Google Tag Manager (GTM): What Do I Need To Know?

Google Tag Manager Facts

Cardinal Path article
Google Tag Manager was released about a year ago, and recent updates have made it a much more valuable addition to a digital marketer's toolkit, and here's why.

The real power of GTM is in being able to pull in customized data to your audience intelligence systems, like Google Analytics, without having to write any JavaScript. Now your business analysts can go ahead and identify the tracking requirements, and deploy the tracking code, without having to go through a programmer or the IT shop. As long as one GTM container tag is on the page, everything can be managed through the GTM Web interface.

The revolution is in making this capability accessible. This is a classic "empower the front line" move by Google that turns everyone into a programmer, without having to be able to write code. It has been said that good programmers write great code, but great programmers write code that writes great code, and Google Tag Manager is just this, an application that writes great code.

5 Important Facts About Google Tag Manager

  1. GTM is designed to enable rapid deployment of tracking for Websites and all digital assets, often by non-technical personnel.
  2. GTM has a web interface that allows you to inject new tracking code into your digital assets, and this happens dynamically (when you make a change to tracking in GTM it can be pushed live onto the Website or into the deployed mobile app instantly).
  3. GTM is not simply a "tag container", it is the deployment vehicle and integrator for Google Analytics (Universal Analytics), Google Adwords, Doubleclick Floodlight, MediaPlex, AdRoll, Marin, AdAdvisor, Bizo Insight, ComScore, Media6Degrees, ClickTale, and any other tracking pixel or HTML/JavaScript.
  4. GMT is no "silver bullet" and advanced tracking still requires that all the tracking code on the site be checked for conflicts and sequencing issues (an object must be loaded before it is referenced, see this GTM sequencing article). In addition, the data layer must be complete to ensure the data can be pulled in through GTM (particularly with mobile app tracking), this is where the IT shop will need to concentrate its "fire power".
  5. GTM is elegantly designed around:
    • Tags (one tag for each digital measurement technology deployed)
    • Rules (determines when the tags will fire)
    • Macros (allows for more complex logic to be easily referenced by GTM tags and rules)

Google Tag Manager architecture

Google Tag Manager Importance

In terms of Google's competitive position, GTM is very strategic because it will help to ensure the quality of data for Google customers, and it will also reduce the complexity, time, and cost barriers to deploying measurement capability across an organization's digital assets.

Google Analytics Premium and Adobe Marketing Cloud are going toe-to-toe in developing marketing and analytics technology, and now both have a tag management system (TMS) – shortly after the release of GTM, Adobe acquired Satellite TMS. Obviously both companies see that "ease of deployment and maintenance" of their digital measurement systems as important to their customers. Also, for the large enterprise, GTM will be covered under the Google Analytics Premium service level agreement (SLA), so very predictable technical performance levels for GTM can be expected for these customers.

Closing Thoughts

In summary, congratulations to Google on this very elegant application, and thanks for making it free! This heats up the competition in the digital marketing space, and paves the way for organizations to innovate and streamline their operations around the new GTM paradigm.

Fast and light deployments of digital measurement code will help organizations remain "agile" (or become agile), and the ability to pivot quickly and begin measuring new audience behaviors and interactions with the organization's digital assets is a competitive advantage... Know Thy Customer!

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Steven J Fromm | November 2013

Very interesting, if not daunting. Not sure I know enough to do the GTM thing but I learned a lot from your post. I am going to dig into this more to see how it works and if I can work it. Thanks.

Mark | December 2013

What I'd like to know is if Google Tag manager has any performance hit on your site. Google is reknowned for slow loading apps and scripts, so before implementing Tag Manager I'd want to be sure it's not going to be another drag on site performance.

Scott Shannon | January 2014

Hi Mark,

Good question.

GTM is built using asynchronous technology, meaning that the GTM container and the tags and pixels contained within are loaded in parallel with other elements on the page including graphics. So, as long as you are using a modern Web browser that supports true asynchronous behavior, there will be no added load time to the page in most cases.

It should be said that if you have poor quality custom Javascript, or excessive dependencies in your code you can slow things down. Here is some cutting edge information about high availability architecture, and on page coding best practices for fast loading pages: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JB4ulhFFdH4&feature=colike

Hope this helps!

~Scott Shannon

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