Google Analytics vs Google Tag Manager: What’s the difference?

Chris Haigh

Chris Haigh

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Google Analytics: The Basics

Google Analytics is a service that is offered by Google to track and report on website traffic, for example:

  • How many people have visited your website in a given time period (this could be hour, day, month, year etc).
  • Specific information about the visitor, e.g. (if available) where they are visiting from, age, gender etc.
  • Specific information about how they are accessing your website, e.g. type of device (mobile phone, desktop, tablet), operating system, browser etc.
  • Which the most popular pages on your website are
  • How users navigate through your website
  • How many people bounce off your website (leave immediately after landing on your site without viewing other content or interacting with the page)

The way that Google Analytics is able to track these users and their interactions with your website is by utilising a marketing tag.

This usually comes in the form of a Google Analytics Tracking Code which looks something like the following:

 

google analytics code example

 

The script shown above uses the gtag.js integration, however you may have the older analytics.js code.

By default, this will allow you to track basic information like user visits, page views, bounce rates, session durations, traffic source etc.

If you have the knowledge you can implement things such as event tracking which requires you to input additional code onto your site which will track things such as phone number clicks or form submissions, however depending on the implementation of your website, this can be difficult. This is where Google Tag Manager comes in.


 

Google Tag Manager: The Basics

Google Tag Manager (GTM) does exactly what the name suggests, it manages all the different tags (of which Google Analytics is one) that you can implement on your site. These can include, but not limited to:

  • Google Analytics Tracking Code
  • Google Ads Conversion and Remarketing
  • Facebook Tracking Pixel

GTM uses triggers alongside the tags to create a powerful set of tools.

For example, you can create a trigger that will watch for any clicks on a specific telephone number throughout the site. Then when that trigger has been activated, you can then fire a tag (Google Analytics) and pass through some set variables and information. In this case, the variables and information you set would be creating an event which you can track separately within Google Analytics.

The benefits to using GTM over just Google Analytics alone, is that once you have implemented the code required, you can configure everything within GTM, without having to have code knowledge to modify your website. Additionally, the options from tracking and filtering user interactions with your website is endless with GTM, you can filter by almost anything you can think of to focus on a specific target audience.

When you implement GTM you do not need to insert the Google Analytics Code too, you configure a link to Google Analytics within GTM. You would however still need to setup Google Analytics in the way you normally would on the Google Analytics website.

You implement Google Tag Manager in a similar way to how you implement Google Analytics, but with a different javascript code snippet. The difference here is that there are 2 code snippets to implement. Depending on what your website is built upon, you can get extensions or plugins that will do this automatically for you. Here is an example of a Google Tag Manager code:

google tag manager example code


 

TLDR; version

You can think of it this way. Google Analytics is a tool whereas Google Tag Manager is a toolbox.

Google Analytics vs Google Tag Manager: Conclusion
Without going into too much detail about either one, here is a summary about the two:

  • Google Analytics is not replaced by Google Tag Manager
  • Google Analytics can be used without Google Tag Manager
  • Google Tag Manager can be used without Google Analytics
  • To use the two together, you still need to setup each one separately
  • Both are implemented onto your site in similar ways, using javascript code snippets

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