How we use Google Tag Manager with Google Analytics to measure success

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"Cross your fingers and hope for the best" might be a worthy strategy for winning at a casino, but it's a terrible way to measure the success of your website.

There is no excuse in 2015 for improperly capturing web analytics or, even worse, ignoring it all together. Having quality data is the key to determining whether your digital efforts are successful or need improvement.

On the web, nearly every interaction is trackable and measurable. In fact, there's an insanely easy way to track them: the dynamic duo of Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics.

Yes, Google is pretty much the undisputed overlord of the web, but that isn't why we love Tag Manager. For all of its advanced tracking capabilities, Tag Manager is actually incredibly simple to use. It puts more power and flexibility in the hands of marketing teams; that means no more bugging a developer to install a big chunk of code every time you need to track a new interaction.

Another big benefit of Tag Manager is it allows admins to keep all of their custom Google Analytics tracking organized and easy to understand. After all, what good is having a lot of data if trying to manage all of it makes you want to pull out your hair?

Here's how we tricked out a recently redesigned WordPress website for a leading tech recruiter with Tag Manager.

Creating a digital measurement plan

The first thing we did was create a digital measurement plan, which helped us identify our client's business objectives so we could determine what user interactions we needed to track on their site. The Google Analytics team has a short instructional video on how to create a digital measurement plan.

For our tech recruiter client, we focused on a few different groups of interactions: users creating an account, applying for a job, saving a job, signing up for a newsletter or sharing a job post. We determined we would need to set up 14 custom events, or tracked interactions, in all. After the (one-time) installation of the Tag Manager container code on the site, it was taggin' time.

Making the tags

google-tag-manager-tagsThe next step was to create event tags in Tag Manager, making sure to give them easy-to-remember names and that the event information we sent to Google Analytics was easy to understand. We followed the tag naming convention suggested by the Tag Manager Help Center:

  • An abbreviation of the Google product we're integrating with Tag Manager (for this project, Google Analytics, though Tag Manager also pairs with services like Google AdWords)
  • A short description of the tag type
  • A short description of the interaction

For instance, one tag is called "GA - Event - Tweet Job." GA stands for Google Analytics, the tag type is an event, and Tweet Job means the interaction involves posting a job to a user's Twitter account. Creating a tag can be a bit difficult your first time, but take your time and be sure to check out the Help Center if you get stuck.

Setting up triggers

google-tag-manager-triggersArguably the most important thing to get right when setting up tags is the firing triggers you create that will cause your tag to send Google Analytics an event. Generally, it's very easy to create a firing trigger that is unique to the interaction you want to track. Because our tech recruiter client's site was built in WordPress, and all of the contact form buttons had a unique CSS class, all we had to do was create a trigger that fired whenever a button with that CSS class was clicked.

Testing, testing, testing

Launching anything on the web without testing is an inexcusable offense, and Tag Manager is no different. Testing is critical to make sure you don't publish a broken (and therefore, completely useless) tag. Fortunately, Tag Manager provides a handy preview and debug mode so you can make sure your tags work correctly.

When testing, we recommend filtering your tests out of your primary Google Analytics view, because the tags will fire real events to Google Analytics, even in preview mode. For example, Integrity's own website has a primary, "master" view in Google Analytics, from which we pull all of our regular site/user data. However, this view blocks traffic from our company IP address. So if we were testing tags on our site internally, the event data would not show up (nor would we want it to, since, obviously, it's only a test). To check to see if our tag tests worked, we use an unfiltered/raw view of our site analytics.

Tracking interactions on your website through Tag Manager (or hiring a Google-certified web agency to set it up for you as part of your website redesign project) is a wise investment of your resources. Stop settling for poor (or non-existent) analytics and start getting valuable data you can use to make your site even more awesome.

Like we always say, if it's on the web, it's measurable. Don't believe us? Drop us a line and prepare to be amazed.

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