Google Tag Manager: How Does It Work?

Tools & Trends Video
4 mins


Google Tag Manager allows you to track almost any kind of event or user behaviour on your website you can think of without having to add tags manually into your website code. Instead, you can install, manage and deploy marketing tags from the Google Tag Manager interface.

In today’s video, the team discuss how Google Tag Manager works, whether it’s needed for the new Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and whether it’s something all marketers should be using. 

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So, what is Google Tag Manager?

Tag Manager is a tool from Google, unsurprisingly, that allows you to insert tags into web pages. I think where the confusion comes is you say to people “I've got some Google Analytics code, a tag that I want to put into my webpage” and they go, “no, no, you just put the Tag Manager code”.

And it's like, well, why am I putting that bit of code instead of the other bit of code into the page? So it's a container basically. And that content allows you to kind of insert things into it.


So do you need to add code into a website?

Yeah. So you're adding this bit of code. You put this one piece of code in and then you can add the Google Analytics code, code from Facebook, from the Meta platforms, from LinkedIn, all those kind of places as well. It means you can manage it in one place, and you can roll back to previous versions.

You've got kind of version control so you can go and see what is was like before, so it gives you more control. It’s quite a technical tool. It’s not necessarily for everyone, so I’d be a bit cautious with it.

The important thing is that that Google Tag Manager code goes on every single page of your website. And as Daniel said, effectively, it's an empty container. Once it's there, you can then use the tag manager interface to inject any other bits of code. Some of these bits of code need to go on every single page, some of them need to just go on the thanks/conversion page, and you can control what goes where, but it's like one container to rule them all. It makes that whole process of putting new tracking’s on the website so easy.  You can just do it with tag manager.


So do you need to set it up for GA4?

You don't. So there's a, there's a misconception that in order to get GA4 running, you have to have tag manager. You don't. I mean, once tag manager is up and running it’s very, very easy to set GA4 up.

GA4 will allow you to track people watching videos, but only if they're YouTube videos, so if you want to track anything else, tag manager is an easy way to go because you can put some extra events into that, so you don't have to do it. But if you do it that way, it gives you more flexibility going forwards.


Is it something that all marketers should be using?

No. So, what I would say is that it should be set up on every website, ideally.

You don't have to on really simple websites. But it's quite technical and you can break websites with it really, really easily. So you need a certain level of technical ability and confidence in order to use it. So I think, yes, every marketer should aspire to learning it, understanding technicalities of it as well.

But realistically be careful and don't just give access to everyone. I never allow myself to have admin access to tag manager. Because it means I can publish and I don't know what JavaScript is doing. So I always insist on a code review by somebody who knows what and can check.

It is possible for you to unwittingly put what you think is the right code there, and it could have all sorts of trash and security risk with it. So yeah, that's how far I go with it. Like a little bit of power can be a very dangerous thing, especially when you're working on multiple websites for lots of other clients.

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