Digital Analytics Scholarship @ CXL Institute — 9th Week Review

Mohammad Sammak
10 min readJan 18, 2021

Now finally I have started learning the real deal which is google tag manager. Truth be told, I have previously watched the google tag manager for beginners (this very course) and am looking forward to starting the advanced GTM by mighty Simo Ahava very soon. But first, I needed to lock down the basic information first in order to face the difficult stuff more readily. Be with me to tell you about this course and what I learned using it.

10- Google Tag Manager for beginners by Chris Mercer

  • Google tag manager is on the greatest tools in digital marketing which every marketer needs to know how to use. It is a great tool that lets you collect a ton of data and act based on them.
  • It is way better than Google Analytics from a data collection perspective. Chris put a lot of time on explaining what are the differences between google analytics and google tag manager. After that, he told us what GTM is supposed to do for you and it was very good to understand the basics about the tool.
  • And after that, we have to know a little about tags, triggers and variables. They are the things that are foundational and are must-know for every one.
  • Tags are things that we want GTM to do for us. They are basically scripts that once run, do things that are predefined. We have a set of built-in tags for popular platforms, especially for google services.
  • If there is a service that isn’t available in built-in tags, you can use a custom html tag for doing them. Tag manager is quite flexible in these kinds of tasks and let you do almost anything you want.
  • And after that, we have triggers. If we suppose that tags are what needs to be done, triggers are the conditions that once are met, tags will fire (do the things).
  • Triggers are kind of when the tags should fire and in this, they are very powerful.
  • Finally we have variables. Actually variables aren’t that easy to be described and need certain elaborations. But we can say that variables are the information that are needed for tags and triggers to work properly.
  • Some variables are built-in and only need to be turned on (configured), but others are there to be defined by the user and hence, they are called user-defined variables. By using user-defined variables, you can do things that you were not able to do before, because they cover almost everything and some of them need in-depth knowledge to work with.
  • In tag manager, we have a thing called the Data Layer which according to Mercer, is a virtual file cabinet. It is a temporary data storage in which data is stored based on Key and Value pairs. A key is the name of the variable and the value is it suggests, is the value of that variable.
  • Key-Value pair is a term that comes from javascript and shows the programming language that is behind google tag manager. A data layer basically is a javascript object that resets every time a new page loads.
  • You can push things to that data layer and pull data out of it. With the help of a data layer, the sky’s the limit for you and you can do everything that you want. It is a bit daunting at first. But once you get used to it, nothing can stop you guys. Believe me.
  • The next lesson was about organizing google tag manager environment. GTM allows you to use folders in order to keep your shit (tags, triggers, variables) organized and it will help you a lot if you have a very large account.
  • Mercer says that in google tag manager too, less is always more. If you can do a job with one tag, you’d better do that with only one tag. If you have heard this saying before, you know what it means and how precious it is.
  • Chris Mercer also talked about naming conventions and the fact that google tag manager lists everything in the alphabetical order, just as google analytics does it. You need to pick a naming convention that is accepted by all of your team members to prevent any redundancy.
  • Finally , choosing correct accounts and containers will help you in the path of organization. If you have a correct implementation of accounts and containers for your own products or the products from your clients, it will play a big role in maximizing the effectiveness of all of your measurements.
  • Google tag manager has a mode that is called preview and debug mode. In october of 2020 google revised this preview mode and rebranded it to be Tag Assistant. In the previous version of gtm preview mode, we had an orange box indicating that preview mode has been activated. But now we don’t have such a thing and after hitting preview, a new tab opens to show the related stuff.
  • Preview mode shows us the exact tags that have fired, events that have occurred and changes that have happened in the variables and data layer. I can say that without the preview mode, working with tag manager would be undoable.
  • In the previous version of gtm preview mode, after each change in gtm settings you had to hit the refresh preview mode button. But now we don’t have any refresh button and the preview button does the same job.
  • Now is the time for us to know about the rules of publishing containers. In google tag manager, you have this option to work on changes and publish those changes whenever you want. But before publishing, you should preview those changes to see what works and what doesn’t. If the work as you intend for them, the time of publishing has arrived.
  • Publishing has simple rules that you would better abide. Each container published should have a descriptive name. These names will help you find out what was going on in that period of time. Try to be as descriptive as you can in the names and if you need, use the description box as well.
  • In tag manager there is a thing called workspace. These workspaces let you to work independently of your team members and don’t interfere with each other. Once you publish your changes, the workspace will disappear and you’ll be redirected to the default workspace. I like this genius idea that is available in google tag manager.
  • Now we want to create our very first tag and it is google analytics tag. In creating this tag, we need to leverage a very powerful tag which is google analytics setting. It is there to be constantly used and a built-in trigger which is All Pages trigger accompanies it.
  • It is important to note one thing: if you have previously installed the GA tracking code on your website, you have to first remove it from all pages. Only then you are allowed to start using GTM for sending hits to google analytics. If you don’t do this, you will end up having double hits being sent for every hit. You will be overcounting.
  • Tags are nothing but scripts. They can be predefined in google tag manager or be yours to create yourself. It is a natural process to use custom html tags in google tag manager and you might be doing them over and over.
  • In GTM, we can simply measure the clicks that have been done on different elements. Actually we have two different kinds of clicking triggers in GTM: All clicks vs. just Link clicks. This tool does a great job in identifying them and it gives you a ton of possibilities.
  • Besides clicks, you can also measure the time passed in google tag manager. We have a specific trigger as Timer which lets you measure timestamps that you have defined yourself.
  • These two (clicks and timers) can be looked at as engagement metrics and you need to learn how to use them. It is a better option to mix them together and get a combined trigger which only triggers after a specific amount of time and only certain elements have been clicked.
  • Have you ever wondered if it is possible to track user scrolling? The good news is that it is possible using google tag manager. You can set up Scroll Depth tags and tell them to track the direction, threshold and unit of the scroll (percent or pixel).
  • Using scroll depth, we can specify the people who have shown a certain amount of engagement and are ready to be targeted as an audience. Simply send them to google ads or facebook ads and target them.
  • There is a thing in google tag manager that needs your close inspection. We have something called Non-Interaction Hit. it has a weird naming but is very useful for your measurements. It is set by default on “No” and in this way, directly impacts bounce rate. If you don’t want the event to impact the bounce rate, you have to set it to “Yes”.
  • There is another useful built-in trigger google tag manager which is specifically designed for measuring video interaction. Unfortunately it is limited to youtube videos, but it can be dealt with. You can measure how many seconds (or percentage) of the video is being watched and tell google analytics (and other platforms) about it.
  • Mercer says that just like other things in the measurement ecosystem (GA, GTM, stc), this video measurement has to be looked at with caution. You are dealing with something that is better to be known as “Useful Truth” vs. “Accurate Truth”. You can be benefitted from this measurement, but shouldn’t base all your thoughts on that.
  • In google tag manager, we have something called dataLayer. It is a virtual storage which is good for storing temporary data. It is a bit intimidating at first, but once you learn how to use it, you’ll find it extremely useful.
  • For using dataLayer, you need to use the custom html tag in GTM. you will need to know a little about javascript coding to push things to the dataLayer. But it isn’t that scary. You can use ready templates for every push. Gradually you’ll learn how to manually push things to the dataLayer.
  • Every push is better to have a custom event name attached to it. This way you will find out which push has occurred and how the dataLayer has been affected.
  • After pushing information to the dataLayer, we can extract them and kind of harvest what we have seeded. For this purpose, we have to make a new variable called data layer variable or simply DLV.
  • Using a data layer variable we can extract the data using their key (part of the key-value pair). We just tell this variable that we want a thing that is inside the dataLayer and has this particular key. It just returns the appropriate value.
  • For triggering this event and telling google tag manager when it to do the job, we can use the event name that we previously defined. Using a custom event trigger, we can tell GTM whenever this event fires, do a specific task. It is rather straightforward.
  • For enabling ecommerce tracking in GTM, you need to have all the necessary data in the dataLayer. If you don’t have them, you have to build them. This is actually possible by pushing transaction data to the dataLayer. Once you have this data, you can send them to google analytics.
  • We have a transaction tag in tag manager that is in charge of sending transactional data to google analytics. It is just for standard ecommerce reports. You just need to tell google tag manager whenever transactional data is pushed to the dataLayer, fire a new custom event and use that custom event as a trigger for the transaction tag to know when is a proper time of sending data to google analytics.
  • Cross-domain tracking is something that you might need to implement. If you have multiple websites that a user must go through and should be known as a single user in the come back, you need cross-domain tracking.
  • You have to use a combination of two things to correctly implement cross-domain tracking. First you have to go to the referral exclusion list in your google analytics setting and enter the second or third website addresses. After that, you have to open your google analytics settings tag in GTM and fill out the cross-domain and fields to set sections appropriately. It is rather easy to set up.
  • Tag sequencing is a feature in google tag manager which lets you take control of the tags being fired. GTM works asynchronously and by specifying the exact order, you can do a lot of things.
  • For example if you want to install google optimize, you will need to tell google tag manager to run the optimize tag before analytics tag. This is done by the help of tag sequencing.
  • And after that, we have a new feature in tag manager which formats the data in the way that you have defined for them. For example you can tell GTM to lowercase all the characters or replace a true value with something custom.
  • And finally we have made it to the end with google tag manager for beginners. Mercer surprised me in the wrap up lesson with a new lesson and it was about form tracking.
  • If you have some lead capturing initiatives and need to measure them, you can use a predefined trigger if google tag manager. Mercer simulated this process in several forms and methods which were very informative. I learned how to track standard forms and the ones that aren’t that easy to measure.
  • For the latter part, it is best to use custom query parameters and thank you pages which are great signs of actual form completions. Mercer also used a technique that verified the click is coming from a specific page. He actually used the referrer variable which is predefined in GTM and is largely used by the pros.
  • And that is it. We have done a great course and I believe it is just the beginning. Mercer himself has an intermediate GTM course on CXL Institute and after that, I have the plan to take the advanced GTM course which is taught by the mighty Simo Ahava. See you there.



Mohammad Sammak

A marketer who tries to act based on data and never stops learning.