When and How to Use Google Tag Manager for Google Analytics

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

One of our sharpest web analysts, Andy Gibson, recently wrote a blog post about Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics Premium for Enterprises on a high level and the value behind these tools, especially when used together.  From this, I was inspired to dive deeper to explain the value of Google Tag Manager for Google Analytics implementation.  Note: the when and how to use Google Tag Manager for Google Analytics will not be super technical but some tech background might be beneficial.

 Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics Tag

Let’s start with the When

Working with tons of different digital marketers in the past, I feel there is a common paradox that occurs when thinking about upgrading digital properties with new technology.  The thought is, “This new technology is awesome and would be so helpful but ahhh! I don’t want to overhaul my site AGAIN!”.  It’s true, implementing Google Tag Manger (and any Tag Management System for that matter) is a huge undertaking upfront, no doubt.  Adding the container tag to every page of the site is one thing but to remove all other tags off the source and implement through Google Tag Manager?  Well, that’s a whole ‘nother animal!  But here’s a simple equation to explain why its worth it:

To update marketing tags directly on site/source code ongoing (not using Tag Management System) requires:

  • One marketer: Making marketing decisions monthly at five hours a month
  • One developer: To make code changes requested by marketing at five hours a month
  • This will always be five hours a month from each team member to maintain tags and update them, so a total of 120 hours between the two team members year over year.

To implement and update a tag management system such as Google Tag Manager:

  • One marketer: Making marketing decisions and implementing the changes through the Tag Management System with tag templates and easy interface, we’ll say monthly at five ours a month
  • One developer: Initially implement Tag Management System, deploy all tags through the Tag Management System, and remove all tags from the site’s source code will be a one time investment of 50 hours to complete.
  • So total time investment with this method is 50 developer hours once + five hours/month for marketer to maintain and update tags, so a total of 110 hours between the two team members the first year, BUT then only 60 hours total for just the marketer to maintain the Tag Management System, add tags, update tags and improve digital marketing on-site.

So why did I show you that calculation?  To answer when. When should you implement Google Tag Manager? How about now? There’s certainly no time like the present!  Or at least when considering updating your site and/or tags you use on your site.  When you know you need to update your website source code, marketing and analytics tools or on-site tags, you should consider moving to a Tag Management System like Google Tag Manager.  One nifty way to know whether your site needs Google Tag Manager for Google Analytics specifically is to check if Google Analytics is missing from any pages on your site (aka needing manual code implementation that Google Tag Manager would replace).  We have a free tool to do just this, check out Tag Inspector!

Tag Inspector Tool

Now the How

Okay so it’s one thing to want Google Tag Manager, know you need Google Tag Manager, and set up your Google Tag Manager account, but it’s another to actually implement it correctly.  I’m going to cheat a little and skip straight to Google and Justin Cutroni because they can guide you best, check out this Google support page and the video below from J. Cutroni.  

As I said in the introduction paragraph, this post is not totally technical but technical background would be beneficial, and here’s the techy part of this post.  Implementing Google Tag Manager on your site is easy by just putting the container snipper immediately after the opening <body> tag of each page.  The trick is knowing how to set up the Google Analytics tag.  Luckily there is a tag template in the Google Tag Manager interface you can follow that gives you ALL the options you would have had with your previous Google Analytics implementation and NOW, Google Tag Manager even works with older on site code for event tracking, virtual pageviews, and cross domain tracking.

Here’s our recommended settings for regular Google analytics tag template at the very minimum:

InfoTrust Google Analytics Tag in Google Tag Manager

Fun Notes about the Google Analytics tag template:

1. Regular Google Analytics event tracking works with Google Tag Manager, but it is extremely discouraged and can get sloppy.  Though its not recommended, you won’t need to retag any of your custom events set up on site!  Simply enable the “Tracker Name” option for all legacy Google Analytics event tracking to be tracked, see more information here.  However, Google really emphasizes using the Data Layer new method, as its much more scalable and we support that recommendation.

2. Remarketing, enhanced link attribution, and cross domain tracking GA code modifications are all completed with a few simple checkboxes and options with the Google Analytics tag template!  As you can see from the screenshot above, all those options are enabled and set up ready to go out of box.

On the horizon:

Google is making updates to Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics at record speed lately.  One update that is coming soon that we are thrilled to learn about is Google Tag Manager for mobile apps.  Currently Google is whitelisting this feature to Google Analytics Certified Partners and Google Tag Manager Specialists only (both of which InfoTrust qualifies) but once we know more about the feature, better believe we’ll share how to leverage the functionality!

For now, I highly recommend understanding if Google Tag Manager and/or implementing a tag management system is right for your business by using Tag Inspector and seeing what tags are firing across your site (and where they might be missing!).



Test Your Implementation!


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Last Updated: July 10, 2013

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