Is Google Tag Manager Hard to Learn?

Wondering whether Google Tag Manager is hard to learn? Here’s a take from someone who led a team responsible for it in a Fortune 500 company.

Published Categorized as Analytics

If you’re new to the world of tagging, you may be wondering whether Google Tag Manager—the most popular tag management system out there—is hard to learn.

I’m glad you stopped by because, as someone who’s used Google Tag Manager for years and led teams responsible for its use, I’m going to give you my take on it right here, right now.

What Is Google Tag Manager?

Okay, first things first. Let’s start with the basics: What is Google Tag Manager in the first place?

If you buy ads or run marketing campaigns, chances are you’re sending people to a website, a section of a website, or a specific landing page for your advertising or marketing campaign.

And if you’re sending people to your site or a specific part of it, you probably want to retarget them with ads after they close the browser tab and understand how far they have come along in their journey.

To do all of this, you or your developers need to add third-party code snippets, called tags, to your website.

For example, your list of tags may include a Google Ads tag and a Facebook Pixel for advertising purposes, and the Google Analytics and Microsoft Clarity tags for web analytics and session recording purposes.

Instead of manually adding these tags to your website’s source code—which in many cases also requires technical knowledge—you can use a tag management system like Google Tag Manager to simplify this workflow.

Your developers only need to implement the GTM code snippet once. From that moment on, you can use Google Tag Manager to deploy and manage all the other tags you need from a simple and easy-to-use interface.

And this, in a nutshell, is Google Tag Manager: a tool that allows you to insert JavaScript code snippets into a website without having to edit that website’s source code. (Of course, there’s a lot more that you can do in Google Tag Manager once you get the hang of it.)

How Hard Is Google Tag Manager to Learn?

Exactly how hard it will be for you to learn Google Tag Manager depends on your professional background and level of experience.

If you have already worked in the digital field and you have some basic knowledge of how websites are built, how ads work, and what web analytics tools are, you will have an easier time learning to use the tool.

If you don’t have some basic knowledge of all of this, you will probably have to learn as you go and do some googling on the side. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn tagging and Google Tag Manager if you haven’t worked in digital before.

To use Google Tag Manager, you will need to learn:

  • What GTM containers are
  • What tags, triggers, and variables are
  • How to use the built-in tags, triggers, and variables
  • How to create Custom HTML tags and Custom JavaScript variables
  • What the data layer is and how to interact with it
  • What consent management is and how to use cookie banners such as CookiePro
  • How to deploy new versions of your Google Tag Manager container and revert to old versions if needed
  • How to install Google Tag Manager on a website
  • How to use the Google Tag Manager Preview mode to test and verify the tag setup on a website
  • How to manage access to a Google Tag Manager account and container

Where to Learn Google Tag Manager

The Tag Manager Help Section

Your first stop for the basics of Google Tag Manager should be Google’s Tag Manager Help section.

Pay special attention to the articles in the “Getting started,” “Concepts and components,” “Tag setup guides,” and “Administration” sections; they contain the minimum information you need to know how to use the tool productively.

Google Tag Manager Fundamentals

Once you’ve learned the basics of the tool, my best advice is to take the free Google Tag Manager Fundamentals course in the Google Analytics Academy.

The course is divided into four units. In the first unit you will learn how to get started, in the second how to set up GTM, in the third how to use the data layer, variables and events, and in the fourth and last how to use tags for marketing and remarketing.

Tagging Blogs

Every tag management professional has read the blogs of Simo Ahava, Julius Fedorovicius, and Measure School at least on a number of occasions. (And, naturally, the content in the “Analytics” section of Maker’s Aid.)

When you google a tagging question and you come across one of these blogs, you can trust that the information that’s published on them is of high quality and will help you solve your problem.

Tagging YouTube Channels

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. If this is true, then a YouTube video is worth millions. What you can learn from a 45-minute video on YouTube sometimes saves you hours of trial and error in Google Tag Manager.

The best YouTube channels for tagging professionals are Analytics Mania, Measure School, and Loves Data.

Do You Need to Be Technical to Learn Google Tag Manager?

No, you don’t have to know how to read or write code to do tagging and use Google Tag Manager—or any other tag management system, as a matter of fact.

With that said, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript knowledge can definitely help you in your use of GTM. You can then work more comfortably with Custom HTML tags and Custom JavaScript Variables, as well as make complex CSS selections.

How Much Time Does It Take to Learn Google Tag Manager?

If you’re in the digital space, are familiar with the concept of tag management, and/or are transitioning from another tag management tool like Tealium or Adobe Launch, you should take at least a few days to familiarize yourself with Google Tag Manager.

If this is all new to you, then set aside a good 2-3 weeks to understand how tag management works and how to manage tags with Google Tag Manager. Prepare to do a lot of googling, reading, and youtubing.

By Dim Nikov

Editor of Maker's Aid. Part programmer, part marketer. Making things on the web and helping others do the same since the 2000s. Yes, I had Friendster and Myspace.

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