Google Tag Manager Set Up & Basic Usage – Digital Marketing 201

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Niche Presents: Digital Marketing 201

Part of the 201 series, a deeper dive into various topics for enrollment marketers.

What is Google Tag Manager?

Google Tag Manager (GTM) is a system that can easily be integrated with almost any website; enabling site managers to quickly create, edit, and deploy tags. Without GTM, such actions would require advanced knowledge of coding. This quick and easy alternative can help take your digital marketing efforts to the next level, without a heavy reliance on your web development team. In a prior post, A Deeper Look at Goals & Conversions, we had mentioned the use of GTM as a means to activate tags, such as Google Analytics Event Goals. Within this article, we will walk you through how to set up, use, and troubleshoot GTM.

Installing GTM on Your Website

Now let’s get started! If you don’t already have a GTM account, you will need to both set up and install it on your site.

Setup – Create GTM Account & Container

  • Visit
  • Sign in using the Gmail account of your choice, preferably one linked to your Google Analytics account, Google Ads account, and your institutional email instead of personal.
  • Select the blue “Create Account” button in the top right corner of your page
  • Complete the brief account and container setup forms
    • Google recommends having one account per company, so naming the account something along the lines of your school’s name will help you keep track of things down the road.
    • Containers are where all of your various elements will live, ie. tags, triggers, etc. Instructions for adding your first tag and trigger are below. Google recommends naming containers in association with the website they will later be linked to, ie. your official edu website. Be sure to select “Web” when asked where this container will be used.
  • Click “Create,” then test and “Publish”

Install – Integrate Container with Your Website 

  • Immediately after your container is created, you should receive a pop-up window with the snippets of code that will need to be inserted into your site. These codes can be later referenced by clicking on your container ID at the top of GTM’s main page, starting with GTM- followed by a string of numbers and letters. If you do not have access to the back end of your institution’s website, send the next two steps to your webmaster.
  • The first snippet should be pasted as high up in your <head> code as possible.
  • The second snippet should be pasted as high as possible in your <body> code.

How to Use GTM

Now that you have created a GTM account and implemented the container, you can begin to create tags and triggers. Each has a corresponding tab located on the left side of GTM’s main page. Below we will define and provide a how-to guide for tags and triggers. Please read this entire section before actually creating any of these elements, as we recommend creating triggers prior to tags. After your desired creation or changes have been made, you will then use GTM’s “Preview” function before actually submitting and publishing your changes. This will help ensure a seamless publishing experience.

Tags: An element that fires on a webpage or mobile app after a designated event takes place. Events could be form submissions, button clicks, page views, etc. Tags are typically used to send measurement information from your site to a third party, in order to track and optimize for those events or actions. Examples include the Google Analytics tag and the Google Ads conversion tag. Every tag must have at least one trigger in order to fire.

To create a new tag:

  • Navigate to the “Tags” tab, then select “New”
  • Click the “Tag Configuration” field
  • From the pop-up, select the tag type you would like to create
  • Complete the setup for the selected tag type

Triggers: These are what actually alert tags to fire, enabling the tracking of your specified actions. GTM offers both pre-made and custom triggers. Remember, every tag must have at least one trigger to fire.

To create a new trigger:

  • Navigate to the “Triggers” tab, then select “New”
  • Click the “Trigger Configuration” field
  • From the pop-up, select the trigger type you would like to create
  • Complete the setup for the selected trigger type

*We recommend utilizing Google’s many resources to further understand each of the dozens of Tag and Trigger types available within GTM. 

Verify That Your Tags Are Working

After publishing changes to your site from GTM, we recommend taking a few steps to ensure that the tags and triggers you’ve created and published were set up properly, as well as your integration of GTM itself. As we mentioned earlier, GTM’s preview mode can be a helpful first step in ensuring a seamless publish. Another helpful process to make sure your tags are working is to visit your website and take whatever actions you set as triggers. Afterward, verify those actions are visible in Google Analytics Real-Time reports.

Navigating to Real-Time reports:

  • Sign in to your Analytics account
  • Navigate to the View in the Property where you added the snippet
  • On the left side of your screen, under “Reporting,” select select “Real-Time”
  • Then in that dropdown, select ”Overview”

You can also use Google Tag Assistant to determine whether your tag, or even GTM and Google Analytics, are implemented correctly. When you load a webpage in Chrome, Tag Assistant checks for Google pixels on that page to provide real-time feedback, including any present errors and ways to resolve them.

Utilizing Google Tag Assistant:

  • First, you will need to download the extension from Google’s Chrome Web Store
  • Ensure the extension was correctly downloaded and activated by navigating to Chrome’s settings menu, hovering over “More Tools,” then selecting “Extensions”
  • In a new Chrome tab, open the web page where you’ve implemented tags/triggers with GTM
  • Click on the Google Tag Assistant icon to the right of your address bar
  • Press “Enable” at the bottom of the drop-down
  • Refresh the page
  • Click once again on the Tag Assistant icon
  • Now the drop-down will display helpful information regarding your tag/trigger implementation
  • If errors are detected, you can usually click the error to gain more detail and even click the “?” tool to be lead to a Google knowledge article on how best to resolve the issue

Possible Errors & Troubleshooting

Unpublished Changes

Check that you published your container after adding tags and triggers. Changes made to a container do not take effect on a site until you publish the container. A container can sometimes take a few minutes to publish, so confirm that GTM has completed your request to publish. Once on the webpage you are testing, reload the page or clear your web browser’s cache to ensure that the latest changes have been communicated and fully loaded.

Too many HTTP requests

Tag Manager can only fire tags within the limitations of the browser. Most web browsers support a maximum of six to eight HTTP requests at one time for a single domain. If you have a high number of tags on the same domain firing under the same conditions, tags will only fire within this browser limitation, meaning the remainder will not fire and therefore not be tracked.

Users leave the page before a tag fires

If a user leaves the page before a tag fires, then data for that tag cannot be captured. This is why it is recommended that the initial container code snippets provided by GTM are installed as high up in the <head> and <body> sections of your site. Proper installation of these snippets will help to minimize the window of time in which data loss is possible.

Using an incorrect tag or viewing the wrong account, property, or view

If you work with multiple websites or have access to multiple Analytics accounts, you might be using a tag from the wrong property, or you may be looking at reports in the wrong account/property/view. Make sure you are using the correct tag for your property, and that you are looking at the correct account, property, and view. This is why it is crucial to thoughtfully name accounts and containers in GTM, as well as your Google Analytics account hierarchy.

Larissa Cole

Larissa Cole is a Digital Marketing Specialist at Niche. She creates, monitors, and optimizes digital campaigns on behalf of Niche’s K12 and College clients.