What Are The Benefits of Google Tag Manager For eCommerce

20 minutes

Learn about the benefits of Google Tag Manager and how it can you become more efficient, organized, and event help with site speed.

Brad Redding

Brad Redding is the Founder & CEO of Elevar. Specializing in analytics, tracking, GTM, and conversion optimization.

If you are curious about the benefits of Google Tag Manager and how it can you become more efficient, organized, and event help with site speed – this intro video will provide all of those details.

Brad Redding:

What are the benefits to Google tag manager? We all might have different ideas on what GTM does and how it is useful, not useful. Tell me to walk through four or five benefits that that I see with Google tag manager and specifically when we think about eCommerce stores and Shopify stores and how GTM is very beneficial to not only what we do and help enable what we do in a better way, but also what we see other brands and customers are coming to us for using our Shopify apps for to help them leverage Google tag manager in different ways. I really boiled down to four or five key benefits that we see. And what’s most important about Google tag manager is if, we just think about Google analytics for a minute and if you’ve spent any time doing any sort of analysis in Google analytics, you may have caught yourself continuing to dig and dig and dig and dig in a different reports and different custom dimensions and different ways to slice and dice data.

And it’s almost an endless hole you can keep digging into. And discovering new insights and new ways to potentially apply to your business. I really look at Google tag manager in a similar manner. Google tag manager has a growing feature set and almost endless possibilities that we can use UTM and apply it to our business to help us perform better in our marketing channels, execute faster in our conversion optimization strategies and just make that, that middle ground of between marketers and engineers really fill that gap for us and build that bridge to make that process less frustrating for those on the marketing team that need faster implementation to get their channels going. And the same thing on the engineering side of having to do that Groundhog day of having more tags and the same tags and the repetitive nature of implementing that.

That brings us to feature number one. These are not my order of benefits of GTM and of forced ranking. But number one is marketing tags. Historically, you may have heard this before, the quote unquote old way of implementing marketing tags, like an AdWords tracking tag or a Pinterest tracking tag. You get a bunch of requirements, which is code for implementing the pixels. He sends them to an engineer, it gets put into the backlog, maybe one month or six months later it’s implemented and then it may not have been implemented the right way. It didn’t have the right variables translated, so then this process continues to go on and on and on, which puts your ability to spin up those new marketing campaigns. It’s really a risk, you might be flying blind without any data, to backup some of your cost decisions.

The Google tag manager, by building out a data layer one time. So let’s, let’s back up for a second. When I say the Google tag manager, the way that I think about it is you have Google tag manager, the admin that you’re looking at here, which contains all of our tags and rules, AK triggers and the variables that we are ultimately applying into our tags. But the second part of that is the data layer. There’s a data layer that is implemented and should be implemented on your store and that does the translation of your dynamic data on your site. Your product name, your product skew, product price or customer ID, customer email, etc. Those are pieces of dynamic data on your store that the data layer makes available to us and ultimately to Google tag manager that we then create variables inside of GTM to say, ‘Hey, I want to know the product name or I want another product skew.

So we have GTM, the admin where we implement our tags and then we have our data layer, which is really what drives the full power of implementing Google tag manager in a robust manner in your business. Part of that defining a data layer where we go through each page and identifying those, those dynamic pieces of data, the different marketing tags are going to rely on. The process of implementing a marketing tag is much easier and much faster. For example, if we look at our AdWords remarketing tag here, the script in that code that you might see and the requirements, you don’t see it here because GTM has a plethora of built in tags and templates that you can just click and add or add with one click of a button. And then it’s just a matter of configuring the tag with different variables.

So we talked about the product view price, the product skew. These are variables that are ultimately mapping to variables inside your data layer. It sounds complicated, but it’s really not. Once that data layer is defined and the process of if we were to get a request to implement a new Pinterest tag for product page views and it needed to have price and skew, um, potentially a page type, we could just replicate what we have here for AdWords, implement it in the Pinterest tag and we’re on our way. And that’s a huge benefit with rising costs of the conversion for Facebook or AdWords or just our general acquisition costs of prospecting continuing to rise. I mean it’s not going to get cheaper. It’s not going to get cheaper to acquire new customers. The ability to spin up new marketing channels quickly is going to be very important as we go forward. And GTM is a big part of that. 

The second benefit to Google tag manager is it allows you to implement Google analytics through GTM versus using the builtin Google analytics implementation and Shopify or potentially other other eCommerce platforms. And by implementing Google analytics through Google tag manager, it basically gives you the power to send the data, add additional pieces of data. It can translate it, form it any way you want, but basically you control the way that your data is sent to Google analytics versus the opposite of when you’re using a built in implementation and integration that Shopify or Magento or you know, the others, they’re sending the data to Google analytics and in a very clean way. And I would consider a best practice way, but you can’t modify it. You don’t have the ability to modify it. With Google tag manager, you are able to define how you want to send Google analytics data.

You can start adding in custom dimensions. You can add custom metrics and override settings for headless sites out there. This is pretty much a necessity that you’re going to have to send Google analytics data via GTM because of your different, single page views or virtual page views. So using GTM to send Google analytics data to your GA account is a very, very strong benefit of GTM. And we leverage it all the time here. 

A third benefit of Google tag manager is the ability to quickly add behavior event tracking to your site. For example, and you’ll see some of this in the next trainings here as we dive into event, uh, behavior event analysis if we look at a standard Google analytics implementation, you’re going to get page view data. You might get some enhanced eCommerce data, but you’re not necessarily getting data on what are people clicking on? Are people scrolling down on the page? Are they submitting forms? Are they clicking into our search input? Are they downloading PDFs or downloading specs? That’s what I would consider behavior data. And Google tag manager allows you to create those behavior events inside of Google tag manager in a manner that is significantly less. If you were to have to hard code that into your theme to call again, anyone that’s clicking a button or downloading a form or whatever it might be. So the ability to quickly add event tracking through Google tag manager to enrich the amount of data that we’re sending to GA to really fill in that complete user journey. It’s a huge benefit that GTM and something that you’ll see a lot of quite a bit more on as we continue through this training today. 

The fourth benefit to Google tag manager, and this is something that we’re seeing and a big proponent is site speed optimization. So with Google tag manager, you have the ability to control when tags ultimately fire on the site. Let’s take a quick look here. Our standard triggers, if we look at a trigger inside of Google tag manager, and if we look at a page view trigger, many of our triggers are tags that we’re adding to a site like an AdWords tag or a Pinterest tag or a Snapchat tag or even are thinking about a live chat. They require a page view or some sort of trigger to execute that script on that page view. So when a user’s loading a page, they want that script to fire.

If we are stacking all of our scripts to load, really when, when, let’s just go over here and refresh the page. As soon as this page refresh happens, if we’re firing all of those scripts that can, and we do see an impact on site speed performance and you’ll see it in your lighthouse scores where all of these scripts, these third party scripts are adding up and it’s impacting the user experience of the rest of the actual content loading so they can begin navigating and using the site. With Google tag manager, depending on who you talk to, they my think, GTM is the worst for site speed because it allows you to add as many scripts and tags that you want as a marketer without necessarily thinking about performance. 

But what you can actually do here is utilize a pretty cool feature, a pretty nifty feature is, you can actually create a trigger to fire a tag based on two, three, four seconds. So based on a timer. This is an example of creating a trigger that we’re applying to a live chat. So think about your website. Do you really need live chat to fire? As soon as the page starts building, the likelihood of someone needs using chat right away is pretty low. So we want to actually fire that live chat tag three seconds after the page is downloading to remove that script, whether it’s Zendesk, Intercom, whatever it might be to reduce that script from actually having to execute when somebody is navigating to a page. 

Let’s look at how that works in action. I’m going to click here into a product page. I have the Google analytics or Google tag manager debugger here and you’ll see we have a timer tag that went off and this is set for three seconds. After three seconds executed or three seconds went by, this tag executed and in theory this is what we would use to apply, have our Intercom or live chat, tag fire if we want to change this to 10 seconds. We can change this to 10 seconds. This is a way that we can really, one example of combat site speed performance start to create a nice order, in the way that we’re firing scripts. And not only that, it’s outside of just timing. When we think about site speed, performance has a benefit for GTM. It’s also just moving all of these scripts out of your theme that might not be loading in the async manner. Loading async manner means other parts of your Dom. Your code base is going to need a load and execute, but we don’t want one single script to stop everything else below it from loading until that script’s done. We can move things into GTM and start controlling when scripts are firing that way your users are ultimately getting the experience and the images and everything that’s really going to impact their path to purchase. They’re getting that while these third party scripts are running in the background.

Another benefit to Google tag manager as we think about our marketing tags that we’re adding, and might have different people that are coming in and adding and publishing tags, behavior event tags and moving scripts around the fire. You might think about, like how does, how do we keep track of all of these different tags and scripts and events that we’re adding to our site? What if something goes wrong? What if something breaks? What if we need to roll back? I think GTM has really got this right from the beginning, is they have what’s called versions. Anytime that you are publishing, so if you’re creating a tag and then you’re publishing updates to your Google tag manager container at GTM is keeping track of versions. So this is actually just looking at, at our own GTM account and you can see we have all of our different versions.

So if we click into these versions here, it’s going to contain our version changes. So it’ll contain the tags and triggers and we can look at what was either added or what was modified. If we just look here at this example, we can see a trigger that was modified. It’s going to tell us exactly what was changed. So in the instance that you ever needed to roll back – let’s say we determined that we broke something in a release and we needed to roll back to a previous container version. We can do that. We can just click into the version that we want to roll back to set as latest version and publish and now we’ve been able to successfully roll back to a previous workspace to a previous container very quickly and easily without having to go through any code deployments without having to put it into a backlog. The way for it, it’s there, it’s published and then we can start triaging. 

Additionally, you can, as you can see here, just the naming of of workspaces that have been published as it’s can give you an easy way to for others that are coming in and want to look back in history to see what’s changed, what’s been deployed, what’s the date of deployment. It’s a very easy way to go in here to get a full history of your GTM account. How things have evolved over time. The last benefit, and this is something that has recently launched in 2019 is templates. Templates inside of Google tag manager is something that’s very new. So if we think about tags like our marketing tags, we see a huge shift in our industry to privacy with GDPR and different privacy laws and regulations. And that’s going to continue to push as different cookie policies are coming out. Now what templates, what GTM is ultimately allowing is the ability for your engineering team or just your team in general to wrap rules around scripts that are running on their site. 

I don’t want to get too much in the weeds here, but just consider if we’re implementing a tag and you wanted to have some safeguards around those tags or have some sort of monitoring in place for those tags when they fail, templates is that, is that key to really try to mitigate the wild wild West. You might have 20 different scripts that are running on your site and some are failing and some are allowing data to be sent to different places. Templates is a move to privacy, a strong move in privacy and monitoring so you can feel more comfortable that your data is safe, your customer’s data safe, and it is an area that you want to continue to leverage and multiple your journey up to let you focus on marketing conversion, optimization, sales and have less focus on security, privacy, implementing tags and triggers and events and data layer variables. This is going to be a big benefit as it’s going to continue to grow, especially as Google adds more features and flexibility into this. 

Those are six benefits out of probably 6,000. So we have our marketing tags, we have our data layer, so translating dynamic data into data layer variables that can be quickly reused. We have the ability to implement Google analytics and Google analytics custom event tracking or behavior tracking. We have our site speed so you can control when tags are firing. Again, allowing to set up tags to fire in an async manner. And then we have version control. So again, being able to quickly roll back or quickly diagnose what’s changed in your Google tag manager account and templates as we start moving into the world of a more private web and templates are really going to help us and help you wrap that privacy and monitoring around your marketing tag management, which is really the remarketing tags are your lifeblood to the business.

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