Google Tag Manager vs Google Analytics

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Published on Feb 12, 2024 and edited on Feb 20, 2024 by Iron Brands

Google Analytics (GA) and Google Tag Manager (GTM) are often used together, but they are not the same. Both are powerful tools offered by Google to help with website analytics and management, but they serve different purposes and are used in complementary ways.

  1. What are Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager for?
  2. Do I need to use both Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager?
  3. What are the advantages to using Google Tag Manager?
  4. Do Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager work well together?
  5. What are Google Tag Manager’s drawbacks?
  6. Final Thoughts
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For those new to web analytics, the difference can be confusing. So here is all you need to know!

What are Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager for?

Google Analytics is a web analytics service. It provides insights into user behavior, such as how users find a website and interact with it. It measures metrics such as page views, session duration, bounce rates, conversions, and more.

Google Tag Manager (GTM) is a tag management system that allows you to manage and deploy marketing tags(s) on your website or mobile app without having to modify the code directly. It simplifies the process of adding, editing, and managing JavaScript and HTML tags used for tracking and analytics on websites.

Do I need to use both Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager?

Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager are often used together because Google Tag Manager simplifies the implementation of the tags that power Google Analytics. However, Google Analytics does not require Google Tag Manager, and vice versa. You can use Google Tag Manager with a different web analytics service, and you can use Google Analytics with another tag manager (or none at all, if you are confident in your coding skills).

What are the advantages to using Google Tag Manager?

  • ease of use: GTM's user-friendly interface allows non-technical users, such as marketers and business analysts, to manage the tracking and deployment of tags without needing to write or modify code. This democratizes the process of making changes to tracking setup, enabling faster response to marketing needs.
  • centralized tag management: all your tags are managed in one place, providing a clear overview of what's being tracked and where. This centralization reduces errors and duplication of tags, making it easier to maintain and update your tracking setup.
  • improved Website Performance: GTM can improve website load times by enabling tags to be fired asynchronously. This means that tracking codes can load in parallel with the rest of your site content, minimizing the impact on user experience.
  • debugging and testing tools: GTM includes built-in tools for testing and debugging tags before they go live. The preview mode allows you to see which tags fire on each page and under what conditions, helping to ensure that your tracking setup works as intended.
  • rollback: every change made in GTM is tracked and can be rolled back if necessary, providing a safety net for managing your tags.
  • integration with multiple platforms: While GTM integrates seamlessly with Google Analytics and other Google services, it also supports tags from a wide range of third-party vendors. This flexibility allows you to use GTM as a one-stop-shop for managing most, if not all, of your marketing and analytics tags.
  • free to use: GTM is a free tool, making it accessible to businesses of all sizes. Unlike GA, there are no paid tiers of service and no features are locked behind a pricy subscription.

Do Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager work well together?

Yes. Both are Google products and Google Tag Manager has good integrations with Google Analytics. For instance:

  • GTM provides specialized tag templates for both Universal Analytics 360 and Google Analytics 4. These templates make it easy to configure and deploy your GA tracking code across your website, ensuring accurate data collection and reporting
  • the Google Analytics settings variable allows you to define common settings for your Google Analytics tags, such as tracking ID, cookie settings, and more, in a single place. You can reuse this variable across multiple GA tags, ensuring consistency in your tracking setup and making it easier to manage changes.
  • GTM supports cross-domain tracking for GA, providing a unified view of user behavior across your digital ecosystem
  • GTM offersspecific e-commerce tag configurations for both Universal Analytics Enhanced Ecommerce and GA4's Ecommerce tracking. These configurations allow for detailed tracking of user interactions with products, including views, adds-to-cart, and purchases, directly feeding this data into GA for comprehensive sales and conversion analysis.

What are Google Tag Manager’s drawbacks?

GTM is complex and can be overwhelming for beginners or those not familiar with concepts of tagging, tracking, and digital analytics. Simpler, less powerful tag managers may be better suited for smaller websites and organizations.

Furthermore, GTM is primarily designed for web environments. While there is a version for mobile apps (Firebase), transitioning or managing tags across different platforms is not seamless and requires different approaches and understanding of each environment.

Final Thoughts

We hope this blog was of help to you. Setting up Google Analytics and learning its integrations can be a hassle. If you want an easier, privacy-friendly solution that is compliant out of the box, why not give Simple Analytics a try?

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