The Five Minute Guide to Installing Google Tag Manager

by Daniel Threlfall

Last updated on July 24th, 2017

Marketing campaigns live and die by data.

Without data, there’s no way to easily determine the health of a campaign.

As a marketer, the more data you have at your disposal, and the easier it is to manage data, the easier your job is.

Unfortunately, the more tracking and optimization tags you add to the site, the more you have to deal with code bloat.

Which tags have been added? Which tools are still installed on your site? How can you give people the access they need to update tags without giving them complete access to your site (which might invite disaster)?

That’s why I want to introduce you to Google Tag Manager (GTM).

With Google Tag Manager, much of the technical side of tag management has been reduced, making it easy to set up your own. You also have complete control on every change that gets made to your site. So nothing will catch you by surprise.

Just so you’re clear, GTM is not a replacement for Google Analytics, but instead works in conjunction with the tools you’re probably already using.

If you’re the only one working on your site, you’ve already gotten Google Analytics installed, and you don’t expect your site to grow into an entire team in the future, all of this is completely optional. Especially if you dread having to keep track of ONE more internet marketing tool, skip all this. Google Tag Manager will save you a ton of headaches if you have a team. But if you don’t need that and would rather have the simplicity of plugging in Google Analytics directly, skip all this.

Here’s where we’re headed in this article.

  1. First, I want to encourage you to use Google Tag Manager.
  2. Then I’ll show you how to set it up.
  3. Next, we’ll walk through the process of creating a tag, a trigger, and publishing it.

By the end of this article, you should have a solid understanding of tags and how to use them.

Let’s do this.

Why You Should Use Google Tag Manager

You might question the need for GTM if you’re already running Google Analytics and doing just fine with it.

There’s two reasons that someone would want to install Google Tag Manager.

1. Control

Without a tag manager, you have to give access to your actual site files to anyone that you also want to be able to update tags. If it’s just you and an engineer that does a bit of contract work, not a big deal. But as soon as you scale into a team, this can create a lot of problems.

The bigger you get, the more likely someone will make a mistake.

  1. A designer might upload the wrong JavaScript file.
  2. The new marketing intern deletes all the other JavaScript tags and doesn’t tell anyone.
  3. One of the engineers doesn’t have the complete project requirements and only implements a JavaScript tag on some of your site pages.
  4. No one even knows which tags were installed and it takes several weeks hunting down all the tools still active on your site. Any cleanup or audit projects become a huge hassle.
  5. If you limit site access to just engineers, all the marketers constantly hassle the engineering team for small changes when the engineers need to stay focused on more important projects.

These sorts of things happen all the time. Which is why companies started building Tag Managers in the first place, large companies can control exactly who has access to the tags. At the same time, they can finally give access to folks that need it without needed to give them access to the entire site. Which prevents things from getting broken by accident.

2. Advanced Features

You’ll also get a lot more functionality on exactly how your JavaScript tags fire. If you have a basic site, this isn’t that important. But for a technical marketer that’s managing hundreds of campaigns across a site with thousands of pages, this can be a lifesaver.

You can control which pages fire each tag, trigger tags on clicks and forms, and handle very complex tag implementations across a large site.

“This sounds like overkill for me, why should I use Google Tag Manager?”

For a lot of folks, it is overkill and not something to worry too much about.

But it is a good idea if you’d like to get the infrastructure set up on your site so that it can handle growth in the future. As soon as you have 5-10 people working on your business (or are already past that), it’s definitely a good idea to have a tag manager.

Since Google released a free Google Tag Manager that integrates seamlessly with Google Analytics, using theirs is your best option.

Let’s jump into setting up your GTM account.

Setting Up Google Tag Manager

The system is split into four primary functions that you want to pay attention to.

1. Containers

Think of containers as where everything for your site exits. In general, use one container per site.

2. Workspaces

This is version control, try not to worry too much about it. Workspaces are super helpful for larger teams that may have multiple people working on tags at the same time. It’s easy to keep track of who’s making which changes and ensure the changes don’t conflict.

For smaller teams and sites, think of a workspaces as a Tag Manager “draft.” And when you’re finished with that draft, you’ll need to remember to publish your changes to the live GTM on your site. In most cases, edit your default workspace and work from there. If you’d like to dive into tall the nitty gritty workspace features, this doc has more info.

3. Tags

Tags are your JavaScript tags, the individual JavaScript snippets that every marketing tool wants you to install on your site.

4. Triggers

Triggers control when each JavaScript tag fires. For basic sites, simply have your tags fire on every page. The main exception to this rule is conversion tags like the Facebook or AdWords conversion trackers. For those tags, make sure they only fire on the page that loads when a visitor has converted on your site.

Let’s register and set a name for a new account.

When you register your account on the GTM homepage, you’ll be prompted to setup your first container. You typically create a single container for each website that you want to start tracking.

Google Tag Manager

After you create your first container, GTM will provide you with a snippet of code that you need to insert into your site (be sure it’s on every page of your site).

Install Google Tag Manager

It’s similar to the code snippet you get with a Facebook pixel or Google Analytics.

You’ll copy this code and insert it after the opening <body> tag on your site. If you use a content management system like WordPress, your template may have a built in GTM field within the template options or you can download a GTM plugin.

Remember, once you install the Google Tag Manager on your site, you will NOT add other JavaScript tags directly to your site. Instead, you’ll add them within the Google Tag Manager interface, publish the changes, and Google Tag Manager will add them to your site for you.

Once you have the snippet installed on your site you can start creating tags in GTM.

Creating Your First Tag

Once you’re logged into GTM, you’ll want to create your first tag from the dashboard. Do this by clicking on the “tags” menu option on the left, then click on “new”.

New Tags

You’ll be given the choice of creating a new tag or a new trigger. To start, let’s choose a tag and then we’ll set up a trigger once that’s completed.

Untitled Tag

Once you select the option to create a new tag, you’ll be asked what type of tag you want to create. It’s a long list of choices ranging from universal analytics to Adwords or Google Surveys. For this guide, we’re going to make a tag for the universal version of Google Analytics.

Don’t worry about the Classic Google Analytics. That’s an old version of the Google Analytics javascript that people hardly use anymore. It doesn’t have any advantages over Universal Analytics.

Choose Tag Type

After selecting the product for your tag, it’s time to do a little configuration. The next step you’ll need to enter your Google Analytics tracking ID. (it looks like UA-12345678-9 and is retrieved from Google Analytics.)

To find your Google Analytics tracking ID:

  1. Log into Google Analytics
  2. Go to Admin
  3. Find the Google Analytics property that you want to sync with your Google Tag Manager
  4. Under the Property settings, choose Tracking Code
  5. Your Tracking ID should be at the top.

You also need to select the type of tracking.

We’ll choose “page views” for Google Analytics.

Tag Configuration

There are additional settings for customer metrics, content groups and advanced settings for priority and firing options for your tag.

We’ll skip those right now since we just want to get Google Analytics installed across the entire site.

Creating the Trigger for Your Tag

Now that you’ve completed setting up the tag, you need to define your trigger. Remember, the trigger defines when the tag you created will fire.

When you create a new trigger, you’ll first select a “Page view” tag and make sure “all pages” is selected.

Choose Trigger Type

Name your trigger and hit save.

Finalize and Publish Your New Tag

Once you’ve created your tag and your trigger, and save it, you’ll be bumped back to the GTM dashboard. You’ll notice a large red Publish button on the top right of your dashboard.

It’s super important to remember this step. Since you’re making changes to your workspace (your “draft”), you haven’t made any changes to the live Google Tag Manager quite yet.

In order for GTM to start pushing the data to your Google Analytics account, you need to click Publish.

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Keep Your Data Clean

If you have an analytics tracking code on your site, then it’s already pulling data from visitors and pushing everything to you in your reports. You need to remove that tracking code before setting the GTM script up on your site.

Loading both scripts will duplicate data in your Google Analytics, resulting in skewed data that’s not accurate.


GTM is just one more tool in your data arsenal. It’s slick, useful, fast, and really simple. You can do this whole setup process in ten minutes. Once you’ve got this set up, it’ll give you a lot more control down the road and prevent all sorts of accidents from happening to your site.

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Daniel Threlfall

Daniel Threlfall is a content marketing strategist who has helped to engineer the growth of blogs such as, increase the international expansion of Fiji Water, and improve the brand reach of Shopify. Daniel is the co-founder of Launch Your Copy, a resource to help copywriters triple their writing speed and blow up their income.


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  1. Toorsy says:
    March 30, 2017 at 5:58 pm

    Great post! I will set this up now. You made it really easy to know the difference and implement it.

    But confused is to how does it avoid GA code hacking?

    Cheers 🙂

  2. Betsy says:
    January 24, 2017 at 4:53 pm

    This sounds really easy, thanks for the post!
    I’m wondering what the difference between using GTM and Event tracking in Google Analytics, and if there’s a benefit to using GTM instead of just plain old Google Analytics.

    Thank you.

    • Daniel Threlfall says:
      January 27, 2017 at 8:07 pm

      They each have their pros and cons. Obviously, GA has a lot more full-orbed functionality. But there are some awesome features of GTM that I use, too.

  3. tom says:
    January 24, 2017 at 8:27 am

    Tag Manager. Quick and good 🙂

    • Daniel Threlfall says:
      January 27, 2017 at 8:08 pm


  4. Lurpa says:
    January 21, 2017 at 11:34 pm

    Stellar guide. Though it took me longer than 5 minutes to read this guide! Ha!

    • Daniel Threlfall says:
      January 27, 2017 at 8:08 pm

      Haha! Hopefully, it will save you time in the long run. 🙂

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