: Discovering Google Tag Manager.  Next session: Friday, October 5th, 10am Pacific/1pm Eastern. Register here.

Introducing Google Tag Manager

Today at eMetrics Boston, Laura Holmes of Google stunned the audience with the release of Google Tag Manager, a platform enabling marketers to manage measurement and conversion tags through a user-friendly, self-serve interface.  With Google Tag Manager (GTM), you can deploy new tags or modify existing tag placements with a few clicks, taking what often takes days or weeks to complete down to minutes.

At Analytics Pros, we’re obviously very excited about this product release!  We will be hosting a free webinar on Friday, October 5th at 10am pacific / 1pm eastern for clients and the public to learn more about Google Tag Manager and the services we’ll be making available for it.

As Google described on their blog this morning:

Google Tag Manager is a free tool that consolidates your website tags with a single snippet of code and lets you manage everything from a web interface. You can add and update your own tags, with just a few clicks, whenever you want, without bugging the IT folks or rewriting site code. It gives marketers greater flexibility, and lets webmasters focus on other important tasks. -Laura Holmes on the Google Analytics Blog

Our assessment: Tag Management – from nothing to everything in 3 years

I remember three years ago when there was basically no discussion of Tag Management aside from a couple of products focused around affiliate de-duplication.  Today, there are more than a dozen credible vendors in this space and, now, Google has entered the fray too.  Despite the rapid proliferation of technologies and the promise of incredible cost and time savings, Tag Management is something that has remained relatively unknown to many marketers.

With Google’s launch, I think that Tag Management is going to go main-stream, much like the release of Google Analytics, as it put Web Analytics under a new spotlight.

What does Google Tag Manager do?

Google Tag Manager will:

  • Consolidate all your marketing tags into one central point of management
  • Provide you with the ability to add, edit, or remove tags at-will
  • Reduce delays in launching new marketing campaigns
  • Design complex data models based on a combination of rules, macros, and tags
  • Empower your team and agency partners to participate with tag management through controls that support different levels of access, such as view only, edit tags, and publish control

How Google Tag Manager Works

Here’s a quick run-down of how Google Tag Manager works.

The Account

Google Tag Manager begins with the Account.  Each company (legal entity) should have its own account since licensing and user-access is based on the account level.  An account contains containers and user access assignments.

The Container

A “container” is the base for Google Tag Manager.  Simply put, the container tag is what goes into your page in lieu of all your other tags.  GTM then loads other tags through this container.  You can use containers to group tags for different properties under your account, or span properties with one container, or even run multiple containers on the same property.


Tags are the heart of Google Tag Manager.  When you migrate to GTM, you’ll setup your compatible marketing tags within GTM.  Tags can be activated to run based on rules.  When setting up GTM, it will be important to plan out your tagging.  To aid this, we’ve created a free tool: the Tag Inventory Worksheet.  Grab a copy here and clone it for your purposes.

example of AdWords tag in Google Tag Manager


Tags are triggered by Rules.  A rule is a set of requirements based on information from the environment of the tag, such as the page URL, referrer, etc. or by Macros (see below).  Using rules, you can define multiple sets of criteria under which a tag should be shown and/or not shown.

GTM Rule Editor


The final key part of Google Tag Manager are Macros.  Simply stated, Macros map data into Rules or Tag settings.  They bridge between page variables or data later objects and can be leveraged within rules and tag configuration settings.  An example Macro would be one which identifies the order total on the order thank you page and passes the value into an AdWords conversion Pixel, as well as a Rule that fires a special tag or high-value orders.

Macro Editor example in GTM

Extending Google Tag Manager with a Data Layer

The “Data Layer” is a concept that sets up a powerful capability to power tagging with rich data from your web applications.  By using an open data format, Google Tag Manager makes creating and deploying a data layer easy.  Alternately, if you have an existing data layer object, you can simply leverage that for your data layer.  Or, alternately, use a tool like our Analytics Engine platform to automate some aspects of Data Layer creation.

For more on the concept of Data Layers, check out my friend Justin Cutroni’s post on the topic here.

Managing Versions & Quality Control

gtm preview mode options

One of my favorite features of Google Tag Manager is the version control and publishing controls.  This tool lets you instantly test new tag deployments or roll-back to previous versions, should the need ever arise.

Using the Preview and Debug modes, you can interactively navigate your site and see what tags are firing when.  You can even share previews with others to aid in quality assurance testing when preparing a new tag deployment.

Tag Manager preview and debugging view

Should a version deployment go wrong, rolling back is as easy as two clicks.  You can revert to the previous state or any previous version of your container.

version control screen in GTM

container version deployment log showing what tags, rules, and macros run under this tag version

Is Google Tag Manager for You?

This is going to be the #1 question over the coming weeks and months, in my opinion.  It’s an important one, because, while tag management has many benefits, making a migration shouldn’t be undertaken lightly.  As with any enterprise tool for digital analytics, appropriate process, thought, and expertise should be involved – and Google Tag Manager will be no exception.

That’s one reason why the team here at Analytics Pros is thrilled that we have been certified by Google as a Specialist for Google Tag Manager.  Whether you’re ready to conduct a strategic evaluation and cost/benefit analysis, or start your journey moving to a managed approach to tagging, our team is here to help should you need a hand.

Analytics Pros are certified specialists for Google Tag Manager – learn more!

Want to lear more about Google Tag Manager?  Attend our free Webinar: Discovering Google Tag Manager.  Next session: Friday, October 5th, 10am Pacific/1pm Eastern. Register here.