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Tag, You’re It: The Ins & Outs of Tagging with Google Tag Manager

Posted on 2.13.2018

For marketers without development experience (which is a lot of us), Google Tag Manager makes it easy to tag elements of a site and send data to a variety of platforms. The only problem is, many marketers aren’t using GTM to its fullest potential.

It’s not that marketers aren’t trying. I’d actually say many are trying too hard, tagging anything and everything and ultimately ending up with inaccurate—or simply ineffective—data. In this article, I’ll explain how to avoid this fate and get the most from GTM.

Build a strong foundation

Protecting the environment

Google Tag Manager is made up of accounts, containers, and tags. Depending on the account and the size of the website, you can imagine how quickly this can get out of hand (hint: very quickly). Different divisions, departments, or even people on the same team may have different ideas as to what needs to be tagged in Google Tag Manager or how it needs to be tagged. In many cases, this can lead to duplicate tags and triggers, which can skew data and cause more significant issues down the road.

GTM - Accounts & Containers

Take my word for it (or Google’s, they’re smarter than me)—use only one GTM account per company and only one container tag per website.

You never even called me by my name

Depending on what you’re attempting to track, tagging can be complicated. That’s why naming conventions are critical, especially as your site continues to grow.

Tag management can become unruly if every user is free to name their tags and triggers as they please. Pretty soon your team is creating tags on tags on tags because they didn’t know one already existed and it’s utter chaos, with the same action being tagged five separate times (which is a real example).

Overuse of Tags in GTM

Or the tags are so vague as to be useless, like:

“Reporting tag”: What platform?
“Download white paper”: Which white paper?
“Demo”: For which product?

Such general naming makes it very difficult to discern what actions users are taking on your site and how they affect conversions. Why not make it easy on yourself and be as descriptive as possible?

Test, test, and test again

Marketers are usually confident people, which is often an advantage, but overconfidence breeds poor execution. Testing your tags and triggers prior to publishing is the easiest way to ensure you’re tracking the events you planned on tracking.

Publishing untested tags and triggers can lead to inaccurate data collection and subsequent reporting discrepancies. When I first began using Google Tag Manager, I myself published tags and triggers without testing and they turned out to do nothing. Needless to say, I was upset with myself for not previewing before publishing. Previewing isn’t fun, but as Nike would say, just do it.

Preview Tags in GTM

Learn from other mistakes

Anytime you’re learning something new, there are inevitably going to be mistakes, but you can minimize those mistakes if you know what to look out for.

Double dipping

Duplicate tags are one of the most common issues I encounter when auditing a site. If you have deployed tags via Google Tag Manager, you should remove the corresponding hard-coded tags from your website as soon as possible. Otherwise, you’re going to be double-counting your engagement stats until you rectify the issue; this will make your engagement metrics look amazing, but it will be wrong and it will only end up hurting you in the end.

Free-for-all access

Most organizations are made up of many stakeholders interested in a variety of insights, ranging from sales to analytics to marketing and beyond. And if tags aren’t managed properly, that’s a recipe for tagging chaos.

In my experience, unfettered GTM access is not common, but it does happen. For example, consider a large retailer that sells products not only on its own website, but also on third-party domains. The retailer wants access to the GTM containers for all third parties carrying their product; if the retailer adds or revises tags and triggers and publishes the container without oversight, this can cause serious reporting issues for the third party.

Long story short, it’s wise to only provide full access to a select group of users who are in alignment regarding the end goal of your marketing strategy.

Tagging without purpose

Why are you tagging what you’re tagging? Is it to better understand how your customers engage with your website and the content found within? Or is it just for show?

Most marketers would say “I tag my site because I want all the information I can get,” but most wouldn’t know what to do with that data even if they had it.

Defining tagging strategy goals prior to tagging is essential to success—otherwise you’re going to be tracking a bunch of junk data that’s useful to no one.

Tagging, tagging everywhere and not a thought to think

Given the mountains and mountains of irrelevant data, it’s really easy to see why many marketers today overanalyze the most minute details of their sites. So when I see a marketer tracking every possible metric on their site, it makes me anxious.

In most cases, the offending marketers recently learned about tagging and saw it as a cure to all their reporting woes. “We’ll tag everything and then we’ll know everything!” they proudly proclaim, all the while getting buried more and more by the data they already have.

While tools such as Google Tag Manager can help marketers gain insight and develop strategy, over-tagging can often provide misleading results. Worse yet, if that over-tagging is then tracked as a conversion goal, it may lead you to make decisions based on faulty logic.

Realize your potential

Every digital marketer can find value in using Google Tag Manager. The insight gained from customizing your tagging setup and adopting best practices has the potential to dramatically impact any company, big or small. That said, all sites are different. Find the right solution for your unique website, and you’ll be pleased with the results.

Andy StuckeyAbout the Author: Andy is a Senior Digital Marketing Manager at Element Three. Extremely analytical with a knack for gathering insights from large data sets, Andy thrives when assessing client opportunities that may have been overlooked. Andy has overseen digital marketing strategy, online functionality implementation and data analytics for some of the nation’s largest brands, including Sears, Rackspace and Intuit, among others.


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