There seems to be some confusion between Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager. In this post, I will discuss what Google Tag Manager is and what role it plays in Google Analytics.
Google Tag Manager (GTM) is a free software tool from Google that allows you to deploy various types of code on your website without hard coding each individual page. For example, you can use GTM to easily deploy various types of tracking code, including Google AdWords conversion coding, Google Analytics tracking code, Google Analytics event coding, conversion pixels and remarketing pixels. There are many more types of code that can be deployed using GTM, including custom coding.
GTM does not replace Google Analytics. Instead, it helps users to easily deploy tracking code, enabling Google Analytics to track various types of information, including conversions. Prior to GTM, the code that GA tracks would have to be hard coded, usually by a web developer, on each individual page.
Consider event tracking within Google Analytics. (Here, an “event” means a single action, such as a user clicking a button on your homepage.) In order to track how many times an event occurs, you would need to hard code it into the element you’re tracking on your website. Within Universal Analytics, event tracking code could look something like this:
ga(‘send’, ‘event’, ‘homepage’, ‘click’, ‘form submit button’);
This line of code tells Google Analytics to track when that event happens, and record it in Google Analytics.
Why is this such a hard thing to do? Can’t you just ask your IT department to code your page for button clicks and move on?
Sure, but let’s say you need to track 8 other buttons on your homepage, which means 8 additional lines of code that need to be created and programmed into the crucial coding of your website, and it needs to be done quickly because of a new promotion your company is embarking on. With Google Tag Manager, there is no need to panic. You can conveniently create what’s known as a “Tag” for each of the 8 buttons and create “Rules” for each that tell the “Tag” when to “fire.” In other words, tell Google Analytics what to record (the Tag) and when to record it (the Rule).
All of this is done within the GTM interface so there is no need to worry your IT department about having full access to the code of your company’s website (if they would even give it to you), or wait for your IT department to implement the code, because it can not only be created and executed from the GTM interface, but you can also test the code yourself to make sure the events (in this case) are working properly before you publish the “Tag” to your website.
The benefit, of course, is that instead of waiting for your IT department to create 8 different lines of code, verifying with you that they are correct, waiting again for them to insert the code into the website, and then testing to make sure they are working properly, you can do all of it yourself within minutes from the GTM interface.
Then, you can track these events within Google Analytics, as per usual.