should you be using google tag manager

One of the great things that happened to online marketers over the past decade is the proliferation of tools.

Data that used to be exclusive to Fortune 500 companies became available to the general marketing community. Techniques like split testing became widespread. And recently, the ability to manage and enhance tools via tag management became just about free with Google Tag Manager or GTM.

That said, just because something is free to use doesn’t mean it’s right for you.

GTM may be free from a license standpoint, but it can get more technical to implement than standard web site analytics tools, survey packages, and split testing tools.

To understand whether Google Tag Manager (or some other tag management platform) is right for you now, you need to understand what the tool can help with, and how technical each given thing is, so you can make the decision yourself.

So why would you need Google Tag Manager?

1. You have multiple tracking scripts that you need to centralize

Lots of web sites have multiple scripts to manage and maintain.

One of the most basic use cases of GTM is that you can load all your scripts on GTM, and only the GTM code will be placed on your site for those tools/scripts.

What this allows for is ease of access. Rather than checking multiple areas of your site to see if they have all the right scripts, you can just check if a few pieces of code are there.

The rest, you just need to check on the GTM interface, and that’s something an analyst can do without the help of IT.

How beneficial is this?

This can speed up your ability to deploy and diagnose tools, but it’s not going to give you any data that you couldn’t otherwise get. This is a nifty technique to manage codes, but it’s nothing to write home about.

How difficult is this to execute?

This is dead simple.

You don’t need to know javascript or understand regular expressions – you’ll just be loading scripts directly to GTM, and the GTM code to the site.

2. Tools and tags change often and you need speed

If your scripts change a lot, or some of them need to get deployed only on particular areas of the web site, GTM becomes more attractive.

The beauty of GTM in cases like this is you have what are called “triggers.” That is, the GTM script can be available everywhere, but your tools can fire only where they need to based on conditions you set. You can meet needs like the ones below:

  • Different surveys for different subdomains or web site sections
  • Different analytics scripts that only fire on a subset of your pages
  • Scripts that fire from the same analytics tool based on URL conditions

How beneficial is this?

You wouldn’t get any data from this that you wouldn’t get from manual tweaks on the site.

That said, the more complex your tools and scripts become, the more you’ll benefit from this. If you have a single web site analytics tracking code that fires everywhere, you’re not going to need this badly. If you have more than that, it’s time to evaluate using GTM.

How difficult is this to execute?

Making scripts fire based on “triggers” is slightly more complex than just getting a piece of code to fire everywhere, but not by much. This is still fairly simple, without you needing to write javascript or regular expressions, or copying and testing from areas like stack overflow.

3. You need to track PDFs centrally using Google Analytics

Some tools like WebTrends automatically track things like PDFs based on your site script. For tools like Google Analytics, however, you need to set up events for PDFs. And those can be a pain to manage if you’re adding individual scripts to each PDF link.

This is where GTM shines.

You can essentially set up a tag that listens for clicks, and a trigger that makes the tag fire if it meets a condition. In this case, that condition is “contains .pdf,” although you can tweak the condition slightly and make it listen for “mailto” links for email, or “tel” links for phone number clicks.

How beneficial is this?

This is extremely useful. Tagging each PDF link with an event script is a pain, and it’s a maintenance nightmare. That method is prone to errors and a huge time sink, and this solves a lot of problems.

If you factor in not just PDF events but also “mailto” and “tel” events, this gives Google Analytics a ton of useful data that it wouldn’t normally have.

How difficult is this to execute?

Unfortunately, this is significantly more technical than the first two use cases.

Review LunaMetrics’s blog post on GTM auto event tracking to see if your organization has the technical chops to pull this off.

Do the Benefits Outweigh the Costs?

Think of those three use cases as samplers – there’s more you can do with GTM, like tracking YouTube embed interaction, outbound links, and the sources of 404 errors.

Every organization is different, so you’ll have to honestly examine the analytics and IT firepower in your company and see if …

  • … you don’t need GTM at all for now,
  • … you want to dabble with just basic tags and triggers, or
  • … you want to go long on GTM and set up PDF tracking, email clicks, and a host of more advanced functions.

There’s nothing wrong with not implementing a tool like GTM, but if you’re just dabbling for now, it might not hurt to start with tags that fire everywhere first.

You can work your way up from there.

Learn how to configure Google Search Console to get more early stage data.

Click here to read Google Search Console Tricks to Monitor Early Stage Conversions.