Google Tag Manager: A Step-By-Step Guide

Google Tag Manager

[Last Updated on December 2013]

The more useful and relevant your site becomes, the worse it may actually perform. This happens because websites are continuously adding tags to enhance their tracking, optimization or other functionality; this ends up crowding pages with third party tags and may slower the website.

For this reason, the Google Tag Manager, a free solution for tag management, is very welcomed, especially by Marketers. In the past, everything was controlled by webmasters, including website tracking, which was highly technical as it required dealing with log files. Then, in 2005, Google made the JavaScript method widely available with Google Analytics, but it still required a technical integration by webmasters as it required adding codes to the website.

With Google Tag Manager, marketers will be able to add, edit or remove marketing and measurement tags without the intervention of webmasters. This will speed the process from the marketing perspective and will free webmasters to work on other important tasks.

Google Tag Manager Structure - Accounts, Containers & Tags

The structure used by Google Tag Manager is very similar to the one used by Google Analytics. In Analytics we have accounts that can contain several Web Properties (usually one per website) which can contain several profiles. Below is the hierarchy used by Google Tag Manager:


The top-most level of organization. Typically, only one account is needed per company. Tags for all the company’s websites can be managed from this account by creating new containers. In order to create an account visit and signup for the product.

To create additional accounts, sign in to your existing account, click on "Accounts List" (found on the drop-down on the top-left corner of the page) and click on the "New Account" button shown in the screenshot below.

Adding an account to Google Tag Manager

You will be asked to fill in the account name, whether it will be used for We of Mobile Apps, the container name, the time zone and the domains that will be used. As a best practice, the account name should always be the name of the company while the container name should always be the website using this container.


A container holds all the tags for a specific website; as mentioned above it should be named after the website it is being used for. To create a new container select an account and click on the "New Container" button on the top-right corner of the page as shown in the screenshot below.

Creating a new Container on Google Tag Manager

You will need to add the container name, time zone and domain.


Once you create a container, you can start creating tags for your website. Google provides a few templates for its own tags, but it also allows custom tags to be used. Below are some of the tags supported by the tool, for an explanation about each of them, as well as a complete list, check this help center article:

  • AdWords Conversion Tracking
  • DoubleClick Floodlight Counter
  • DoubleClick Floodlight Sales
  • Universal Analytics
  • GDN Remarketing
  • Custom Image Tags
  • Custom HTML Tags
  • In order to add a tag to a container, navigate to the container, choose the tags section and click on the "New Tag" button on the top-right corner of your screen. See indications in screenshot below:

    Adding tags to Google Tag Manager

    You will then reach the tag page. In this page you will be able to chose between the different tag types described above. As I wrote above, Google created templates for its own tags in order to minimize the possibility of errors.

    Once you decide which tag to add, you will be prompted with a few details to fill for each tag type: e.g. Conversion ID and Conversion Label for AdWords Conversion Tracking or Web Property ID, Cookie Path and Track Type for Google Analytics. You will also be able to click on "Add Rule to Fire Tag" as seen below:

    Tag Manager rule

    The rule will define the conditions under which the tag is fired. For tags that should appear in all pages of the website (like Google Analytics) a rule can be created to URLs that match a Regular Expression ".*" Another common usage would be to add tags to the conversion page only, so you might want to add a rule for an URL that equals the page address. For more information on rules and macros check this help article.

    Publishing & Versions

    Once tags are added to a container they are not automatically published, they must be "manually" published. Publishing is always linked to a container version, which is a snapshot of the container that can be made at any time.

    If you click on the "Versions" left navigation menu, you can check versions by clicking on the numbers; it will take you to a page summarizing all tags included in this version and the rules applied to them. This is an excellent way to keep the tags organized for troubleshooting tagging problems.

    Tag Manager versions

    Users & Permissions

    Users are added to accounts and, by default, have "No access" to all containers in the account. For each container, there are four types of user access:

    1. No access: user does not see the container listed in the account.
    2. View only: user sees the container listed and may browse the tags, rules, and macros in the container, but cannot edit them.
    3. View and Edit: user may add and edit tags, rules, and macros in the container.
    4. View, Edit, Delete and Publish: user may add, edit, and delete tags, rules, and macros in the container as well as publish changes to the live site.
      1. In order to manage user access see the indications in the screenshot below.

        Google Tag Manager user access

        Closing Thoughts

        In summary, the Google Tag Manager is an important tool for online businesses, it makes marketing and measurement easier and more secure. In the words of Google:

        "Google Tag Manager allows you to conveniently manage tags (such as tracking and marketing optimization tags) on your site. You can add and update AdWords, Google Analytics, Floodlight and non-Google tags from the Google Tag Manager user interface instead of editing site code. This reduces errors, frees you from having to involve a webmaster, and allows you to quickly deploy tags on your site."

        Related Tag Management Content

        1. Tag Management Systems and Website Innovation
        2. The Inevitability of the Tag Management System
        3. Tag Management Systems by Josh Manion (Ensighten) [video]

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