Why You Should Be Using Google Tag Manager


Monday, June 30th, 2014 by Ben Johnston

With more and more website analytics platforms being released, there are a lot of new toys to play with to help you get the most out of your online data and it’s easy to fall into the trap of adding a ton of extra JavaScript to your pages, slowing down the load time and causing a number of extra possible issues.

This is why the latest wave of tag management tools are so handy – you can add as many tracking codes to your pages as you like without implementing any extra JavaScript and eliminating a number of additional potential security issues while still taking advantage of all the new digital analytics services and tools.

How Tag Management Tools Work

Tag Managers like Google Tag Manager, Ubertags and TagMan work by adding just one piece of JavaScript to your pages, the container tag, and allowing you to add as many tracking codes as you like within that container tag. The handy thing is that these tracking codes are never physically on your page, but they still work because they are fired from within the tag manager’s server whenever a page on your site is loaded through a browser.

Effectively, this means that marketing teams can add as many tracking tags as they like as and when they want to without needing to hassle a developer to implement the code. When you’re working with large websites or dealing with, shall we say, “challenging” development processes, this is the perfect way to bypass all the red tape.

Security

Security is one of the bigger upsides to using tag managers. In the increasingly competitive online space, having your Google Analytics UA number available to anyone that knows how to use the “view source” button isn’t ideal. By being a little bit dastardly, it’s really easy to completely screw up someone’s data without much effort.

Using a tag manager tool cuts out some of these issues, although you really should also be using a full show hostname filter in your Google Analytics so you can see if anyone is being sneaky. You can show the full URL of the page visited in Google Analytics like so.

full url google analytics filter

Tag Managers obviously aren’t bulletproof when it comes to security – nothing is – but using one and combining it with a hostname filter makes it a lot trickier for people that want to mess with your analytics.

Ease Of Use

Have you ever tried to get your developers to add unique event tracking codes to every outbound link on your website or blog? Have you tried to get them to individually track each PDF download? Ever tried to get virtual pageviews added to an AJAX part of a site? Have you heard a litany of complaints and reasons why that’s not possible? In previous companies, I’ve heard all of these reasons and, truth be told, trying to get things tracked properly has always been one of my biggest challenges. There’s red tape to handle, there are schedules to deal with and sometimes the answer is “No, because reasons”.

Google Tag Manager takes all that hassle away from you. It can be a bit of a learning curve to get events, virtual pageviews and forms tracking properly (see my forthcoming Event Tracking In Google Tag Manager Guide for a cheatsheet), but it’s time well spent and once it’s done, you have nothing to worry about.

Once you know what you’re doing, it only takes a few minutes to set up events or other kinds of tracking through Tag Manager and, once the container tag is in place, you can eliminate all the red tape; it’s all you. For marketers that aren’t also developers or agencies without site access, that’s really liberating.

Even on my own websites where I have full control – and I know my way around the Google Analytics JavaScript – I’d rather do it this way because, after a long day, the last thing I want to do is mess around with code when I’m supposed to be writing.

Why We Love Google Tag Manager

As I’ve mentioned previously, there are a number of other tag managers out there, so why do the White Space team like Google Tag Manager so much?

Firstly, it’s completely free. Normally when you get free software, it’s full of ads or it’s a really cut down version of the premium iteration. Google offer enterprise-grade kit for nothing. Now I’m not assuming for a nanosecond that this isn’t a play to make it easier for you to spend more on some AdWords features like remarketing which may have taken you months to get going with if you had to go through development processes, but that’s by the by. With a good company managing your PPC for you, this just makes using what you want to use easier and it makes things cheaper for our clients as they’re only paying for our time with no additional software costs. Transparency is a beautiful thing.

Secondly, it’s uptime: with all your tracking codes being fired from an external server rather than your own, how confident can you be that the server won’t go down, leading to lost data? With some of the other providers, I’m not massively confident, but Google have server farms all over the world that are bigger than some towns. I think we’ll be alright.

Finally, it’s just pure ease of use. If you’ve ever used any Google software like Analytics, Webmaster Tools, AdWords or even Google Docs/ Drive, the interface will be reasonably familiar. Although tracking some of the more advanced elements can be a bit of a pain to set up if you don’t really dig into the way it works, everything else is a snap. And believe me when I say, we’ve done our research. There is literally nothing that we haven’t managed to track with Google Tag Manager and a bit of perseverance.

Why We Use It

We recommend Google Tag Manager and use it on as many client sites as we can because of the flexibility, security and adaptability that it brings to every campaign, allowing us to cut out the red tape and focus on providing our clients with the actionable data analysis and insights that they deserve, on time, every time.

If that sounds like something your business would be interested in, get in touch now.

How about you? Are you still popping all your tracking codes on the page or have you made the switch to a tag manager? Drop us a comment and let us know.

Ben Johnston

Ben Johnston

Ben is the Digital Planner for White Space. Coming from a copywriting background, Ben has led SEO teams for several years and is now responsible for devising and implementing SEO, PPC, analytics and content strategies across our client base. If you're interested in reading more from him, you can keep up with his blog at ben-johnston.co.uk or see him complaining about things on Twitter.

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