Google Tag Manager (GTM) is a powerful tool to add and edit measurement tags without much intervention from the IT department. It is also much easier to use than directly hard coding tags on a website.
But creating and managing tags, macros and rules within the GTM still require certain skills. If you are not sure about how to best use the GTM, you may end up with a long list of unmanageable tags, rules and macros in your account or in worst case may end up breaking the website functionality and causing significant financial loss to your client/company.
Following are the best practices for using Google Tag Manager:
Best Practice #1: Structure your GTM account correctly
Google Tag Manager is made up of accounts, containers and tags. Google recommends using only one account per company and one container tag per website. Yet I see many installations where several GTM accounts have been created just for one company or several container tags just for one website.
Multiple GTM accounts/containers can cause tracking and diagnosing issues sooner or later. Moreover managing tags and macros spread across several accounts/containers could turn out to be a nightmare as your account grows. Use only one GTM account per company and only one container tag per website.
Best Practice #2: Use good naming conventions for GTM configurations
GTM configurations are Tags, Macros and Rules. Good naming conventions are those which accurately describe what the configuration is all about.
Tag management within GTM becomes messy if you don’t use good naming conventions from the very start.
Use your company name as the GTM account name.
For example if your company name is ABC ltd then your GTM account name could be ABC ltd. If you are managing multiple GTM account then this type of naming convention will help you a lot in managing clients’ accounts.
The best practice is to use your website name as the container name.
So if the company ABC Ltd has got two websites: abc.com and xyz.com then you can create one container for each website and name it after the website name.
I use ‘version number + what has changed’ as the naming convention for container version.
For example: V2 – Change in the UA tracking code. Here V2 is the second version number.
In this way next time when I see the name of the container version, I would know what was changed in the container version.
Tags and Rules
I use ‘function’ + ‘function area’ as the naming convention for tags and rules.
For example if I have got a tag which adjust bounce rate of a website and I am deploying this tag on all the pages of my website then my naming convention for the tag would be something like the one below:
Bounce Rate Adjustment + All Pages
In this way next time when I see the name of this tag, I would know what this tag is supposed to do and on which pages it has been deployed. You are likely to appreciate this naming convention more when you have got dozens of marketing tags setup within GTM.
Best Practice #3: Give GTM control only to the right people
Google tag manager is a very powerful tool and if used irresponsibility or without proper thought, planning and testing, can break your website functionality. So you should limit the access to this tool to only those who are actually involved in tag deployment.
Follow the steps below to control user access in GTM:
Step-1: Go to ‘All Accounts’ page in your GTM. This page list all of the accounts you have got access to:
Step-2: Click on the name of the account whose user access you would like to manage.
Step-3: Click on the ‘users’ tab:
In GTM you can set permissions at the account level and container level.
Following are account level permissions:
1. View account users only – user can only view containers and GTM configurations
2. Manage account users, permissions and settings – user can both view and manage containers and GTM configurations as well as manage other account users.
Following are Container level permissions:
1. No Access – user won’t see the container listed in the account.
2. View only – user can only view GTM configurations
3. View and Edit – user can both view and manage GTM configurations
4. View, Edit, Delete and Publish – user can view, manage and delete GTM configurations as well as publish tags on a website.
Best Practice #4: Create and follow procedures and processes for tag deployment
Tag deployment should always be carried out with proper thought and planning to minimize risk and IT resources.
For example you need to determine your tracking requirements in advance before you even start creating tags.
You need to decide in advance whether you will go for partial tag deployment or complete tag deployment and how your data layers will look like. You need to learn to deploy your tags in 3 stages (development, staging and live).
I have explained all of these stages and other best practices for tag deployment in great details in the post: Google Tag Manager Implementation Guide
Best Practice #5: Avoid double tagging
This is one of the most common issues I see with tag deployment. If you have deployed tags via Google Tag Manager then you should remove the corresponding hard coded tags from your website as soon as possible. Failing to do so may result in inflation of your analytics data.
Best Practice #6: Always test your tags
Always test your tags before you deploy them to make sure that your website looks and behaves the way it should. Be wary of custom HTML tags as they are more likely to break your website functionality than the other predefined tags provided by GTM.
It is wise to involve IT department if you are using a custom HTML tag and you don’t fully understand how it works.
Best Practice #7: Decide whether to outsource Tag Deployment
This is something many of you may not want to hear. But the cold truth is that many marketers get lost during tag deployment via GTM. It all looks easy at first when GTM is first used to deploy something as simple as Universal Analytics tracking code. But over time as the number of tracking requirements grow and become more complex, GTM becomes pretty hard to use.
The opportunity cost of not using GTM correctly could be loss of potential sales if the website functionality breaks for some reason and you are not able to diagnose/fix the issue on time.