If you use Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, or any JavaScript-based data collection or analytics platform, have you ever stopped to wonder how they actually work? I mean, you obviously care about getting the data in, but are you taking the machinations of these tools for granted? This is something I’ve been thinking about for a long while, because I’m not so sure that many who work with these platforms actually understand how the browser and the web page interact.

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If you haven’t lived in a barrel, you should know by now that a new version of Google Tag Manager has been released. You can find the new version at http://tagmanager.google.com/, and there’s already a bunch of good articles about the new UI out there. I want to point out two: “Setting up GA via GTM’s new UX” by Krista Seiden, and “Google Tag Manager Refresh – 6 Things You Need to Know” by Jonathan Weber from Lunametrics.

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In the new version of Google Tag Manager, auto-event tracking has received a considerable usability upgrade. It might seem quirky at first, especially if you’re used to the old auto-event tracking method, but the logic behind the new setup is brilliant. The most important distinction is that auto-event tracking isn’t something you control with separate tags anymore. Rather, it’s now entirely trigger-driven, meaning you activate and specify the auto-event tracking of your choice using tag triggers (triggers are what ye olde folk used to call rules).

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The User ID is definitely one of the coolest things about Universal Analytics, if used correctly. It might reveal some surprising insights about your visitors, since now you’re not restricted to analysing visitors as just browser or device instances as before, but rather you can build your stories around all the touch points the user might have had on their journey to and through your web properties. With this simple tip, you can extend User ID tracking to return users without them needing to authenticate.

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I’ve written a completely revamped version of this toolset for Google Tag Manager V2. Well, I just yesterday published the first of my GTM API tools (the Container Visualizer), and I vowed that I wouldn’t release the other tools for a number of reasons. The reasons were good, in my opinion (especially the part about the tools being ugly as crap), but on the other hand I don’t want to keep anyone away from the amazing potential of the new API.

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[UPDATE:] Quite a lot of people had trouble accessing the tool after I published this post. This should now be fixed. So, AWESOME stuff. The new Google Tag Manager UI and API have just rolled out, and I can finally start revealing the stuff I’ve been working on :) I’m not going to go into the new UI in this post. I just want to give a huge thanks to the GTM team for working on the UX with such dedication.

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Here’s a tip on how to avoid a horrible, horrible mistake with Google Tag Manager. Tip 7: Always use .push() with dataLayer When you assign a value to a variable using the equals ( = ) sign, you are actually reallocating the variable to a new value, and the garbage collection system of the runtime environment sweeps the previous value to bit heaven. Let’s put it simply: if you redefine dataLayer after the GTM container snippet, you will break GTM’s proprietary functions.

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Simo Ahava

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

Senior Data Advocate at Reaktor

Finland