April 7, 2020
Google Tag Manager vs. the Global Site Tag (gtag.js) – Similarities and Differences

Google Tag Manager vs. the Global Site Tag (gtag.js) – Similarities and Differences


Hey there measuregeeks. Julian here back with another video for you. Today, we want to talk about the Gtag, the
global site tag versus Google Tag Manager, the similarities, differences and what we
can do with both. All and more coming up. All right, let’s jump right in. What is this all about? Well, if you install Google Analytics on your
new website, you go to the tracking information. And there is where you find the Gtag, the
global site tag. This is the tracking code that most of the
tools of Google want to nowadays to install in the head section of your website on all
the pages. This will start tracking your information
on your website and transfer it over to Google Analytics to the Google Ad system, floodlight
tags or Google Optimize. So what is this Gtag all about? It was introduced by Google in 2017 because
previously, they had different products in the marketing suite. So all of these different products actually
had their own tracking code. So for Google ads, that was, for example,
conversion js, for Google Analytics, it was analytics js. Now obviously, this led to a lot of confusion
because once you started building your tracking and adding tools from the Google line, you
would start implementing all these tracking codes onto your page. A lot of different tracking codes that convoluted
your account your HTML, your JavaScript execution, and at the same time, it wasn’t quite efficient. Because what if you wanted to just check a
page view, you’ve already done this once now you need to send it over to these other different
tools again and again. So Google came up with a new way to consolidate
all of these different tracking scripts into one which takes care of the heavy lifting,
so you only need to install the code once. The Gtag is nowadays the standard that Google
wants you to install as the code onto your website for the tools to track the way it
works is actually you have a base code that you place on the top and underneath, you can
configure different tools like Google Analytics, or Google ads or the optimized tag. And then these will be loaded in the background. And then you can send data over, the page
view to Google Analytics and to Google ads for retargeting, for example, all the conversions
to both tools. And obviously, this makes it a bit easier
and keeps the whole tracking thing a little bit shorter inside of your HTML. So you don’t convolute your whole codebase. So what then is Google Tag Manager all about? What is Google Tag Manager? It is a tag management system. With Google Tag Manager, the premise is that
you would have one container snippet, which you place on all your pages of your HTML. And then you would be able to deploy all your
tracking tags such as quotes from Google Analytics, Google Ads, but also Facebook Pixel, LinkedIn
tag, and so on through the central interface of Google Tag Manager. This is not restricted to any Google products,
although Google Tag Manager is a product from Google. But you can also take the Facebook Pixel,
put it into a custom HTML tag. And then it will be deployed through Google
Tag Manager through this one central snippet that you have installed. You can do much more with Google Tag Manager,
then with the G tag not only deploy the code, but you have extra benefit of testing the
code before. You have this graphical user interface. You have version control, different triggers
that you can utilize to deploy all this tracking. But the premise is really also the same, like
the Gtag you can define one interaction with a trigger that you want to track and then
send different quotes out at the same time. So to Google Analytics to send the event to
Google ads, maybe a conversion to the Facebook tag, or the link in insights tag. So really, you can do the same thing with
Google Tag Match than with the Gtag. So where are both tools similar and where
are they different? Well, we already talked about the similarities
really. Both of these tools, these tracking scripts
can deploy multiple tracking points or one tracking point to multiple tools. So when you want to send a page view on to
Google ads and Google Analytics, you can do this with Google tag manager or the global
site tag. But there’s where it really already ends. Because the global site tag is only there
for Google products that Google products are connected to the global site tag. So you can send data to Google ads or to Google
Analytics, but not to the Facebook Pixel. Google Tag Manager is more flexible in that
regard. It is agnostic to any tools out there. So you’ll be able to send over data to any
kind of tool that is JavaScript based and has a tracking code that you can install,
either through a tag template or through the custom HTML tag. And obviously, Google Tag Manager brings in
more functionality like the management functionality, the version control, the testing, and so on,
and so on. So it’s much more sophisticated in that regard. Now, when we compare both of these tools,
again, we see that the global site tag is not really up to par with Google Tag Manager. It has some similarities with sending tracking
out, but it doesn’t have a graphical user interface. So you would need to do still all your coding
within the code. And you would need to know a little bit of
JavaScript in order for it to work and configure it correctly. And it’s not that easy to install any kind
of extra functionality, advanced functionality, such as button click tracking with the global
site tag. So in the end, the global site tag is really
just a mini version of Google Tag Manager, and can be really compared to it. So when would you utilize the global site
tag? And when would you use Google Tag Manager? Well, let’s imagine you have a brand new website
and you just want to stop Tracking some information about how users behave on your website, you
want to install Google Analytics. So you go over to Google Analytics, there
is where you will find the Gtag to install in the head section sounds easy. You place it there all is good. But what if you grow, you want to drive traffic
to the website, so you go with Google ads. And they’re also asked you to install a global
site tag onto your page. It is easier this time because you already
have it installed, you just need to add one line of code. And then it will actually send data over to
Google Analytics and to Google ads. Now what if you grow even further, you want
to do Facebook advertising, you want to do Bing Ads, you want to do LinkedIn advertising? What tool do you use now? At that stage, I would say it is better to
go with Google Tag Manager. Why? Because manually installing these different
codes would again convolute your website code and it would be just sheer chaos inside of
the HTML because you don’t know what fires when to which tool. Google tag manager can take care of this for
you. And you have a nice graphical user interface
where you can manage all your code. So at that stage, I would say, maybe look
at Google Tag Manager as an alternative to placing these codes manually on your page. So which tool would I recommend if I had the
ability to install the Gtag or everything to Google Tag Manager? Well, I would choose Google Tag Manager definitely. Even at the beginning, even if it’s your first
website, and you don’t have any tracking installed, you want to install just one code. It is a far better practice to do this through
a tag management system, rather than trying to put these codes on manually. Now, there might be legacy cases out there
where you want to utilize the global site tag instead of Google Tag Manager. There might be also a use case where you say
I don’t want to use Google Tag Manager at all. I want to track my code differently or I have
a module that I have written myself onto page, I manage these codes differently, yes, then
go with the global side tag. But in most of the cases, I would recommend
to go with Google Tag Manager just because it’s best practice. And it is the way to install tracking nowadays. So some questions at the end, can I install
the global sidte tag through Google Tag Manager? Yes, kind of. Remember, the global site tag is like a mini
version of Google Tag Manager. So it’s already sending data over to the different
tracking tools. So you will not install the global site tag
into Google Tag Manager per se, but take these tools and install them into Google Tag Manager. So if you’re sending with the global site
tag data over to AdWords or to Google Analytics, well, then you would need to utilize the tag
template within Google Tag Manager to deploy the same tracking points with Google Tag Manager. Please don’t take that global site tag that
you see in the interface of Google and put it into a custom HTML tag and deploy it through
Google Tag Manager. That would lead to problems maybe, and also
is just not best practice. So is it okay to have Google Tag Manager installed
and the global site tag at the same time? Well, the general answer is yes, these are
compatible with each other. But they also utilize some of the same resources. So for example, the Google Tag, Google Tag
Manager uses something called the data layer. And the global site tag also uses something
called the data layer. So there are some shared resources. And these can also lead to conflict. So you need to be careful that you don’t mix
and match and you always would need to test your implementation to see if the right data
gets sent over. And this makes the whole case a bit more complicated,
doable, but complicated. Generally, I would recommend not to have both
tools on the website at the same time, although it is possible. So in conclusion, who wins Google Tag Manager
versus Google analytics? I will clearly say Google Tag Manager is the
tool to install tracking nowadays. The global site tag is there for convenience
sake, but only at very specific use cases. So I would always go with Google Tag Manager
when I install Google tools like Google ads, Google Analytics, or Google Optimize. This is my choice when it comes to deploying
tracking. Nowadays, the global site tag is really just
a mini version of Google Tag Manager, not as flexible, not as powerful as Google Tag
Manager. So if you have a specific use case, and you
want to stay small, and Google Analytics is all you need on your website, then maybe go
with the global site tag, that’s all fine. But if you want to take tracking seriously
and track data on a consistent basis, then definitely check out Google Tag Manager, if you haven’t yet. We actually also have a course on this channel,
Google Tag Manager for beginners dive into it. I’m going to link it up right over there. And this is already it with this week video. Let me know in the comments below if you still have
questions about the global site tag and the differences to Google Tag Manager, which one
do you use? I’d love to hear from you in the comments
down below. And if you haven’t yet, consider subscribing
right over there because we bring you new videos just like this one every week. Now my name is Julian. See you on the next one

19 thoughts on “Google Tag Manager vs. the Global Site Tag (gtag.js) – Similarities and Differences

  1. Great tutorial, Julian, as usual.
    I was removed GTM and put back gTag because I couldn't install the anti-flicker required by google experiment.
    Could you advice how can resolve such a scenario.
    Thanks

  2. I use gtagjs as it allows me full control on what's being tracked. If you know code, you can benefit from using either gtagjs or dataLayer.push and define advanced events, errors and custom pageviews in your code. For example you can track the types of errors in your forms, actions on your video or audio player… If you have charts or maps in your site you can track what's happening inside the charts/maps…

  3. Always a lot of useful information even from basic information like this. Best measurement videos on YouTube! Awesome job Julian.

  4. Always giving out clear advice! Brilliant. Question: if I have a 100% gtm setup how can I fire website call conversion tracking via GTM as it needs the gtag?

  5. Hello from Poland Julian!
    Thank you A LOT for clarifying this one. I always questioned myself what was the true difference between gtag.js, analytics.js, Tag Manager and so on. I remember reading Google documentation a couple of times, but the way you put it "gtag is a mini version of Tag Manager" is so simple and clear that I'll just never forget.
    As usual, the uniqueness of your channel, breaking down technical matters into simple concepts. Keep it up with the incredible job! Your videos are a great source of knowledge (and I personally used them a couple of times training for my team).
    All the best!
    John 🙂

  6. This is an absolutely perfectly executed video! All of the information I needed, none of the information I didn't, and I come away with a clear idea of what actions to take with my website. Going to start with GTM from the beginning. Wish I could give this video 11/10!! Love all your videos for this reason Julian! By far the best resource on the internet for Marketing Tech.

  7. Can 2 tag managers be installed?
    Because clients have suppliers like we do SEO and they have another merchant for amazon.

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