3 Reasons why I might just be in love with Tag Manager

Are you missing a little something special in your life? Tired of language that you think means one thing, but evidently means something else entirely? Things just not looking as nice as they did a few years ago, if you catch my drift? No, this isn’t a glowing endorsement for a new SEO-oriented dating service (though SEO Mingle may be a brilliant idea, stashing that one away for the future), but instead some thoughts and ideas as to why Google’s Tag Manager is something that you should be using right now if you aren’t already. It all begins with the fact that…

1. There’s very little need to touch any code

Having a developer or programmer on your team is always a wonderful thing, but sometimes the SEO bug catches you by surprise and you want to do x thing right now. But wait, says that inner voice in your head, that would require proper analytics set up, code snippets stashed away on all of your pages that need constant updates and tweaks, and who knows how much time Googling furiously for those snippets you’re looking for because html is just not fun.

Step aside friends; Tag Manager is here to help you.

After creating a Tag Manager account, Google will spit out a single code snippet that you place on your website pages. This is pretty easy to do yourself, but if the thought of opening up the Matrix-esque dashboard that is your website chills you to the core, ask that friendly programmer friend of yours to do it for you. When he or she inevitably groans about the idea of yet another phase of your code snippet madness requests, reassure him or her with the utmost confidence that this will be the only snippet you need.

One of the wonderful aspects of Tag Manager is that it only requires one snippet of code for it to be able to start working its glorious magic. After taking the bit of code they give you and putting it onto your pages just after the <body> tag, further adjustments from the dashboard will automatically update that tag for you without any need to go in and tweak it yourself.

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The Dashboard: Where the magic happens

Creating new tags to track things is as simple as clicking that big, impossible-to-miss ‘New Tag’ button, wherein Google will hold your hand and walk you through the process of each necessary step to get your fantastic, shiny, metric-measuring tag ready to start spitting delicious data back at you.

If you noticed that nifty little ‘Triggers’ button on the side, good for you! Triggers will become one of your good friends through use of Tag Manager. When a trigger is created it sits in the background, just waiting to catch somebody in the act of doing whatever it is you told it to watch for. When that happens it’ll (presumably) shout loudly to whatever tags are interested in listening to it that x thing happened, which can trigger (see, trigger, make sense?) your tags to report that data for you.

Finally, the ‘Variables’ button just under ‘Triggers’ was created for the sole purpose of saving you time. They’re capable of some wonderfully complex things, but for the purpose of this post we’ll be sticking with the basics.

Can’t remember what your Analytics ID is? Store it in a variable! Tired of typing out a long website url that you have to keep referencing? Toss that baby in a variable! By saving things like this that you reference often as a variable, you’ll be able to reference that piece of information down the road with a simple {{variablenamehere}}. Not only are you saving copious amounts of time this way, but you’re also postponing inevitable arthritis by giving your fingers a rest! Win-win!

“Arthritis isn’t fun. We’ll help you.” – {{Variables}}

Speaking of saving time, you know how debugging your code snippets can be a hassle and generally terrible? Well…

2. There’s a live debug/preview mode

Finding out if your analytics tracking code is firing correctly can sometimes be like playing a game of Where’s Waldo where Waldo faces commitment issues; maybe he’s there, maybe he decided not to show up in that panel for the day.

Tag Manager takes the guesswork out of this. No longer will you have to cross your fingers and pray to the SEO gods that everything worked while nearly breaking the refresh button of your Google Analytics account for any sign of a change.

Behold, live preview mode:

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Your tags, triggers, and events will pop up onto the preview screen in real time, on the page that you want to test it on. No need to cross-check other websites to see if it’s populated correctly, and no need for constant refreshing of the page. In fact, you can navigate around your website as you normally would and keep this handy tool docked to the bottom of your page to get insights for every page you visit.

Troubleshooting specific pages is as easy as clicking your way towards them, and if you made a tag that was supposed to fire on a page that didn’t for whatever reason, Google points it out in the preview/debugging dashboard to let you know that it didn’t.

All of the information you could possibly need is presented to you in one neat, easy-to-access window that hangs out at the bottom of your page, practically begging for the opportunity to throw whatever info you’re looking for at you.

Speaking of throwing data at you…

3. It easily integrates with your existing data tools

So I’ve gone on about how great Google Tag Manager is now for quite a while, and I’m sure by now you’re thinking, “Well I mean that’s great and all, but what good is a standalone extra tool to add to my already enormous list of marketing tools?” That, friend, is an excellent thought, and true to its form Tag Manager has you covered there too.

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Google doesn’t share my enthusiasm expressed via exclamation point

Chances are your first go-to product choice is going to be Google Analytics; I don’t blame you, having everything in one place and integrated successfully makes everyone happy. Once you manage to tear your attention away from that trusty first icon, go ahead and take a look at the bunch that surround it – pretty wonderful, right? This list is expanding as time goes on, so count on even more tools to be added through eventually too. Not seeing the one you need? There’s an app custom HTML option for that.

Back to Analytics, as it’s arguably one of the most important on the list. Events that you make within Tag Manager (once linked with your Analytics account) will automatically populate there for you. These act like any other events in your account, and therefore can be compared/graphed/analyzed/gawked at to your heart’s content.

With all that said, there’s still a ton about Tag Manager that I didn’t cover. We didn’t even touch on the Data Layer, which is as potentially useful as it is sci-fi sounding. Ultimately Tag Manager is a useful tool that manages to not only make my job easier, but does so in a way that’s responsive and fun. Learn more from Google about it here.

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Taylor is a digital strategist at JSO Digital. He graduated from Millersville University, and currently resides in rural Pennsylvania.