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Tracking Your Website Goals: The Difference Between GTM and GTAG

Tracking your website traffic is immensely important. Anytime you start working on a digital marketing initiative you must have a plan in place for how to measure it. Most of us use Google Analytics to track those results.

However, with the major advances in analytics and tracking, your options on what product to use can be considerably more challenging than just using analytics. Right now, the most common questions we’re seeing are between whether to use Google Tag Manager or the Global Site Tag (in Analytics) – GTAG. Both have value and both are excellent (Google) products, so you can’t go wrong. We’ll use this blog to explain the difference between GTAG and Google Tag Manager (GTM).

But first, a few definitions:

  • Google Tag Manager is a tag management system that allows you to easily update tracking codes and code fragments (called tags) on your site (or app) from the web interface.
  • GTAG is the global site tag, which is a JavaScript tagging framework that allows you to send data to Analytics, Google Ads, and the Google Marketing Program.

So what do they do?

Both Google Tag Manager and the global site tag (gtag.js) are both fully supported methods for the deployment of tags for Google products, such as Google Ads and Google Marketing Platform. Both solutions are built on the same core Google infrastructure and are interoperable.

You Should Think About Tag Manager if:

  • You need the ability to deploy and modify both Google and 3rd party tags
  • You need the ability to deploy and modify tags for both web and mobile apps
  • You need the ability to deploy and modify tags on the fly from a web interface (I think this is the most important one!)
  • You need collaboration capabilities

You Should Consider GTAG for your needs if:

  • Tag Manager is not an option (too confusing, no one understands how to deploy tags and triggers, not allowed – whatever the reasoning)
  • You need the ability to install tags directly on your web page, without the ramp-up time of setting up a tag management system (note: tag manager is no joke, so there is some learning curve and onboarding that needs to happen first)
  • You want the ability to work with your tags directly in JavaScript without being required to work with a separate interface
  • I would also add that you are able to make changes on your website and add in conversion tracking codes to your web interface.

If you currently use Tag Manager, you should continue to do so. Google Ads and Google Marketing Platform tags are fully supported by Tag Manager, and there is no need to deploy additional gtag.js-based code on your site if Tag Manager is already in use. However, we’ve seen Tag Manager “deployed” on a lot of sites but never actually used. So, if you have a container set up from GTM, that’s great, but if you don’t have tags, triggers, data layers, and variables set up for your site, you have essentially done nothing. If you have questions on this, reach out and let us know how we can help you achieve your goals in Analytics.