Google Analytics Tags Explained

Posted on October 13, 2023 | Updated on October 13, 2023

In the ever-changing world of digital marketing, understanding your target audience and consumer behaviors is critical. However, navigating Google Analytics tags can be challenging if you’re not the most tech-savvy. 

Google Analytics tags allow website managers to discover critical facts regarding users. Of course, you must install a tracking code on your website and use Google Tag Manager to access the data.

A tracking code? Google Tag Manager? There’s much to learn. Let’s unravel tagging and how to use this particular Google solution to your advantage.

What Are Google Analytics Tags?

Google Analytics tags are code snippets you embed on your website’s HTML to track user information. Marketers look for links users clicked on, visited pages, and the duration they stayed on the website.

You can create a tag for nearly anything — even to see how people fill out your website’s contact form, subscribe to email updates, or what they put in their shopping cart.

Naturally, not everyone is an expert coder. What once was a tedious job for the experts is made much simpler with Google’s built-in tag tools — particularly the Google Tag Manager interface. 

What Is Google Tag Manager?

If tags track user data on your website, the Google Tag Manager is where you can access the reports. Think of the Tag Manager as a filing cabinet, storing and organizing data for analytics, retargeting, and identification purposes.

There are three terms you should know when using Google Tag Manager:

  • Tags: Of course, the user actions you’re tracking on your website
  • Triggers: Issues a tag for specific user events
  • Variables: Using the same container repeatedly across various tags, events, and scripts

Suppose you want to learn more about the user journey with a paid Facebook ad. You will need to install a Meta Pixel tag to read clicks. A Google Ads tag will also collect app download information from ad clicks. Finally, another tag might recognized when users visit multiple web pages in one session.

Use the data in Google Tag Manager to segment user events — more on that later — modify ads, and improve conversions. For example, a high-intent user might scroll further down your ad or click more often than others. What information can you gather about these users? Then, retarget your ads more specifically to their demographic.

Insights From Google Analytics Tags

You would be remiss not to utilize Google Analytics tags. Think of all the critical information you’ll miss out on. Adding a tracking code to your website can give you the following insights:

  • Real-time user activity
  • How users found your website, whether from an organic search, social media, or a paid ad — you can also see how many users visit from these sources and when
  • User demographics, including location, gender, age and interests
  • The device used to visit your website — laptop, tablet, smartphone, desktop computer, etc.
  • How long users stayed on your website from each device
  • Whether your website effectively retains users
  • How well your website performs, such as page-loading speed

Google Analytics tags also inform you of your paid ad performance to determine your return on investment. Remember, there are 30 million small businesses in the U.S. — tracking how well users engage with your ads will tell you whether they are effective and offer something unique.

Google Analytics 4: An ‘Event’ Worth Waiting For

On July 1, 2023, Google Analytics 4 replaced Universal Analytics. While marketers grapple with the changes, the new setup is most beneficial to website owners.

Google Analytics 4 focuses on “events” — identifying, tracking, and analyzing information, such as content views, ad clicks, and scrolling. 

Before the changes, business owners relied on engineers to implement tags and make changes accordingly. However, Google Analytics 4 is an automated tool you implement once and allow it to do the heavy lifting for you.

Overall, this update will save you ample time in finding causation in website traffic and improve your website and ad performance.

Setting Up Google Analytics Tags 

Installing Google Analytics tags isn’t the most straightforward task — but you will appreciate the information you can gather from them. If you have questions, it helps to know someone familiar with coding and development. In the meantime, follow these steps to install Tag Manager and set up your website’s tags.

1. Consider Your Goals

What do you want to learn from Google Analytics tags? You may want to know how often ads get clicked, how many subscribers come from ads, your best marketing channels, the most popular products in your e-commerce shop, and what leads to conversions most often.

You may also identify trouble spots you can work on to achieve positive outcomes.

2. Assess Existing Tags

Determine what tags you have already installed through the Google Tag Manager or Google Tag Assistant widget. You can also look for tags manually. 

Avoid redundant tags for the most accurate data and better website protection.

3. Install Google Tag Manager

Visit tagmanager.google.com and click on the Accounts tab to create a new account. Fill out the information as prompted and agree to the Terms of Service to make your container — tags, triggers, and variables. 

A dialog box will give you different container options: Web and AMP, iOS and Android, and Server. You must create new containers for each platform to garner information across several sources.

4. Install the Container

Unless you’re an experienced web developer, you may need assistance with this step. Click on Workspace in the Google Tag Manager. You will see your container ID at the top of the page — it will look like GTM-XXXXXX.

Click on the ID — the Install Tag Manager box should appear. Then, copy and paste the code into your website HTML. 

Be sure to put the <script> snippet in the <head> and the <noscript> snippet right after the <body> tag.

5. Add New Tags

Click on Tags and then New in your Workspace. Name and configure your tag based on what you want it to do. You can always create a custom HTML tag if there aren’t any tag type matches.

Although optional, you should add a note to your tag for future reference. 

Save and create additional tags if you need them. 

6. Ensure the Tags Work

After you add tags to your container, you must ensure they work properly. Preview the tags, which will open the Google Tag Assistant in a new tab.

Paste the website URL. Google Tag Assistant will identify errors and offer suggestions for fixing them. You can edit tags by clicking on their names.

Save your changes and hit the Preview button again to ensure they work the second time.

7. Publish the Tags

On the top right-hand side of your screen, click Submit. The Submit Changes page will open, allowing you to publish or save your container.

Choose Publish and Create Version if they haven’t already been selected.

You can review whether your configuration is accurate in the Workspace Changes section.

Create a Version Name and Version Description before publishing. 

Troubleshooting With Google Tag Assistant

Suppose you run into a snag with your Google Analytics Tags. Maybe you didn’t install the code correctly, or data processing is stuck. Google Tag Assistant — a Chrome extension — will help resolve the issue.

Google Tag Assistant diagnoses issues and helps you troubleshoot Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, and Adwords Conversion Tracking in real-time. 

Tag Assistant will report any problems and make suggestions as you move through your website’s pages.

Learn How to Use Google Analytics Tags

Google Analytics Academy offers free tutorials on using tags to track user events. Business owners can log into their accounts to view the self-paced Google Tag Manager Fundamentals course. 

The course boosts your comprehension of tagging to avoid redundancy and inaccuracy — which could result in incorrect data and decreased website performance. 

Google also posts shorter courses about Tag Manager on YouTube, including the following titles:

  • Getting Started With Google Tag Manager
  • Getting Started With Google Optimized
  • Creating a Google Ads Tag & Conversion Linker in Google Tag Manager
  • Key Features of Google Tag Manager
  • Setting up the Google Analytics 4 Property with Google Tag Manager

There are also numerous written tutorials on installing tags on your website and navigating the Google Tag Manager. Utilize whatever resources help you retain information best. The more you learn about Google Analytics tags and installing containers, the more you’ll get out of user events.

Tag — You’re It!

You can gain practical insights to guide your marketing strategy when you install Google Analytics tags on your business website. Applying a tracking code to your website doesn’t have to be complicated if you carefully follow the steps.

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About The Author

Cooper Adwin is the Assistant Editor of Designerly Magazine. With several years of experience as a social media manager for a design company, Cooper particularly enjoys focusing on social and design news and topics that help brands create a seamless social media presence. Outside of Designerly, you can find Cooper playing D&D with friends or curled up with his cat and a good book.

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