Google Tag Manager for Dealers: 101
It’s 2022. That means 1 year from now, 2023, third-party cookies will be more excluded from browsers than Will Smith at an Oscars party. Come July 1st, 2023, you’ll also find that Google Analytics is no longer pulling in your website’s data. Less Google data resources at your disposal means that finding a way to consistently and accurately capture your website’s data is more important than ever.
Ad platforms (like Meta and Google) can capture your website’s data through code placed on your website. But this raises a challenge: Constant back and forth with your web team, troubleshooting installation, broken code, website errors, leads lost, lions and tigers and bears, oh my!
These seismic shifts to the digital landscape put dealerships between a rock and a hard place when it comes to running ads effectively. So how can dealers overcome these very clear and present dangers? The solution is simple, and free. It’s Google Tag Manager.
In this article I’ll be going over how the Google Tag Manager (GTM) works, and what makes it so crucial to effectively running your ads in 2023.
Why GTM is Crucial to Your Online Marketing
GA4 & Website Analytics Tracking
The #1 way that dealers currently track their website data is through Google Analytics. However, Google Analytics will be retiring the version we all know and love in 2023 for a new version: GA4. GA4 is exclusively event-based. What that means is that July 1st 2023, Google Analytics will stop tracking data and metrics from your website. The only option to still get the reporting metrics you need out of GA4 is to set up “event” tags on your website. However, each event tag is unique. To track all the unique events from search button clicks to lead form completions to page views, you would need to have hundreds of lines of code on your site, all perfectly formatted. (source) his takes extreme technical coordination with your web team, but it is also risky due to the sensitive nature of where code can be installed on your website. Google Tag Manager was made for easy, simple event tracking. Tagging “triggers” allow you to identify events on your site, the GA4 “Tag” integrates seamlessly with GA4, and “variables” allow you to identify dynamic information on your website (like year, make, and model data) with each tag. (source)
All major advertising platforms have an automatic set up with Google Tag Manager. Facebook and TikTok allow a direct partner integration with GTM, Microsoft can mimic your current Google Ads set up, and Snapchat even has its own template for setting up within GGTMr. These readily-available solutions allow you to accurately implement tags within the GTM without ever having to deal with any code yourself. Google Ads has a preset tag option in Google Tag Manager for easy tracking of conversion events from your website into Google Ads. Alternatively, all of these websites offer the option for individual pieces of tagging code placed on your website for every event. Just like with GA4, you would have to install a snippet of code for every single event, for every single platform. Alternatively you could skip the individual installation method, and simply install one Google Tag Manager on your website. (source)
Better Site Speed
Lastly, having too much code from too many different ad platforms on your website slows your site’s speed. The slower your site speed, the less people wait for it to load, the more people leave, the more leads lost. When tags are contained within Google Tag Manager instead of added individually to the site, the website runs faster. The faster the load time, the better the user experience, more people stay, and you get more leads. (source)
- Google Analytics will practically require GTM with the rollout of GA4
- Ads tracking can be accomplished easily in GTM
- Using GTM means avoiding headaches and complications with the web team
- Better site speed = more leads
How Google Tag Manager Works
At the most basic level, Google Tag Manager (GTM) is a universal plug. Data from your website feeds into GTM, and then is dispersed to the websites you want by way of the tags within GTM. The GTM is a single, centralized location that makes it easy to install code (tags) without editing the website itself.
The GTM can pull data from your website is because it is installed on your website. In the GTM platform, you would create a GTM “container”. Creating the container generates a tracking code, and the code is then installed on your website. This is potentially the last piece of tracking code that will need to be added to your site.
Once the Google Tag Manager is installed on your site, everything added to the Google Tag Manager platform can now populate on your site. Now your website data can automatically populate into Google Analytics, and ad platforms’ “Pixel” (event code) can be installed without ever having to contact your web team. Now 3rd party ad providers can get the tracking code they need installed on your site without having to do a back and forth with you, your web team, your marketing team, and your third-cousin’s niece (just in case we need the approval!).
Now you understand the concept of how it works. But what are the components of Google Tag Manager that make it work?
- At the top level, there are the Tags. Usually, tags are the integrations with the other site. However, they can also be code. You can go here for a full list of preset tags that GTM offers.
- Tags rely on Triggers to know when and where to fire. So Triggers are the actual action you’re trying to take. They can be clicks on “buy now” buttons, thank you pages, VDP page views, etc. Triggers are set up as actions with directions. For example, you don’t want that VDP to occur on the home page, so you can set the Trigger to fire on pages with VINs and not fire on pages without VINs.
- The last pieces of the GTM are Variables. Variables represent dynamic information on your website. Google Tag Manager has built-in variables that can track non dealer-specific site actions (e.g. page views, URLs, things coded onto every website). The more commonly used variables for dealerships are usually Data Layer Variables. These are variables based on a data layer that is essentially a table coded onto your site that gives names to events and definitions of those events so that they can be automatically pulled. Sometimes it’s easier to capture categories of information rather than the information itself. For example, if you wanted to capture the Year, Make, and Model information on every VDP you could either manually type in “2021 Ford EcoSport” or “2013 Chevrolet Camaro” on every trigger – or you could use Data Layer Variables to just say “Year Make Model data”. Luckily, your website provider usually creates this data layer.
All major ad and website tracking platforms require code placed on your site to feed that information into your ads so your ads can optimize and you can track your website data. Manually adding code for every platform, event, and action creates more room for user error. This leads to faulty ads, slows down your website, hurts your user experience, and creates lag between the site and web provider. Using the Google Tag Manager makes it easier for you to take ownership personally or allow you to delegate ownership to your team or a vendor even if they don’t have coding experience.