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Understanding Tracking Codes and Tags (Beginner to Intermediate)

8 min read

Understanding Tracking Codes and Tags

Note: This is the fourth article in our comprehensive series on Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager for WordPress sites. If you’ve just joined us, you might find it helpful to read the previous articles for a foundational understanding.

Goal: Educate readers about the significance and functionality of tracking codes and tags in Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager.

In the realm of website analytics, understanding the dynamics of tracking codes and tags is fundamental to gaining insights into website performance and user behaviour. These components are the silent sentinels of your digital domain, quietly gathering crucial data that can be transformed into actionable intelligence. This article aims to demystify these essential components, offering a clear view of what they are, why they’re vital, and how they function within the ecosystems of Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager.

Whether you are a budding digital marketer, a content creator, or a small business owner managing your website, grasping the concept of tracking codes and tags is essential. They not only help you understand your audience better but also empower you to make data-driven decisions that can significantly enhance your website’s effectiveness and user experience.

Join us as we delve into the world of tracking codes and tags, laying the solid groundwork for a comprehensive understanding of how these elements work in unison to provide a holistic view of your website’s analytics. This exploration will set the stage for further enhancing your website tracking and analysis capabilities, a crucial step in optimising your online presence.


What are Tracking Codes and Tags?

What are Tracking Codes and Tags?

Tracking codes are the lifelines of digital analytics. Essentially, these are small snippets of JavaScript that you embed in the code of your website. Their primary role is to collect data about your visitors and their interactions on your site. This data is then sent to analytics platforms like Google Analytics, where it’s processed and presented in a format that helps you understand your audience and their behaviours.

For instance, the Google Analytics tracking code is one of the most common examples. Once integrated into your website, it meticulously gathers information ranging from how a user landed on your site (via search engines, direct links, or referral sites) to their journey across your pages (which pages they visit, how long they stay, and what actions they take). This data becomes the foundation of your website’s analytics, providing you with insights to drive informed decision-making.

The tracking code’s job is to be unobtrusive yet omnipresent on your site, silently capturing user data while not affecting their experience. It helps answer crucial questions: Which marketing campaigns are bringing in the most traffic? What content resonates with your audience? Where are your users dropping off? By understanding these patterns, you can optimise your website and marketing strategies for better performance and user engagement.

Tags in Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager (GTM) revolutionises the way tracking codes are managed. In GTM, these tracking codes are referred to as ‘tags’. Think of GTM as a toolbox where each tool is a tag – a container that holds all your tracking tools in one place. Tags in GTM can range from basic ones like Google Analytics tracking codes to more complex ones like conversion tracking pixels or remarketing tags.

The beauty of GTM lies in its ability to manage these tags efficiently. Instead of embedding multiple tracking codes directly into your website’s code, which can be cumbersome and error-prone, GTM centralises the process. You simply place one GTM container snippet on your site and then manage all your tags from the GTM interface. This setup not only streamlines tag management but also significantly reduces the risk of errors that can occur with manual code editing.

The synergy between Google Analytics and GTM is particularly powerful. By managing your Google Analytics tracking code as a tag within GTM, you gain flexibility in tracking setup and data collection. You can easily adjust tracking parameters, deploy new tags, and set up sophisticated trigger conditions – all without altering your site’s code. This synergy empowers you with more control over your data collection, allowing you to tailor your tracking to meet your specific needs and objectives.

Implementing Basic Tracking Tags Using GTM

Implementing tracking tags through Google Tag Manager is a straightforward yet impactful process. Let’s walk through the steps to set up basic tracking tags and their common use-cases on WordPress sites.

  1. Accessing Your GTM Account:
    • Begin by logging into your Google Tag Manager account. Select the appropriate container that corresponds to your WordPress site.
  2. Creating a New Tag:
    • Navigate to the ‘Tags’ section in your GTM dashboard and click on ‘New Tag’. This initiates the process of creating a new tracking tag.
  3. Configuring the Tag:
    • Choose the type of tag you wish to create. For basic site tracking, select ‘Google Analytics: Universal Analytics’ as your tag type.
    • Enter the necessary configuration details for your tag. This will typically include your Google Analytics tracking ID, which uniquely identifies your GA property.
    • Set the track type to ‘Page View’ for basic pageview tracking, which is essential for understanding overall site traffic and user engagement.
  4. Setting Up Triggers:
    • Triggers in GTM define when your tag should activate. For a pageview tag, select the ‘All Pages’ trigger to ensure the tag fires on every page visit.
    • Custom triggers can be created for specific actions or events, such as clicks on particular elements or form submissions. This allows for more granular tracking of user interactions on your site.
  5. Testing and Publishing Your Tag:
    • Before making your tag live, it’s crucial to test it using GTM’s preview mode. This helps ensure that your tag is firing correctly as per the set conditions.
    • Once you are satisfied with the performance of your tag during testing, publish your container to make the tag active on your site.

Common Use-Cases for Tracking Tags

  • Basic Pageview Tracking:
    • The most fundamental use-case is tracking pageviews. This helps in understanding which pages are most visited, how users navigate through your site, and where they spend the most time.
  • Event Tracking:
    • Setting up tags for specific events like button clicks, video plays, or form submissions. These events provide deeper insights into how users interact with specific elements on your site.
  • Conversion Tracking:
    • Implement tags to monitor key conversion points, such as completed purchases, sign-ups, or downloads. This data is crucial for evaluating the effectiveness of your sales funnel and marketing efforts.
  • Ecommerce Tracking:
    • For WordPress sites with ecommerce functionality, setting up ecommerce tracking tags in GTM is vital. These tags can track product views, add-to-cart actions, and completed transactions, providing a wealth of data for ecommerce analysis.
  • Remarketing Tags:
    • Use GTM to implement tags for building remarketing audiences. These tags track users who have visited your site, allowing you to target them with specific marketing campaigns later.

By understanding and implementing these basic tracking tags through GTM, you can significantly enhance the data collection and analysis capabilities of your WordPress site. This approach not only streamlines your tracking setup but also opens the door to a wealth of insights about your website’s performance and user behaviour.

In the conclusion of this article, we’ll emphasise the importance of correctly setting up tracking codes and tags and preview the topic of our next article, which will focus on integrating Google Analytics with Google Tag Manager.



Emphasising the Importance of Correct Setup

The journey through understanding and implementing tracking codes and tags using Google Tag Manager is a crucial one in the realm of digital analytics. Correctly setting up these elements is not just a technical necessity but a cornerstone for gaining accurate and insightful data about your website’s performance and user interactions. Whether it’s understanding the flow of traffic, the behaviour of users, or the effectiveness of your content and campaigns, these tracking codes and tags form the basis of all the analytics data you collect.

It’s important to approach the setup and management of tracking tags with attention to detail and accuracy. A misstep in this process can lead to inaccurate data, which in turn can skew your understanding of how well your website is performing or how users are interacting with it. Regularly reviewing and updating your GTM configurations ensures that your tracking adapts to any changes in your website or marketing strategies.

Preview of the Next Article

As we continue to build upon our knowledge of Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager, the next article in our series will delve into a crucial aspect of these tools – their integration. In the upcoming article, “Integrating Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager,” we will explore the benefits of combining these powerful tools. This integration not only streamlines the process of data collection but also opens up advanced possibilities for tracking and analysing your website’s data. We’ll provide a step-by-step guide on how to integrate these tools efficiently and discuss the best practises for a seamless setup.

Stay tuned to deepen your understanding of how Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager can work in tandem to enhance your website’s tracking capabilities and provide richer insights into your digital presence.

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