Google Tag Manager Explained — FINALLY!

[Digital Analytics Review CXL [5/12]]

This post is the fifth of a 12 posts series.

You’ve heard of it, you have an idea of what it is, but it sounds extra complicated and you’ve never really thought you could learn how to install it for you and your clients?

Yeah, I feel you.

For over 2 years I’ve known of the existence of GTM, but always thought you needed to be a pro at coding to be able to install it CORRECTLY on your website or for your clients. I’ve even turned down clients who said would only work on GTM. Shame on me because this thing is doable AF (if you’ve been in the digital world and know the logic behind GA).

Let’s start with the basics, what each thing on GTM means, and what on earth is Google Tag Manager.

Defining GTM

The tool that collects information to send to a platform that will store this information.

Easy, right? Awesome, so far so good.

What is a Tag?

“Tags are segments of code provided by analytics, marketing, and support vendors to help you integrate their products into your websites or mobile apps.”

In other words, tags are the “thing” that tells the store platform (usually GA) what to do. There are 2 types of tags, supported and custom.

Examples of Supported or Built-in Tags are

(Yeah, all google platforms that can be here)


  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Adrolls
  • Twitter
  • Hotjar
  • Google Flights
  • Crazy egg

On the other hand, If you need to implement a tag that is not yet supported natively by Tag Manager, you can use a custom image, HTML, or function tag.

FYI — Neither Facebook nor Paypal work as tags, which is why learning HTML for those customed tags will always be a good idea.

More information here:

Moving on, what are the variables?

“In computing terms, variables denote compartments in computer memory, which are reserved for storing values. In Google Tag Manager, the term variable is used to denote a helper function that your tags, triggers, and other variables can invoke to retrieve values from. ” Simo Hava

Basically, a variable is an information that GTM needs in order to do what you want to do. So for example, not just saying page view but WHICH page is being viewed and where. Variables will be found in:

  • Triggers
  • Custom HTML tags
  • Custom JavaScript variables

There are 2 types of variables:


  • Clicks
  • Errors
  • Forms
  • History
  • Pages
  • Scroll
  • Utilities
  • Videos
  • Visibility

More here


  • Navigation
  • Page variables
  • Page elements
  • Container data

More here

What is a Data Layer?

A little virtual place to temporarily store details that ™ will need. You can see it on the Preview Tool:

GTM needs to be installed on all websites so it tracks data layer on each.

It’s got information that gets put into these key-value pairs. Those things get pushed in the data layer and they stay there until they are overwritten.

Keeping your GTM Organized

Highly recommended as it can become a mess really quick

For GA, you’ve got an account, a property, and a view (or many, but you get the point). For GTM, we’ve got the account and the container. That’s it.

On the account, we will have the users. Admins are superusers, as they can edit and even delete the account. Make sure everyone has the RIGHT permissions.

For containers, they are there to measure. If you have a site and a membership site, you will want them in the same container. If, on the other hand, you have different websites but one is for tutorials/demos, one is a blog, one is an eCommerce, and they all got different purposes, then they may be better off apart.

If you have cross-domain traffic between sites, they should be under the same container.

Naming Conventions your tags the smart way.

GTM will group all the tags not exactly by hierarchy but alphabetically. You can take advantage of this

Platform — Main action

Platform — Trigger

Platform — more info

And so on:

This will be extremely useful by the time you are creating new tags to see if they are already there or what else needs to be added.


For folders, the best way to organize them is by having them for every source you’ll be using. All Facebook goes into the Facebook folder, all GA goes in the GA folder. It sounds obvious I know, but one of

Less is more

Make sure you plan ahead what triggers and what tools will you be using before diving into the installation and integration of this amazing platform :)

Now, the juicy stuff, how to start with GTM?

First things first and I’ve said throughout this post, PLAN PLAN PLAN. sketch, make notes, doddle, whatever helps, but be sure what will you be using and how will you be usnig GTM for you and your clients. Do you have a video? Will you want to track scrolling? Pageviews? Calls? Clicks? Which clicks?

Make sure you have most (surely some others will pop up once you are on the technical part) so you go in with a clear idea.

Now, go ahead and create your account:

If you are used to GA, we will migrate to GTM. We will need to remove GA and let GTM make the triggers. We can look at that later but it’s important to have this into account. ONLY Tag Manager will be sending info to GA.

For more on account creation, visit:

On next week’s post, we will dive in completely how to create tags, triggers, and finish your integration :)

See you next week!
-Denisse Gp



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