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We were asked: Is there ever a reason to use Google Analytics tracking codes separate from Google Tag Manager, or should they always be together?

Google Tag Manager should always be the way we deliver Google Analytics, without exception. For a brief period in 2016, we needed to separate them with the Accelerated Mobile Pages protocol, The reason was that you needed to be able to run very lightweight or very mobile friendly JavaScript containers – but even that is no longer the case. Google’s own Analytics tracking code has changed to something called GTag. If you look in Google Analytics, GTag is Google Tag Manager – you can even see it in the URL in the little code snippet.

Now, why would you use G Tag versus Google Tag Manager?  G Tag is simply Google’s way of helping people who don’t have any IT or marketing technology resources to get Tag Manager code installed. That said, if you have the ability or the willingness to learn the system, Google Tag Manager is the way to go.

Why? Simply put, Google Tag Manager is a bucket that holds all of your tracking codes, such as Google Analytics.  What’s important to note it is that it is managed separately. It loads without impacting the rest of your page and it allows you to move things in and out of the bucket without having to change what’s on site.

One thing that marketers tend to struggle with is adding tracking pixels, like retargeting, Facebook, Twitter, and other ad systems to their web pages. If you don’t use a Tag Manager, what happens is you end up having edit pages over and over and over again or calling your IT department and getting into their backlog and queue of tasks. That’s inefficient and really bad for our obvious reasons – it slows down on your ability to be effective as a marketer.  

To use Tag Manager, all you need to do is get it to put the bucket (container) on every page on your website. Once that is set up, you can put things in and out of that bucket (container) as you see fit. For example, if you wanted to put a conversion pixel on your thank you pages, you would put the conversion pixel in Tag Manager and then tell Tag Manager, “I only want you to trigger on thank you pages”. It will then push that change across your entire website without any help from IT and it will automatically detect and run in when triggered.

Some other examples for you: Google website satisfaction surveys and Google Optimized A/B testing are both built right into Tag Manager. You can run these services without having to alter your website code. The best practice is to document what you’ve deployed in Tag Manager and keep an audit of items for compliance reasons. You won’t break your website and it will help you market faster.

The other common reason to use Tag Manager is if you have multiple websites and you want one view of all these websites by unifying your analytics into a roll-up account. Tag Manager is the way to do that. At a high level –   1) you drop your tag manager contained to the same one on multiple different websites 2) then you specify which Google Analytics tag you want to run on each site. That way you only have one tag to manage across all your web properties and it makes it easier to understand if one site is referring traffic to another site.

Google Tag Manager is always the way to go for Google Analytics tracking. If you’re not using it, I strongly encourage you to switch over today because it will make your life easier in the long run. It will make your marketing governance and you’ll be able to deploy new features faster. If you have are interested in learning more about Tag Manager and how to use it Google offers a free course called Google Tag Manager fundamentals. You’ll find it analytics.google.com/analytics/academy and you can learn how to use Tag Manager as well as the best practices for rolling it out.

To reiterate, there’s no reason to not use Tag Manager and it is the way Google wants you to do it. So, the faster you get ahead of the curve by deploying Tag Manager up front, the more convenient, you will find using any kind of Google-centric features of Google Analytics, Google AdWords, Optimize, website satisfaction, double-click, etc. 

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