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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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Some four years ago, Google Tag Manager released a new trigger predicate named matches CSS selector. Slowly but surely, it has evolved into one of the most useful little features in GTM. Even though I’ve written about CSS selectors many times before, I wanted to compile all the relevant information into a single guide. For an external resource, I recommend bookmarking the w3schools.com CSS Selector Reference. But for your day-to-day use of CSS selectors in GTM, this guide will hopefully prove useful.

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Trigger Group is the newest trigger type you can add to a tag in Google Tag Manager. It allows you to establish dependencies between multiple triggers, not firing the tag until every trigger in the group has fired at least once. This establishes an interesting new paradigm in Google Tag Manager, because until now it wasn’t possible to create triggers that relied on earlier values of a given key (event in this case).

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One of the myths surrounding Google Analytics is that the first hit of a session should always be a pageview. It makes sense - sessions are initialized with a landing page, and thus need a page view to have one. However, in this article I want to show you empirically how this myth is just that - a myth. There is little discernible impact if the first hit of a session is an event, and GA is more than capable of stitching the first event together with the subsequent pageview into a session entity.

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In Google Tag Manager, the Custom JavaScript variable is an anonymous function with a return statement. It does not take any parameters, and by default it’s impossible to pass any parameters to it, because the Custom JS variable is simply resolved to whatever value the function returns. If it returns a number, for example, passing a parameter to it would make no sense and would result in a TypeError since the variable resolves to a number, not a function.

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Simo Ahava

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

Senior Data Advocate at Reaktor

Finland