21 September 2019: MeasureCamp, London
Google Tag Manager is strictly a tag delivery system, and it’s very careful not to collect any analytics data on its own. This is most likely a deliberate choice, because if GTM was to start collecting data, it would introduce additional barriers to adoption. Nevertheless, being a tool that consolidates the design, development, deployment, and testing of all the marketing and analytics pixels, code snippets, and utilities running on a website or a mobile app, lacking the necessary features for auditing and monitoring has always seemed like an oversight.

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One of the cool things about Enhanced Ecommerce deployments in Google Tag Manager is that you can use a Custom JavaScript variable to generate the necessary data. There are many reasons to do so, with the biggest one being the flexibility it offers for manipulating the dataLayer object in case quick changes are required on the site, and it would take too long to wait for a new release of the site JavaScript.

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One of my pet peeves about Google Analytics has to do with nomenclature. For example, a User isn’t really a user but a browser instance, and Direct traffic isn’t necessarily “direct” at all, but rather just traffic that has no discernible source. But being so invested in content analytics, my biggest gripe has to do with Pageviews. A Pageview in Google Analytics is collected when a hit with the hit type pageview is received successfully by the Google Analytics endpoint.

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Ah, Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention - the gift that keeps on giving. Having almost milked this cow for all it’s worth, I was sure there would be little need to revisit the topic. Maybe, I thought, it would be better to just sit back and watch the world burn. But then Mr. Charles Farina, a good friend and so amicable he’s practically Canadian, tempted me into testing out a quick proof-of-concept web service that would give us back our first party cookies.

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After the recent release of Custom Templates for Google Tag Manager, my mind has been occupied by very little else. However, I have a nagging feeling that due to how involved the feature set is, there’s still a lot of demystifying that needs to take place before templates are fully embraced by the GTM user base. In this article, I want to show you a concrete example of template creation.

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As I have finally managed to pick up my jaw from the floor, it’s now time to tell you what’s got me so excited. Google Tag Manager recently released a new feature called Custom Templates. Actually, it’s not fair to call it a feature. It’s a full-blown paradigm shift in how we use Google Tag Manager. It’s a suite of features designed to help brands, companies, and users create and share their own custom JavaScript and HTML setups with ease, while taking care that the code is optimized for delivery in the web browser.

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One of Google Tag Manager’s oldest and most reliable features is that it freezes the state of Data Layer variables to the moment when the trigger event occurred. Thus, any tags firing on this trigger (and any variables resolved on this trigger event) will always have access to the same value of each Data Layer variable. However, there are situations where this is not a good thing. One is tag sequencing, and the other is a scenario where you want to run some custom code that should access the latest value of the Data Layer variable at a moment in time after the tag has already fired.

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Simo Ahava

Husband | Father | Analytics developer
simo (at) simoahava.com

Senior Data Advocate at Reaktor

Finland