MTM Ep#8: How to use Google Tag Manager to master MarTech with Derek Cavaliero

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Welcome back to another episode of More Than Marketing. I’m your host, Arsham Mirshah, and I’m joined today with Derek Cavaliero, the senior director of engineering. Today, we’re talking about what is Google Tag Manager (GTM), the benefits of it, and how to use it to master MarTech.


– It’s a service provided by Google for Google Tag Managers.

– Google Tag Managers, yeah.

– And it lets you be able to control when your tracking code fires, what tracking code fires, and be able to see even in cases like who did what and when.

– Welcome back to another episode of More Than Marketing. I’m your host, Arsham Mirshah, and I’m joined today by, with, with, by? With Derek. With Derek Cavalliero. Derek is, I’m not one for titles, but senior director of engineering, let’s say.

– Sounds good,

– The point is, yeah. The point is, he’s been doing this a while. He’s a web developer, but what’s unique about him is that, first and foremost, I have a soft spot in my heart for you, and I think you know that already. Because he’s our most tenured team member here at webmechanix. He’s been with us for eight years. For context, we’ve been in business for almost 10. Right, so, us less than 10, him more than eight, so it’s, and what that means, though, what that means for his skillset, is that at one point, he was the only developer outside of me, at webmechanix, so that means that all the landing page, all the sites that we did, all the tracking, which we’re gonna talk about tracking today, all that went through Derek, so not only did he get a PhD in…

-A PhD, you’re too kind.

– Street PhD, not official.

– Don’t fact-check that one.

– Don’t fact-check that, right, well done. From, not only does he have his, well yeah, I’m saying

– well, but right not

– His PhD in web development, but also, he’s been seeing the intersection of web development and web marketing.

– Right

– Right? So that’s very unique because I would say like, the average web developer out there is just that, a web developer, and that’s fine, it’s all well and good. A lot of respect, but when you have marketers who are trying to gather data, fire tags, we’ll talk about that in a second, you need to understand, I think web developers, would you say this is true, that they need to understand how their work impacts the marketing, right?

– Yeah, and I think that there’s, back eight years ago, the idea of martech, if you will, or marketing tech, was kind of like not a thing, there were silos of like okay, here’s developers, and here’s marketing professionals and you have to interact with each other, but that’s about all you have, so. It’s growing over the years

– Now, now, right.

– I mean, obviously there’s so many tools out there that you can’t even put them on one sheet of paper in ten point font, it’d run over and over and over again.

– Right, that’s not possible.

– So yeah, it’s been a unique experience being able to learn all that stuff. And I learned most of the tracking stuff from this guy here, he’s the best.

– I’ll take a high five for that.

– So he taught me all the fundamentals that I needed to know and we feed off each other, so

– I just, I personally think that that intersection, cause that’s me too, right? I’m a comp sci, but then now I’m in this marketing field, so you and I are very much alike kind of in that sense that we know how development impacts marketing, so let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about something that’s near and dear I know to both of our hearts, definitely, undoubtedly yours. is, and that’s because it’s made your life a lot easier, better, whatever, we’ll talk about the benefits. And that is Google Tag Manager, or Tag Managers

– Of any flavor.

– Of any flavor, yeah. We’ll talk about Google cause, you know, soft spot in our hearts for Google, right.

– And it’s free. That’s always a good thing.

– It is, that’s yes sir. Now so, but first and foremost, cause I don’t, I’m not sure exactly who’s listening to this, like, everyone, you all might know what a tag is, you might not. Let’s answer that first. What is a tag, Derek?

– Sure, um, so a tag I guess is the best way to describe it, is you’ve probably heard the term pixel or tracking code or tag. Those are kind of all synonymous words for like, the same thing. And really what that comes down to is a piece of JavaScript or some type of pixel like an image that you put on your site for gathering data or tracking campaign success, of that nature. So tag is just like the word that Google decided to use to describe all of that kind of cloud of things that you may be trying to implement on your site.

– Pixel. I think pixel is gonna be the thing you hear.

– Yeah. And like a tag, yeah, that’s a good point. A tag isn’t something that implements functionality. It’s something that implements a marketing tracking type of thing. You shouldn’t be doing that kind of stuff in there, and we’ll get to that later in maybe some pros and cons kind of thing.

– Yeah. So I think a tag is like a pixel

– Right

– And they’ve all seen it, they’ve all seen like hey, we want to use this new tool. I want to use Hotjar, right.

– Right.

– And then Hotjar comes on and says, okay great, install this tag on your site. And they give you instructions how to do that. They even let you send that to a developer sometimes, right.

– Yeah, yep.

– So that’s a tag, you know, all the tools have em, and anything that’s tracking your site or doing split testing or stuff like that.

– Gathering like heat map data, all that kind of stuff.

– Yeah. I mean Google Analytics. The most simple one, Google Analytics.

– Right, oh yeah yeah. The most important one, probably.

– The most important one, you know. When they give you that thing, they say put this on your site. That’s a tag.

– Yep.

– Or a pixel, or whatever. So okay, great. So we know what a tag is. Then what’s a tag manager?

– Right, so I mean, it sounds pretty self-explanatory, right.

– Just what it sounds like, it’s a

– It manages your tags.

– It manages your tags. There you go.

– Drop mic.

– And we’re done, have a good day.

– So I guess the best way to describe it is it gives you a graphical user graphical user graphical user interface to maintain and manage and implement these pieces of tracking code all over your site. While before like,

– What was the alternative?

– You just mentioned it a few moments ago, it was either you knew enough about your website where you could go into the template files and do the code installation by yourself manually, and in some cases even understand the JavaScript modifications that would need to be made to do it.

– Right.

– So probably like a marketer wearing many hats like part developer, part marketer, part kind of, I guess, what I kind of am. But the downside to that is that when you’re doing that over and over and over again and you have tons and tons of tools, it gets to be really really daunting to go in there and have to maintain and make sure you keep track of everything that’s on there. And then also like debugging and stuff like that, so.

– Yeah, it use to be that it was like, hey install this tag. And you would have to go to your website’s template files and put that JavaScript in the template file. Usually before the head html closes or right after the body opens. You’ve all seen this when you add a new tag, and that’s not, while it works, it’s not the most, it’s not the cleanest way to install things. And true to the name, tag manager, it becomes a nightmare to manage.

– Right, exactly.

– Especially when you have ten or more tags.

– Yeah, and when you have a complex business that has complex advertising campaigns, it just gets more and more complicated.

– Yeah.

– So that’s really what a tag manager is, it gives, it’s a service provided by Google, for Google tag manager

– Google tag manager.

– And it let’s you be able to control when your tracking code fires, what tracking code fires, and be able to see, even in cases like who did what and when. And there’s all kinds of great stuff.

– Yeah, so let’s talk about the benefits of tag manager. Right, cause okay, hey why do I need tag manager when I can, I know how to get to my template file, I’ll go to the whatever, WordPress editor or ftp or I’ll do something, right. Or some plugins even have like, insert your code here, right. But what’s the, let’s talk about some benefits of Tag Manager. Why should I use Tag Manager and not use, not consult directly.

– Sure. So the way this Tag Manager works is, instead of having all these little pieces of tracking code that you keep installing in template, header, and footer files, wherever you may need to put them, it’s one piece of code that you then remove all of your old tags from being hard coded into those templates, you hard code one container tag, they call it,

– They’re called a container, right.

– And then that container manages the injection of all of these other tracking tools and tags and pixels and what have you. So that you don’t have to worry about maintaining all those inside template files, because it can be daunting, especially if like you need to remove one, and maybe you don’t have direct access to those files. Maybe you have to go in and talk to an I.T. team, or you have to talk to an internal development team and they have to get it built into their workflow and that can take time.

– Yeah

– Whereas this gives you more control for the marketing initiatives that you have that you probably have two days to turn around. A lot of times, developers will be like, I don’t have time to do that in two days

– Yeah, that’s a good point, it’s a good point. Cause it use to be, it use to be hey, I got this tag, I need you to install it in my site. And you put it into the queue of the I.T. team or the development team. They got other things going on, right. So now, and then meanwhile, you’re sitting there waiting. You, the marketer are sitting there waiting two, three weeks. Your tag’s not installed, you’re not collecting data, you’re not able to run split tests, you know, et cetera, et cetera. So with Tag Manager, you install it one time, and that becomes kind of a portal. They call it a container, I call it a portal.

– Yeah, it’s kind of like a wormhole into your site, I like to think of it as like a weird like, tunnel that you control, and you control the traffic and the way that things get fed into it now.

– Exactly. Now, that makes me think. Is it safe? The answer is yes, unless someone gets access to your tag manager. Just the same way if someone were to get access to

– The ftp files and

– The ftp, or even the admin, to your content management system, right.

– Yeah. Like Spider Man said, or Peter Parker’s like, dad said, or uncle. With great power comes great responsibility.

– That’s what it is, yeah.

– Something like that. I’m not a comic guy

– but that is very true.

– Right. I mean, it goes the same way everywhere. And yeah, like if you give marketing, like a marketing team control over adding JavaScript to a site, there’s always a chance that they could implement something that they shouldn’t. Now that comes down to having someone control and manage like what goes on and what goes off. So maybe having a developer review some of the stuff that goes into production, and then that’s one of the benefits to get on your point.

– Yeah, that’s just another benefit, I would agree with that.

– It’s the ability to provide certain roles and capabilities to users to access those containers, so you can say hey, the XYZ user, let’s say John Smith, cause that’s the most famous example user ever. John Smith can add tags, but they can’t publish them. But they can submit them for review.

– Right.

– And then you can create an approval queue if you want to go that far, so that you can kind of have a workflow for how things are added so that there’s not five or six people from your marketing team adding tags in

– And then publishing stuff all the time. So benefit number one, just to backtrack. Benefit number one is, things can be done faster, you’re more nimble both for adding tags and removing tags. I also think, to go along with that benefit, that you can also control where the tags fire. So for instance, if you are, let’s say you’re doing heat mapping, right. And you only want to run heat mapping on one or two pages. Maybe your pricing page. You want to run a heat map on that, or use a recording. You don’t need to fire the JavaScript for Hotjar or Lucky Orange or whatever heat mapping tool kits measure your using. You don’t have to fire it on all the pages of your site. You just want to fire it on that one page, right. So with Tag Manager, it’s very easy to do that, whereas if you were to do that through your template files, it would presumably and potentially and most likely actually be more difficult to do, to implement it on just one page.

– Yeah, correct. Cause then you actually do need to get a developer, especially if you have to write those conditional cases where like, if this page is this URL, do this.

– Right, right. Or I’ve seen it where they just go into the content management system, go into the text view, and they just drop the JavaScript there, and it’s just like man,

– Now it’s really complicated.

– Now you’ve got code everywhere, right. You got you know, render blocking, JavaScript, I don’t even want to get into the details of page speed at this point.

– Right.

– Alright, so that’s benefit one. Benefit two is, I think you were saying, is permissioning and preview.

– Yeah, there’s built in debugging and error handling. And even going back to like being able to put JavaScript in. If you try to publish a tag and it has a JavaScript error that would throw an error inside the JavaScript console, it actually won’t let you publish it.

– There you go.

– So it’s actually, Google’s kind of on top of that to make sure you’re not doing things that are completely broken

– That’s amazing. I did not know that, thank you.

– So it’s actually really cool.

– I learned something. I like that.

– Yeah, so

– I like that, I did not know that.

– And I don’t know how long it’s been there, it’s gotta be within the past year, but that’s a great thing.

– That’s awesome, I love that. Thank you, Google, appreciate that.

– So that’s a huge benefit. And that debugging panel can help people that aren’t technical be able to see like, okay this tag did not fire when I expected it to.

– Yeah, so Derek, that’s good. So now back to John Smith, you’ve got John Smith out there, he’s only, he doesn’t have publish permissions, he only has, I don’t know what the permission is. He can add tags, he can preview to see if his tag that he added is working. So now he can go and, he the marketer, he the whomever can go figure that out and they have a user interface to do that preview to see if the tag worked. And then, still doesn’t have it published. Still can’t publish to the site, but now it’s in the workflow and he can say hey, I checked it, it does work. Please just make sure, whomever’s gonna publish it, that your QA is good.

– Yeah, yeah. And that’s kind of like point one A and point one B, like there is that built-in debugging and error handling, and then there’s also a built-in version control system. So if you need to revert, it’s a click of a button away and you can revert to a previous version from three months ago, two days ago. You can go forward in time and backward in time.

– Version control. So now we can see who messed it up.

– The blame game. Not really, that’s not what that means

– No more blame game, it’s very cut and dried.

– But right, yeah, unless someone’s using something they shouldn’t, but, or logged into something they shouldn’t be.

– I’m using your login.

– Right

– It’s all Derek’s fault

– Right. And it has the ability, and there’s great things about it. There’s the ability to leave notes inside certain tags about what they’re for, what campaigns they’re for. You can leave notes in versions to tell people what this version is doing or changing or modifying

– Yeah, what you’re trying to accomplish.

– You can see each and every tag and trigger, and there’s even more advanced stuff that are very helpful for developers inside there that you can see change over time inside there, so that’s a huge benefit because most of the time, you hard code these tags in and there’s no way to tell if a tag gets removed randomly or sporadically.

– Yeah, who did it, when they did it, why.

– Maybe the site had to be reverted from a backup from three months ago

– Oh right, right, right.

– Because there was a hosting issue and the files were corrupt.

– Right, that’s a good point.

– But your I.T. team reverts it, and then they don’t think about the tracking, but now your tracking’s gone. Now you can’t tell if your ad campaign’s gonna be like converted.

– It’s a good point, yep.

– So there’s all kinds of benefits for having one centralized thing.

– And there’s another benefit that you told me about that I wouldn’t have thought about off the top of my head, and that is, if you, Tag Manager can be kind of a central place where your data is coming in, so imagine you want to track clicks of a particular button, or form fills or E-commerce, someone purchased or added to cart. When, if you’re not using Tag Manager and you want to send that data to Google Analytics, you want to send that data to Hotjar, you want to send that data to Facebook because maybe you want to, you know, you want to do campaign tracking, conversion tracking. Or you want to build audiences out of analytics or audiences out of Facebook, right. So if you’re not using Tag Manager, now you have to go write all this custom JavaScript for analytics, and you have to write the custom JavaScript for Facebook, and a custom JavaScript for Hotjar, insert your platform here, right.

– And hope you’re typing all in the same case and in the same format and all that stuff.

– Right, right, yeah. Case, format, right. And you’re using the same words.

– Yeah, so the consistency so that you’re not looking at one system and seeing like, okay, I track it this way.

– So how do you, so we solve that with Tag Manager.

– Yeah, and admittedly like it, Tag Manager is a very great tool for people that do not know the technical wherewithal, like everything that’s happening behind the scenes, but it’s also a fantastic tool for people that need, for power users like myself and other developers.

– Right, and other developers, right.

– Who need to implement very specific and advanced tracking implementations to have full control over the data and how it flows through all the different tags. So to your point, you can say okay, anytime an event, we’ll just say an event, is sent to Google Analytics, we can say, okay, what other platforms am I using that also accept like an event type of hit, or some type of hit.

– Yeah, Facebook for sure.

– Facebook for sure. Bing is another one.

– Bing for sure, yeah.

– There’s countless. They all kind of do the same thing. Mixpanel does it for sure.

– Yeah, Mixpanel.

– So being able to take that and say, okay, we already have this data inside our data model inside analytics, oh I said analytics, and that’s an important thing to touch on too, the difference between analytics and tag manager, because they are not the same thing. We can touch on that in a second. But being able to take that, and then just say, okay here’s one event, let’s send it to three different places in the same, two, cause I don’t have three hands, but there you go. Send it in three different places with the same formatting and everything like that. That’s incredibly powerful because it makes reporting a heck of a lot easier cross-platform.

– Because now you have consistency. And you know that when some action is taken on your website, it’s not only going to analytics, it’s going to all the platforms that you need it to go to.

– Yeah. And it also can clean up your tag manager container a considerable amount if you have a lot of different networks that you’re running on and stuff like that.

– Right. And now, that’s kind of a, you’ve got to have your implementation set up correctly for that. And you know one thing that I know you’ve done, is we now have here what we call the GTM Google Tag Manager boiler plate.

– Yeah. Boiler plate, base. We haven’t really come up with a name. We call it GTM base container. Boilerplate works.

– Yeah, foundation, whatever you want to call it. It doesn’t really matter. But what’s the benefit of, or like, can we give that out?

– Yeah. I mean yeah, we can. And that’s one cool feature that I actually didn’t talk about here is, you have the ability, since this is all hosted inside Google’s cloud, like cloud. It’s hosted up on the server that Google controls. You have the ability to export that, your configuration settings, and then reimport it into another container, however much you choose. And remember, containers are just the one piece of tracking code that you have that has a unique ID that you install on a site, so what we can do, and what we do do do do

– He said it. You heard him, he said it here.

– Probably the millionth time, actually. But what you can do is, you take the export of a container, and then you can reimport it and then use that as like a boiler plate or like a base container. So what we have, it’s like a bare bones, not bare bones I’d say,

– So hold on, what do we have out of the box? Right, so we have, I know we have like send event tracking.

– Yeah, we do stuff like there’s things that you find yourself, and this comes just from working on countless amounts of marketing initiatives

– Tracking buttons.

– Yeah. Tracking button clicks. I know a lot of the time, that’s a little. I try to go higher than that because buttons always have a different means of the way you need to be tracked. But things like clicks on Email addresses links, like mail to links. Phone numbers, click to call. Being able to track how many people are clicking on a particular phone number on a page. You can do, there’s built-in YouTube video watch tags and triggers and stuff now

– Oh, wow, so you can track how long people are

– You can see percentage based tracking, so you can see people pausing, playing, fast-forwarding, backward, all that kind of stuff through YouTube videos. So if you do a lot of video content, it’s fantastic cause doing that kind of tracking by yourself is daunting cause,

– You have all of this out of the box? All this in the boilerplate?

– Yeah, and that’s just Google stuff that I’m talking about. There’s also, we have

– Vimeo

– There is a Vimeo tag in there. To do similar stuff with Vimeo tracking for Vimeo videos compared to YouTube. And then we also have Bing, Bing ads. We don’t have it enabled by default in there, but it’s easy to turn on and off at the click of a button. We have Facebook tracking pixels, we have

– Right, and that’s not out of the box either.

– Google Analytics, obviously, a huge one that’s probably the most important.

– Yes, so on that note, Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics, not the same thing. If you have Tag Manager installed, that does not mean by default that you have analytics installed.

– Or anything installed.

– Or anything installed. You put the container on, Tag Manager container, nothing’s in there. You gotta publish some tags. But Derek, we’re running out of time so let’s do this. We’ll put in the link or in the description or something or you can just Google webmechanix boiler plate Google Tag Manager.

– Something like that, yeah.

– That’s what we’re gonna call it. That’s the landing page we’ll optimize for so the listeners can find that, the viewers can see it in the description. But yeah, thank you for your time first and foremost cause this is, again, important stuff. You know, just like marketing and sales sometimes butt heads, I’ve seen marketing and development teams butt heads, right.

– Yeah.

– But we all gotta work together

– And we all have different priorities and we all understand that, that everyone’s job’s equally important. It’s just hard to agree on that common ground when there’s something that needs to be bumped up in someone’s priority list when they’re already busy with whatever going on. This aims to solve a lot of that.

– Exactly. And so this tool, this Google Tag Manager tool, sits between development and marketing, or I.T. if you want to call, depending on your organization, and marketing, and helps bring those teams together in kind of common ground, you know, and just make things easier, make things faster, can make your site load faster in some cases as well. And it’s just a tool that’s near and dear to our hearts so we figured we’d share it with you out there. And you ask us for the boiler plate, happy to give it to you, happy to help with Google Tag Manager. Powerful tool for marketers, but also for power developers and custom tracking scenarios, so

– Yes, definitely.

– Cool. Derek, thanks again for your time.

– Yeah, not a problem.

– Cheers all you all out there. Hope this was helpful. Take care.

– Take care.

Derek Cavaliero

Derek CavalieroDirector of Engineering

Arsham Mirshah

Arsham MirshahCEO & Co-Founder

Podcasts Info:
Data + Tech
News + Business

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