Google Analytics vs Google Tag Manager

Here we go, Google Analytics vs Google Tag Manager.

These are probably two of Google’s most powerful and popular marketing tools, but what exactly are they and how can we best use them?

We’re going to cover the differences between these two tools, why they are often confused with each other and how you can utilize them together or separately as part of your marketing strategy.

1. What is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is a tracking tool that you can install on your website or mobile app that will gather data for you on users, which you can later analyze.

You’ll start by installing a little bit of tracking code onto your website/app which will then measure user data and transfer it over to the Google Analytics platform.

There, it gets processed and stored on Google servers. And once all this data is ready, we as marketers are able to view it through a nice and polished user interface.

We can analyze, segment, filter and move this data around giving us unique insights into our site/app users. This helps us make strategic business decisions based on these new-found insights.

2. What is Google Tag Manager?

Google Tag Manager, on the other hand, is a tag management system.

Now, the basic premise behind a tag management system is that instead of implementing tracking code directly onto each page of your site, you only implement Google Tag Manager’s tracking code once…and that’s it.

You get one central JavaScript snippet from Google Tag Manager and install that on all your pages.

From there you use Google Tag Manager’s interface to easily add or remove Google or 3rd party tags, without messing with the site’s code over and over again.

Here are some of the tags you may want to install through Google Tag Manager:

  • Google Analytics tracking code
  • The Facebook Pixel
  • LinkedIn Insights tag
  • Google Ads Conversion tag

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3. Why do Marketers Often Confuse Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager?

As you’re starting to see, there’s actually a big difference between what both Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager does.

So where does the confusion actually come from?

Well, first of all, they’re both Google products and they’re both free!

But, the confusion really lies in that you can actually install your Google Analytics tracking code directly onto your page OR you can deploy it through Google Tag Manager.

Both work fine.

The main reason you would go with Tag Manager is if you plan to use other tool tags like the Facebook Pixel or the Google Ads conversion tracking tag in the future. If so, it would be best to use Google Tag Manager from the get-go, as it allows you to add many tags in an organized fashion to your site.

Google Tag Manager also makes sense if you require more complex tracking like button or scroll tracking. This would be pretty hard to do (but still possible) if you went with the direct implementation of Google Analytics.

So in a sense, you can utilize the Google Analytics tracking code within Google Tag Manager to deploy your tracking codes more effectively and track user behavior in a more advanced way, easier.

4. Are There Alternatives to Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager?

Yep, there are plenty, but they aren’t all free and they aren’t all as mainstream so it may be more difficult to get your whole team up to speed with them. Here are some alternatives:

Google Analytics

  • Mixpanel
  • Adobe Analytics
  • Heap
  • Kissmetrics

Google Tag Manager

  • Insighten
  • Adobe DTM which is now called Launch

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5. Summary

So that’s what both tools are and how they work. I guess phrasing it Google Analytics vs Google Tag Manager doesn’t really make sense considering they both have very different purposes. But I hope we cleared up any confusion surrounding the tools and how they should be used.

You can basically use them together or separately.

1. You could install your Google Analytics tracking code onto your page directly without using Google Tag Manager.

2. You could also install Google Analytics directly and only use Google Tag Manager for other tags, like the Facebook Pixel or Adobe Analytics tag.

3. Finally, you could use Google Tag Manager to manage all your tags, and that’s exactly what I do.

All in all, Google Tag Manager is really just the middleman between the implementation on your website and the tracking tool (Google Analytics) where the data gets sent.

So, which one should you use?

Well, I would recommend using both tools because they’re both free, can help your business in different ways and are pretty dang awesome.

If you enjoyed this post, please drop us a comment down below.


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