Review of Google Tag Manager Year One

It was just last October that Google created a buzz by releasing their own tag management solution. You can read our original post on the public launch of Google Tag Manager from October 1st of last year.  We were obviously really excited and we we’re announced as an official tag management partner with the launch. Over the previous few years, Google had proven they could provide an enterprise class web analytics solution, so naturally they could provide an enterprise class tag management solution. But would they?

In addition to excitement, we were cautious. It’s no secret that products acquired by Google, and born within Google, can face unhappy endings (Wave anyone?). Would Google Tag Manager get the attention and development resources that would be necessary to make it a viable option for the enterprise, and businesses that put significant value on their digital data collection? Much less, would it be even a dependable option for companies looking for a low-cost (free) alternative to the high-priced tag management solutions already in the market?

Right out of the gate, we were able to implement tag manager with clients that were willing to gamble a bit on the product’s future, but by no means were we recommending it as a best practice for all our analytics implementations. We didn’t want our clients sitting with a stale tag management solution in place – or worse, inhibited by a product that wasn’t keeping up with the pace of advertising tracking and digital analytics.  Unless the client has another tag management solution in place, we are now making it a default in all of our analytics implementations, and have been for several months. What happened that changed our stance? In general: faith that the product will have a very solid future, and become as widely used as Google Analytics. More specifically, the updates and circumstances outlined below.

Steady Product Updates

There seemed to be somewhat limited activity around tag manager for a month or so after the public launch, but then Google began to make some noise. In early December templates were rolled out for comScore, Bizo, Media6Degrees, and a few other non-Google advertising networks. This of course made setting up tracking for those networks easier, but it also demonstrated Google’s commitment to make Tag Manager a solution for all tracking code, not just AdWords, Doubleclick, Google Analytics stack.

Updates continued into 2013, and one of the more significant and requested ones was announced earlier this month: auto-event tracking. I won’t get into the technical details, but this essentially allows for the tracking of clicks, submissions, and other non-page-loading events, without having to implement any inline code. This can create major efficiencies with advanced and custom tracking implementations.

The takeaway here, is that Google has committed to enhancing the product with features that we need as marketers, regardless of our dependence on Google’s advertising or analytics tracking.

Necessity for Universal Analytics

This is a bit contradictory to that last sentence, but nevertheless a reality. Google’s next version of Google Analytics, Universal Analytics, will be released sometime in the near future. In comparison to the old version, Classic Analytics, it involves completely different tracking code and a different approach. It has been in beta for the better part of this year. Naturally, we want our clients to have the latest-and-greatest, but don’t want them to implement their core analystics tracking code on a constant basis. Tag Manager has allowed us to implement Universal Analytics and Classic Analytics on all sites we’ve performed updated or advanced implementations on in the last 6 months or so. When Google takes Universal Analytics out of beta, the migration for these clients will be fairly simple. For clients that don’t have this configuration in place, and simply have Classic Analytics in place, it will be a bit more complex – significantly complex if they have a lot of custom or advanced tracking. You could try to argue that Tag Manager was simply solving a problem that Google created, but the technology and framework that Universal Analytics uses is far more advanced than Classic Analytics, and necessary for Google Analytics to evolve and be a leader in the analytics space.

Adhearance to Google Analytics Premium SLA

Earlier this month Google announced that Tag Manger would be covered under the Google Analytics Premium service level agreement (SLA). Though on the surface it seems to affect a very small percentage of users (Google Analytics Premium customers using Google Tag Manager) it says a lot about the resources backing Tag Manager. These are Google’s biggest advertising and analytics customers, some of whom make millions of dollars worth of decisions with a single day’s worth of data. To commit to the integrity like this ensures that the product is built to scale, and is being developed and managed by top-tier engineers at Google.

When you stack these events and releases up, it is easy to see that Google Tag Manager has lived up to the hype, and is matching the level of sophistication and rate of progress that Google Analytics has delivered over the past several years. We are very pleased with what we’ve seen in year 1, and look forward to what is coming in the next 12 months and beyond. Along those lines, there are some major enhancements set to launch this quarter, some of which have been announced, but some that will be news to the general public.

One final thing worth pointing out, is Google’s involvement in the W3C Customer Experience Digital Data Community Group, and the efforts being made to standardize digital data collection. Through products and activities like this, Google is really helping make digital data collection much easier than it has been in the past.

Adam Ware

Adam Ware - President & CEO

Developer turned full-stack marketer turned CEO. Adam has been working with web analytics platforms for over 15 years, and has been helping promote websites for almost 2 decades. Outside of the office: Chicagoan raising Minnesotans, Willamette U. grad, pug lover, hockey player, and occasional surfer.

One Response to “Review of Google Tag Manager Year One”

  1. Google Tag Manager: What it is, how to use it and how it helps | MediaStreet News & Opinions

    […] Ware of Swell Path not so long ago summarized how Tag Manager allowed them to implement both Universal and Classic Analytics for their clients, […]


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