One of the more common requests that we get here at Simpleview is about how to install gtags on websites. If you find yourself in that boat, this guide will serve as a great starting point to learn what a gtag is, why Google created it, when to use it, and also when not to use it.
For background, even though Google Tag Manager has been out for nearly eight years, many marketers still cling to old hard-coded tracking methods, which have to be manually updated. This is not ideal. Simplistic testing methods often look for tracking tag code stamped out in the HTML of the page. Google created global site tag ("gtag") to make hard coders feel like they had control, while getting the advantages of modern tracking tag implementations.
Gtag uses Google Tag Manager technology to install Google Ads, Doubleclick and Analytics tags (without having to set up a Tag Manager account), while still looking a lot like older tags. It does this by calling tag manager with /gtag/ in the path, followed by the instructions for the tag to be added. It looks like this: “https://www.tagmanager.com/gtag/aw-1234567/”. This code creates a new tag manager "instance" on your website, then uses the Google Tag Manager native Ads tag to send another request for a Google Ads tag with the id 1234567.
Q. Do you already have Google Tag Manager installed on your website?
If you are on the Simpleview CMS, you already have Tag Manager set up by our digital marketing analytics developers at the launch of your website. Instruct your agency to select the Google Tag Manager instructions for their Google Ads, Doubleclick, or Analytics tag instead of gtag.
Google says quite clearly not to use both Tag Manager and gtag at the same time. If you understand that gtag is a simplified call to Google Tag Manager that only works with a few Google tags, that instruction makes perfect sense. Google says, "use Tag Manager's native tag templates" and only “consider gtag.js if you are unable to use Tag Manager”.
Q. I don't have Google Tag Manager on my website. Do I need gtag?
It's important to realize that gtag only handles Google Ads, Doubleclick, and Google Analytics Tags. If you use anything else, you probably want to install a tag management system — it's the same amount of code on your site so it's really a no-brainer. There are others, but Google Tag Manager is free, and is tried and true. Plus there is quite a community going around Google Tag Manager which means it keeps improving and getting easier to use.
Google suggests the "upgrade" to tag manager from gtag if you need to manage multiple tags. There might be a compelling reason to hard code gtags when it's easy to put a tag management system on the site and be done with it, but it's going to be borne out of some external consideration. If your corporate web policy forbids tag management systems, or if you still want to “hard code” tags, then maybe gtag is for you.
Q. If an agency or media vendor sends a gtag and I have Google Tag Manager, what should I do?
You can tell it's a gtag because it will have googletagmanager.com/gtag/... in the url. Tell your agency or media vendor that you already have Google Tag Manager and ask them to provide the Tag Manager option. If that fails, it's pretty easy to translate that if you know how to read the code.
If you see /gtag/aw-1234567, that is a Google Adwords pixel. If it is DC-1234567, that is a doubleclick tag. If there's more, it might be a conversion pixel. You can figure that out by the noscript tag that's at the bottom of the code. But if you want, just send it on and we can do that for you.
I hope this helps you to understand Google's global site tag a little better! Remember that we have a team of analytics developers who do tracking all day every day and we are here to help! Just send a ticket to your SEO analyst or account manager and we'll set it up and test for you.