17 September 2020: Ecommerce Power Day, Aarhus
One of the most prominent features of Google Tag Manager since the dawn of time (actually, late 2012) is the Custom HTML tag. This little piece of magic lets Google Tag Manager inject an HTML element to the page. Since time immemorial (still late 2012), it's allowed us to turn Google Tag Manager from a sandboxed prisoner of the native tag templates to a no-holds-barred client-side content management solution. In this article, we'll discuss how the Custom HTML tag works, and what you might be tempted to use it for.

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One of the prime things to use Google Tag Manager for is script injection. Loading a third-party JavaScript library is trivial to do with a Custom HTML tag, and works like a charm. However, using Custom HTML tags for, well, anything, is no longer the preferred way to add custom code to the site. Custom HTML tags are pretty expensive DOM injections, and they can be incredibly dangerous tools (for UX, security, and privacy) in the wrong and/or inexperienced hands.

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Update 6 April 2020: I updated the template in the gallery to the latest version of the IP Geolocation API SDK, which no longer requires jQuery. Also, the SDK now handles API request caching to browser storage automatically, so the “Enable Session Storage” option was added to the template. My latest custom tag template tackles a use case I've referred to a number of times before, especially in my article on sending weather data to Google Analytics.

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Update 17 February 2020: Google Tag Manager's Preview mode cookies have been updated with the necessary flags, so they will not break once SameSite enforcement begins. If you've opened the browser console in Google Chrome (since Chrome 76), you might have seen a bunch of warnings in a yellow background related to something called a SameSite cookie attribute that is either missing or incompletely set for cookies set on external domains.

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Universal Analytics utilizes two components (by default) to attribute a browser session to a specific campaign: query parameters in the URL and the referrer string. The page URL is sent with every hit to Google Analytics using the Document location field, which also translates to the &dl parameter in the Measurement Protocol. The referrer string is sent with a hit to Google Analytics using the Document referrer field, as long as the referrer hostname does not exactly match that of the current page and the referrer string is not empty.

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Google Tag Manager now lets you add unit tests directly to your custom templates. This is useful, since it allows you to control the code stability of your templates, especially if you've decided to share those templates with the public. I recently shared a general guide for how template tests work, but I wanted to expand the topic a little, and share with you two walkthroughs of custom template tests: one for a variable template and one for a tag template.

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Google Tag Manager introduced the capability to add tests to your Custom Templates. Tests, in this context, refer specifically to unit tests that you write in order to make sure your template code works in a predictable way. Unit tests are also used to drive development, ensuring that you have added contingencies for all the different scenarios that the template, when coupled with user input, might introduce. In this guide, I'll introduce how the Tests feature works.

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Simo Ahava

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

Senior Data Advocate at Reaktor

Finland