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The First 6 Things We Load in Google Tag Manager...Every Time

by Andrew Miller   |   Sep 30, 2014

Rarely does a software tool come along that fundamentally changes how we do things across all of our clients at one time. Google Tag Manager is one of those tools, and for good reason. We can quickly and easily update analytics tags, call tracking code snippets, conversion tracking pixels, remarketing audience tags, and A/B testing code without having to cross-train the team as coders or IT specialists.

Rather than re-hash the tutorials on how to implement GTM, I thought it would be more helpful to share the ways we use it as a PPC team.

Here are the 6 things we implement first in Google Tag Manager, each and every time we set it up. Helpful links to tutorials are included, but don't be afraid to get your hands dirty and try them out!

1. Outbound link clicks & PDF downloads as Google Analytics Events

Many interactions on a website don't generate a pageview in Google Analytics, such as a click on a link to another site, a PDF download, or a form submission. These types of events are usually ignored, but are extremely valuable for marketers, IT, and sales teams. Google Tag Manager makes it relatively easy to detect and track these occurrences with Google Analytics Event Tracking. It's a bit complicated at first but well worth the time to learn!

2. Custom Audience & Remarketing Pixels

Need to paste a remarketing or audience pixel on your site but don't have sway with the IT guy or gal? We use Custom HTML tags to dynamically build remarketing audiences based on visitors' interactions on the site. For example, want to create a custom AdWords remarketing segment for your best customers? Create a remarketing pixel in AdWords that only tracks high-value transactions based on a set of rules in GTM.

3. Conversion Tracking Pixels

This is a no-brainer, and possibly the most widely used feature in GTM. Tracking e-commerce transactions, sales leads, or content engagement is hard if you have to hack on code yourself or get stuck between release cycles. We let Tag Manager do its thing so we can do ours. When we need to track Facebook, AdWords, or Google Analytics conversions, we configure tags and rules to make sure we are tracking only the goals we want to track for each advertising platform.

4. Call Tracking Scripts

If you're familiar with phone call tracking, you know it can be a pain to paste call tracking code on each page. A few months ago (the stone age, in Internet years), dynamic number replacement scripts need to be wrapped around each instance of a phone number. Ifbyphone has updated their platform to play nice with GTM so we can save time and eliminate the headaches simply by including their script in a container.

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5. A/B Testing Snippets

This is a tricky one, but well worth the time to learn and get it right. If you use Optimizely or other A/B testing tools, you'll be happy to know that it is possible to deploy the JavaScript snippets through GTM with some custom configuration. Basically, you'll want to make sure your snippet fires before the rest of the page loads to minimize the impact on your visitors' experience and page load times.

6. 404 Error Pages

Is your site bleeding visitors and squandering sales from error pages? These are typically referred to as "404" errors and result in a less-than-gratifying "page not found" message. Talk about a conversion killer! LunaMetrics has a wonderful tip on how to create Google Analytics events for 404 errors so you can identify these holes in your funnel. Taking it a step further, you could apply the same logic to track pages on your site with "out of stock" inventory or missing images.

Bonus! Show Your Work

We need to verify the contents of our GTM containers every time we make an update. Get the Google Tag Assistant extension for Chrome to check your pages in realtime to ensure that your tags are firing properly. Need to preview and debug your tags? Yeah, there's a tool for that too!

We've implemented dozens of other combinations of tags, rules, and macros for outlier scenarios but these are the most common and deserve a spot in your default GTM setup.

portrait of Andrew Miller

Andrew Miller

Andrew co-founded Workshop Digital in 2015 and serves as the Director of Client Services. He oversees our client relationships and ensures our SEO and PPC teams have everything they need to provide amazing results. After growing up in the suburbs of Atlanta during the 1980s, he decided it was time for a change of scenery and moved north to attend The University of Richmond. Armed with dual degrees in Computer Science and Spanish, it made perfect sense to seek another course change and begin a career in advertising and marketing at The Martin Agency and later, CarMax, before venturing out on his own in 2007. Andrew collects hobbies and devotes his time to his family, training for triathlons, and trying to grow vegetables in an expanding backyard garden.