In case you need a simple and convenient way to track your online marketing, Google Tag Manager could be the best solution available free of charge.

Marketing and customer outreach are not secondary functions for a company – these areas are essential for good financial results, and can’t be left to chance. The best way to approach these tasks is to use the available data to track results and make adjustments in real time, something that would be very difficult to pull off back in the analogue times. One of the best digital tools that can be used to this end is Google Tag Manager, an advanced tag management system that allows unified following of your online imprint on multiple Google-owned platforms, including AdWords.

This system operates on a simple principle, tracking tags contained on various points of your website, for example on the landing page or purchase confirmation page. Each domain is assigned a separate ‘container’, with a number of tags to be followed defined within it, allowing Google to collect the selected types of data and display it in an aggregated form. It is an immensely practical system that doesn’t take a genius to setup or manage, since the technical side is handled almost completely automatically.

Here is what you need to know if you want to start using this excellent marketing aid:

Basic rules of thumb

Google advises that each company controls only a single Tag Manager account in order to ensure clarity and prevent confusion. That doesn’t mean a single person needs to take sole responsibility and it is possible to get various levels of access for the same account, although it certainly helps to have someone who is totally in command. However, one account can be used to manage multiple websites owned by the same company, with the provision it would be necessary to setup separate ‘containers’ for every domain you’d like to follow.

As you might expect, the system can cover both web and mobile applications, although the method of implementation is not identical – web applications are tracked with a container snippet, while on the mobile platforms the system relies on an SDK. In both cases, you have a lot of freedom to decide which variables to monitor and can adjust the structure of your container to match the operational model of your online business. This combination of simplicity and flexibility really sets Google Tag Manager above any other analytics assistant and allows practically every company to take advantage of it.

First login and initial setup

If you have never used Google Tag Manager before, the first step on your agenda is to create an account, which isn’t really all that different than creating an account for any other electronic service, although having a Google account is necessary. Once you have done that, you will be asked to define key parameters to track within the Setup Container dialogue box, which is also where you need to decide between various types of containers (Web, iOS or Android).

Once the container is created, it will display a unique code (known as a ‘snippet’) that needs to be copied to your website. The code should be placed after the opening tag on every page you want to be tracked. If you are unsure whether you’ve done this successfully, it is possible to enter a preview mode and see how everything looks. Another great monitoring tool that can help verify your setup is the extension for the Chrome browser that lets you follow the action from an interface you are already familiar with and use daily.

Managing your tags

Before your setup is fully operational, you also need to select what tags (events) you want your new container to look for. To do this, you should select the ‘New Tag’ option from the container and define its type, as well as the triggers associated with it. You can add new tags, edit the existing ones or remove those that are no longer needed at any time, as long as you remember to click ‘Publish’ when you are done tinkering with the list.

Of course, it is a smart practice to test your website after every change you make, just to ensure that everything is working just as planned. A debugging tool is also at your disposal, so there is no reason to leave any loose ends hanging. It goes without saying that your understanding of the system will improve with time while your business needs might change, so it is unlikely that you will keep the initial configuration intact forever. Since it is so simple and intuitive to tweak your Tag Manager containers to fit present shape and form of your endeavors, you can sharpen the analytic capacities under your control as you go.

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