17 March 2018: MeasureCamp London
One of the unfortunate misunderstandings regarding the wonderful Google Tag Manager Preview mode is what it actually means when GTM reports “Tags Fired On This Event”. For many, this seems to indicate that whatever code the Tag was meant to execute also completed successfully. However, this is not the case. Tip 19: Debugging Tag execution vs. actual requests Let’s get the distinction straight right away: Google Tag Manager debug panel tells you when a Trigger has been invoked by certain conditions, and the Tag which uses this Trigger has its JavaScript injected into the Document Object Model.

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In 2013, I wrote a guide for Universal Analytics and Google Tag Manager on how to poll for weather conditions, and send this information to Google Analytics as a custom dimension of the session. The guide was intended as a technical introduction to Google Tag Manager, and I think it succeeded in that. However, GTM has changed a lot over the last 1.5 years, and I’ve made some improvements to the method along the way.

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(Updated 15 July 2015: Added a huge simplification. Jump straight to the update at the end.) URL fragments are strings of characters that follow a hash mark (#) in the URL. Typically, they are used for anchor links, where following a link keeps you on the same page but jumps the browser to some anchored position. They’re also the tool of choice for single-page apps, where content is served dynamically without page reloads.

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A schema is something that data processing platforms such as Google Analytics apply to the raw hit data coming in from the data source (usually a website). The most visible aspect of Google Analytics’ schema is how it groups, or stitches, the arbitrary, hit-level data coming in from the website into discrete sessions, and these are actually grouped under yet another aggregate bucket: users. But you already know this. You’re looking at metrics like Sessions, Bounce Rate, Conversion Rate, and you’re using them or variations of them as KPIs in your dashboards and whatnot.

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In Google Tag Manager, every single Tag requires a Trigger to fire. Every single Trigger requires an Event condition to activate. Sometimes, these Event conditions are obfuscated under template semantics, but you can also create a Custom Event Trigger, where you specify the value of the ‘event’ key in dataLayer that fires your tag. You can read more about the relationship between GTM events and Tags in these two posts:

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Be honest, can you think of anything that’s more unfair than this: A new Google Tag Manager feature, published at 02:07 AM my time, and with an easter egg hunt involved?! Of course it was the infuriating Charles Farina who found the new feature and claimed the prize. Curses! (Just kidding Charles, you’re still awesome.) Anyway, there’s a new GTM feature in town, and oh boy, this time it’s a big’un!

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This nifty little solution will let you calculate the time spent on pages that are not tracked in Google Analytics by default. These include both bounced landing pages and exit pages. Bounced pages and exit pages lack the necessary subsequent pageview, which Google Analytics uses to calculate time-based metrics. Before you go on, read this excellent article by Yehoshua Coren: REAL Time On Page in Google Analytics Yehoshua gives a very nice use case for the technical solution I’m about to explore.

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Simo Ahava

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

Senior Data Advocate at Reaktor

Finland