What Is Google Tag Manager? Why Do I Need It?

Years ago, I came across the new tool called Google Tag Manager (GTM).  At the time, I had no idea what it was for or even why it mattered. In fact, it took me a while to actually figure out how it worked…but I can tell you now that it was well worth learning! So let's chat about what Google Tag Manager is and why you need it.

GTM is a dashboard made for marketers to help them manage tracking on their website. But why was there even a need for that to begin with?

It all started as a tool for “enterprise level” companies (like Walmart, Best Buy, etc).

Back then, when the marketing team needed to place a conversions pixel on a page, they had to open a support ticket with their IT department.  At that point IT would go to work checking the pixel and making sure it worked with the site… but that often took too long to do.  By the time the helpdesk ticket finally made it's way through the system, and the pixel finally “went live” the marketing campaign was already over!

Marketing needed things to get done quicker, and that’s exactly what GTM does!

Google Tag Manager is a dashboard that's designed to be use by a marketer to control how (and what) you track on your website.

As a marketer, it’s nice to have this much control over your website, as it makes it easier for you to include conversion tracking, site analytics, and remarketing…even if you don’t know how to edit site code.

There are three main components to Google Tag Manager:

  • TAGS – This is the actual tracking script that will track things like whether or not a user saw a particular page, or whether it should report that somebody just converted on adwords.
  • TRIGGERS – These are the conditions that activate the Tags. These are what will prompt a particular tag to report something. For example, should it fire for every page view for every single page? Or every time the thank you page loads?
  • VARIABLES  – These are places where you can store data in terms of tracking the information you need and what you want to do with that information. In most cases, you won’t need an extra variable or information. But there are certain cases, like when you need to put in the value of the product for conversion pixels where you want a report what that conversion was worth.

With only these 3 simple components, Google Tag Manager gives you the power to place pixels wherever you want, tag specific actions (called “events” in Google Analytics) and even more advanced stuff like setting timers and reporting ecommerce data.

NOTE: The ONLY type of script we've not been able to fire through GTM are split-testing scripts (like VWO or Optimizely). This is because those scripts MUST load as fast as possible (since they need to be able to switch page versions quickly during a split-test).

These are just the very basics of GTM. If you want to learn more about how to set it up, you can check out this free course from Google's Analytics Academy.

Of course, if you have any questions about GTM, just leave a comment below. If you know someone who wants to understand what Google Tag Manager is and what it's used for, be sure to hit those share buttons and tag them!

– Mercer

About The Author


Chris Mercer, who typically goes by "Mercer", has a sales and marketing background that stretches over 20 years. He began his online marketing career in 2009 and has become a sought after analytics & conversions expert, helping other top-marketers to improve their own offers and sales funnels. Now decades of real-world experience are brought to you post-by-post as he delivers Seriously Simple Marketing tips that you can use to build your own business!