Take Control of Tagging With Google Tag Manager (Part 1 of 3)

Adding third-party tags to your website is part and parcel of being a digital practitioner. Let's get started by exploring four key areas.

It is estimated that there are 630 tracking technologies across 200 third-party advertisers! With numbers like these, it’s guaranteed that tagging lies somewhere in your future. In that case, this three-part series on Google Tag Manager is for you.

Adding third-party tags to your website is part and parcel of being a digital practitioner. Tags are needed to track user analytics, record advertising conversions, set remarketing cookies, personalize site experience, and so on. You may believe you have all the tags that you need on your site, but the proliferation of tags continues with the fragmentation of advertising networks and the constant introduction of new players.

A tag-heavy world poses three problems:

  1. Painful deployments: IT will always be a bottleneck in getting new tags deployed. The bottleneck gets tighter if you also require passing dynamic values to the tags.
  2. Managing complexity: How does an organization easily manage multiple tags across multiple websites and multiple stakeholders?
  3. Poor user experience: Every tag adds to the weight of your pages and can cause slower page load times.

Tag management solutions were introduced seven years ago to address these problems. These solutions, however, were cost-prohibitive for those with limited digital budgets. The recent introduction of Google Tag Manager opens tag management to the masses, thanks to its $0 price tag.

Let’s get started with Google Tag Manager today and explore four key areas:

  1. Creating a Google Tag Manager account.
  2. Setting up your first container.
  3. Implementing an AdWords Conversion Tracking tag.
  4. Implementing a Facebook Conversion Pixel.

Step 1: Create a Google Tag Manager account

1. Head over to http://www.google.com/tagmanager

2. Click on the “Sign In” link. Chances are you already have a Google account that you use to sign in to Google Analytics or AdWords. You can use the same account for Google Tag Manager.

3. Alternatively, click on the “Sign up now” button if you don’t have a Google account or wish to create a separate account for Google Tag Manager.

4. Name your account and click Next. The name of your account should correspond with your organization or business unit name. If you are an agency, avoid using a shared account, and create a new account for each client.

Step 2: Set up your first container

Now that you have activated Google Tag Manager, it’s time to create your first tag container. The container is what will replace all your on-page tags.

1. Give your container a name. I prefer to use the domain name as the naming convention. If you have multiple domains, then you should create one container per domain.

2. Set the timezone for your container.

3. Expand the Domains section and list out all the domains that this container would sit on. This is an optional step, but comes in handy later when you start to preview and debug your container changes. As convention, I add the following:

  • Domain name with www
  • Domain name without www
  • Domain names for test servers

4. Next, you’ll be presented with the JavaScript snippet for your newly created container. Provide this snippet to your webmaster, and ask them to paste it on every page for the domain, and to position it just after the opening <body> tag.

5. Click on “I’ll add tags later.”

Step 3: Implement an AdWords Conversion Tracking tag

You will now be at your container overview screen. It’s time to add the first tag to your container. Let’s start by adding an AdWords conversion tracking tag.

Let’s assume you already have a tag from AdWords, and that your conversion page sits on thankyou.html. All you need is the Conversion ID and Conversion Label from your tag.

1. Click on the “New Tag” button.

2. In the “Tag Type” dropdown list, select “AdWords Conversion Tracking.”

3. Give your tag a name.

4. Add the Conversion ID and Conversion Label values into their respective fields.

5. Next we need to set the rules for when this tag fires. If there are no rules set, then the tag will never execute on your site. Click on the “+ Add Rule to Fire Tag” button.

6. Click on “Create new rule.”

7. Give your rule a name.

8. Now you have to specify the conditions under which this tag fires. In this simple scenario the tag only fires if the visitor lands on thankyou.html. To set this we simply say “{{url}} contains thankyou.html.” We can create more complex rules, but that will be an exercise for another time.

9. Click on “Save.”

10. You will now be taken back to the tag setup screen. Review the information to check that you have the right tag settings and have the appropriate rules in play. Then click “Save.”

11. You will be taken back to the container overview screen, which now shows the new tag that you just created.

Step 4: Implement a Facebook Conversion Pixel

If you are running ads on Facebook, the recent good news  is that you can track on-site conversions with its new conversion pixel. Follow these instructions to generate your pixel. Now you’re ready to throw it into Google Tag Manager.

1. Click on “New Tag.”

2. In the “Tag Type” dropdown list, select “Custom HTML Tag.” Since there is no preset template for the Facebook conversion pixel, we need to use the Custom HTML Tag template. You can place any valid HTML (including JavaScript code) in this template. It’s a great template for throwing any JavaScript into your container.

3. Paste your Facebook conversion pixel code into the “HTML” box.

4. Add the “Thank You page” rule that you created in the last section to the Firing Rules.

5. Click “Save.”

Step 5: Publish your new tags

You have just created two new tags, but these tags are not yet live. You will need to create a new version of your container, and then publish it, for Google Tag Manager to start serving the new tags.

1. In the container overview screen, click on the “Create Version” button.

2. You have just created a new version of your container that now contains the new tags. Before you publish it, you can preview this version on your site. In Preview mode, only you see the new tag behavior, and the rest of your site visitors are not affected.


3. Once you are satisfied that the tag works as intended in preview mode, you can click on the “Publish” button.

4. A warning dialog will pop up to inform you that any publishes you make will be added to the publish history, which in turn is viewable by all users who have access to this account. Click “Yes” to proceed.

7. Voila! You have just deployed your first live container with two conversion tracking tags that will fire on your conversion page.

What next?

Setting up your first Google Tag Manager container is quite easy once you know the steps. Before my next post, I’d like you to do the following:

  1. Create a Google Tag Manager account.
  2. Create your first container.
  3. Get your webmaster to add the container snippet across all pages on your site.
  4. Experiment with deploying tags across your pages.

In my next article I will touch upon the advanced features of Google Tag Manager: the dataLayer and Macros.


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