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Google Tag Manager Fundamentals

One code to rule them all… | Stand: Nov. 2022
reading time: 7 minutes

The Google Tag Manger (GTM) is designed to simplify the integration and configuration of Google Analytics and other analytical tools. What the tool can do, for whom it is best suited and how to use it, the seo-nerd® explains here.

What is the Google Tag Manager?

With the Google Tag Manager, as the name already suggests, tags and code snippets can be managed easy and quickly, without working in the source code of a website. Thanks to the Google Tag Manager the so called container tag has to be implemented only once. All further changes an implementations can from then on be done in the dashboard of the tag manager – without having to contact your programmer or an IT service every time.

Definition: Container, Tags, Trigger, Variablen and Data Layer


The container, the basic module of the GTM, is a script code that you have to integrate to the source code of your website. It replaces all existing tracking codes from Google Analytics, Google AdWords or third-party tools, and uploads the container setting to the page. It comprises the following elements:


    A tag is a code element, that tracks the traffic and visitor behavior of your page. It is performed on your page by the container and can be configured in the GTM easily via a form. In short: the tag defines

what is tracked

    , e.g. page impressions.


    The trigger is a rule in the tag manager, that determines when a certain tag is aroused. The trigger defines,

when something is tracked.

    . To stay in the above example, the trigger determines when the page impression is to be detected, for example, 5 seconds after the page is opened.


    Variables provide data with which the tags and triggers work, and serve as information storage. In this example, the variable

page url

    files the URL of the page that was called.

Data Layer

The data layer is an information storage, which transmits data to the GTM via Java script, in order to then be able to use it in the tags and triggers. It is built into the source code of the site ahead of the Google Tag Manager.

Set up the Google Tag Manager

  1. To set up the GTM you first need a Google Account.
  2. After that you can register to anmelden. Afterwards you reach directly an input screen, with which you can add a new account. Here you create an account name; the name of your company is advisable.
  3. Now you name the first container. This could be the URL of your page. The names of the account and the container are only for your information and have no impact on the configuration.
  4. Afterwards you choose where it is used: Web, iOS, Android or AMP.
Google Tag Manager Account setup

Set up an account in Google Tag Manager

  1. After you accepted the terms of use, you will be forwarded directly to the newly created container and you will get the container code, which you now have to install on all pages into which you want to add the tracking.
Google Tag Manager Code

Container Code to implement in the source code

You now reach the overview of your GTM container and can now configure it. Via the button „new tag“ you can create tags:

  1. Choose the tag type; e.g. Google Analytics, and give the new tag a distinct name, e. g. „GA page impressions“, because this tag is determined for Google Analytics (GA) and should track page impressions. Although the number of tags at the beginning is manageable, this will increase with the advancing work with the GTM. It is therefore advisable to label the tags as uniformly as possible.
  2. For Web Property ID, enter the tracking ID that you see in your Analytics account.
  3. Under “Tracking Type”, you specify what is to be recorded; In this case: page impressions.
  4. Then you can specify the trigger to arouse the tag, e.g. “All Pages”. Here, you can specify exceptions if necessary.
  5. By clicking „save“ your tag is now ready and just has to be published.
Google Tag Manager - Tag einrichten

Create a tag in Google Tag Manager

Multi user and comprehensive testing

Work together with others in the Google Tag Manager
As with Analytics or AdWords, multiple users can have access to the GTM account. You can create different access rights as an administrator. In the dashboard you can find the options for this in the “Administration” tab under the “User management” menu item. Via the button “New”, you can add new users via e-mail address and manage the access rights. An administrator can access each container in the account, while a basic user must have the containers assigned individually. Then you determine the container permissions:

No access: The container can not be viewed.

Read: The user can view the container and the tags, triggers and variables contained in it, but can not make any changes to it.

Edit: The user can create workspaces and make changes, but can not create or publish versions.

Approve: The user can create versions and workspaces and make changes but not publish them.

Publish: The user may add, edit, and delete tags, rules, and macros in the container as well as publish changes.
Trial all changes before publishing
All changes you did to tags, trigger or variables, can be tested comprehensively before you publish them. This places an overlay to your website and you can see which tag is triggered and which data are transmitted. This version is also available to other users to make it easier to identify improvements.

Pros and Cons of the Google Tag Manger

One code for all (?)
The Google Tag Manager is promoted mainly with the fact, that with its help the effort of your IT department can be minimized. Once the tag container is built in the source code you as a marketer can manage and create tags flexibly. Many tags can be created just by filling out the pre-built forms in the dashboard.

BUT: If you work with self-written scripts independently of the IT department, you can quickly trigger complications on the website, which are sometimes hard to identify by IT colleagues. If you need more than the “ready-to-run” tags provided by the GTM, a JavaScript code has to be written and a “custom HTML” tag has to be implemented, which usually requires an IT specialist. While Google Tag Manager may simplify some processes, the IT department always has to be involved.

Shortened loading time (?)
Because of the asynchronous loading of the tags the Google Tag Manager can shorten the loading time of websites. Slow tags can be loaded later and you can define when a tag should be triggered.

BUT: The container tag has to be built in at the beginning of the body of a page. This means, when the page is loading all configurations are loaded, that you have chosen while creating the tag. In the GTM, you should never activate something that is not needed at all. Otherwise, the loading times are extended unnecessarily. An even shorter loading time and thus better performance can be achieved without the GTM, by simply implementing the tracking code in the footer of the page.

BUT #2: A truly 100% viable solution for the trouble-free use of A / B testing tools with the GTM is not available. Tools such as Optimizely or Adobe Target require a synchronous loading of their scripts. Asynchronous loading of Google Tag Manager makes A / B tests impossible.

(No) Entry-level tool
The Google Tag Manager simplifies many functions and is set up quickly. The intuitive user interface makes it relatively easy to set up and manage accounts, containers, and tags.

BUT: To get the most out of the possibilities of the GTM, you need good JavaScript knowledge. In addition, you should also be very familiar with Google Analytics or the analysis tool that you use. If you do not know what you can or want to track, you can not set up the Tag Manager correctly.

Complexity vs. overview
Keeping the Tag Manager well organized can quickly give you headaches. If you only have a website with few tags, this may not be a problem. However, as soon as you manage multiple projects with subdomains and hundreds of tags, strict rules are required for the organization. A tracking concept is indispensable.

If a user uses an adblocker that blocks the Tag Manager, this will block all the tracking tools that are controlled by it, even though they may not be affected by the Adblocker in particular.

Google Tag Manager – yes or no?

The Google Tag Manager and other tag management systems provide the ability to organize and manage tags through a Web platform. This makes them particularly attractive for marketers. Thus the IT department can be relieved. However, the use of tag management systems is not really useful for any company or website model.

Switching to a tag management system is not as easy as it sounds. The main reason for the use of such a tool is often the speed at which changes can be made without waiting for long processing times by the IT department. A tag management system does not make you independent from the IT department. Because to avoid serious errors, only an ITler should have the right to publish new tags and check them beforehand.

So before you switch to a tag management system like the Google Tag Manager, you should evaluate exactly whether the effort is really worth it.

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