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I have been working with Google Tag Manager for over a year now. During that time I have come to greatly appreciate the power behind the product. That being said, Google has been on a real tear with respect to increasing the capabilities of this most awesome tool. In other words, one’s abilities to develop new and creative tags has never been better.

So… tags, tags, and more tags. Hence the title of this blog post and my re-enforcement of the need to manage (and understand) the tags you have in your GTM containers.

At the beginning of my adventures with Google Tag Manager, I was guilty of getting excited about the possibilities and (maybe… ) not placing enough importance in the need for some regimentation in how I determined what tags were needed, and how they were implemented & tested. No harm was done. But I will admit that I did waste some time due to my lack of focus & organization. That can only last for so long as one realizes that they are doing themselves no favours. Those days are over!

Let’s step back a bit with a short primer on how Google Tag Manager works. Why? So you can see how things can go off the rails very quickly.

The Container

This is where everything is housed. Basically your Tags and associated Firing Rules. Simple enough.


This is where you identify what you want to measure. For example, you may want to track a particular Event – such as a form submission. Create a Tag that has a Form Submit Listener.

Firing Rules

The switch that gets flipped. Tags are fired according to predetermined Rules. I love Rules inasmuch as they can be very specific and focussed (they can also drive you crazy)!

So, in short, create a Container that has a bunch of Tags which are controlled by (assorted) Rules. Easy Right? It is after you get lots of practice. Otherwise be careful!

Now we are getting somewhere. And we can also understand the possibility of going down the proverbial rabbit hole.

My newfound focus and organization is simplistic but nevertheless effective:

1) Determine what I want to track (enter it in column A of spreadsheet) IE “Track all Contact us Form Submissions on the XYZ page”.
2) Name it in Column B. And use a name that makes sense.
3) Column C contains the Type of Tag (Click Listener for example).
4) Firing Rules go in Column D (there can be numerous firing Rules for each Tag).
5) Column E contains the last date that the tag was tested and verified as working (No kidding, people add tags all the time and never test them!).

This is the bare minimum of information you should capture. I am sure that you get the gist. You should also consider standardizing on the nomenclature associated with your Tags & Firing Rules
I track my tags using Google Docs. But you can use Excel, Numbers or whatever tool you prefer.
The spreadsheet becomes your holy grail in terms of Tag management. Track, document, test, sanitize… and be happy! This is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a whole philosophy behind how to track your Rules – which I really haven’t gone into. I’ll save that for another post.

One more thing… (aka side-note)

Container Access

Something one you should pay attention to. Google Tag Manager allows you to give others access to your containers (at varying levels). This is a double-edged sword inasmuch as by giving others access to your GTM Container(s), you are giving them the keys to the proverbial car. I have seen this with a number of clients. The awkward silence that ensues when I ask a client who [email protected] is… Well, you had to be there. Just make sure that the peeps you have given access to your GTM Containers really need that access. Or if someone insists that they really need to have access, give them “view only” permission.

By the way, you may wonder if there is a way to backup your Containers and associated content (Tags & Rules). There isn’t (Geesh!). I asked the Google Product Manager for GTM if this feature is in the roadmap. Response below.


It’ll come soon enough.

Back to governance…. Perhaps add a section in your tracking sheet that outlines who has access to your GTM Containers along with contact details and the “whys”, etc.

This stuff isn’t all that difficult. A little bit of extra time, and regimentation will help improve your Google Tag Manager governance.

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