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Why you need Google Tag Manager and how to get it

Behind each page on your website there’s probably quite a lot of code doing things the visitors can’t see. Examples include the code necessary for visitor tracking (e.g. Google Analytics), remarketing and more. If you want to change this, or add new items of code, you have to go back to the designer and get the site-wide template changed. Wouldn’t it be good if you could do that yourself, or even make the designer’s job much easier? Enter Google Tag Manager.

Tag Manager is a smart – and free – service from Google which can replace vast amounts of code (or ‘tags’) on your website with one small piece. This short snippet of code then tells Tag Manager to deliver all the code which you want to be delivered with each page. Crucially, you now specify what that code is externally. It’s a lot easier than playing with the website templates.

So why didn’t your website designer include Google Tag Manager on your site? The obvious answer might be “because you didn’t ask them to”, but to be honest, if they’re going to be responsible for ongoing maintenance, it’d make their lives easier, so you’d think they’d suggest it anyway. The usual reason is sheer ignorance. Trust me, on about 50% of website redesigns I see, Google Analytics code gets missed off, because many designers neither know nor care about such things. The first most clients know about this is when they look up how the traffic is doing on their shiny new site, and it appears to have dropped to zero …because it’s no longer being recorded. A website designer who doesn’t even ask whether you use website visitor analytics is hardly likely to be one which suggests using Google Tag Manager.

Faced with this sort of unprofessionalism, the responsibility falls to you to ask for it. Indeed, doing so at the outset is a good way of weeding out the guys who will provide you with a pretty site from the ones who’ll give you an effective one.

There are more reasons to use Google Tag Manager than just smarter code maintenance in the future, however. The system will:

  • Help speed up your site slightly, because of the efficient way Google Tag Manager operates;
  • Help make your site more secure, by not having different bits of code all over the place;
  • Allow non-programmers (like you?) to add and maintain many features;
  • Allow you to simply add special triggers to the site, such as tracking clicks and use of various elements.

This last point is a real bonus, because with Google Tag Manager you can easily set up things like measuring views of PDF documents, or video plays. For that alone, it’s worth installing.

You really should have Google Tag Manager running. If you’re not sure whether you have it or not, check the source code and search for ‘googletagmanager’. Then ask your web designer if they can install it – this is not a big job (usually under an hour’s work, I find, and I’m no coding expert) – and use it to deliver your analytics code and any other suitable code on the site, such as remarketing and AdWords conversion tracking.

If your designer reckons it’s a big job, or doesn’t like the idea at all, be skeptical. It may mean they haven’t done this before, and either don’t want to learn, or want you to pay for them to find out how to do it. That’s not good enough.