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Google Analytics vs Google Tag Manager

Lindsay Halsey

Lindsay Halsey is a co-founder of Pathfinder SEO. She has over 10 years of experience working in SEO with small to large businesses. Lindsay focuses on teaching site owners, freelancers, and agencies how to get found on Google via a guided approach to SEO. Stay in touch on Twitter - @linds_halsey.

In the world of digital marketing, there are many tools including Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager. It can be overwhelming to know which tool to use, what it does, and when to deploy it. In this post, we compare Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager. Together they help you create a data-driven marketing strategy.

What’s the difference between Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager?

Google Analytics (GA) is a free web analytics tool that tracks website traffic and performance. It allows you to make data-informed decisions about your marketing campaigns. For example, businesses that invest in SEO, use GA to monitor how organic search traffic trends over time. Alternatively, if you just built a new website, Google Analytics allows you to compare the user experience for the before and after by looking at engagement statistics.

Google Analytics is powered by an on-page tag. This tag is placed on every page of your website. It includes a unique identifier for your account called a measurement ID. The tag has changed over the years as GA has evolved. Here’s a snapshot of the current tag called the Global Site Tag (the unique identifier called a Measurement ID is highlighted in bold):

<!-- Global site tag (gtag.js) - Google Analytics -->
<script async src="https://www.googletagmanager.com/gtag/js?id=G-5KV5D7YABC"></script>
<script>
window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || [];
function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);}
gtag('js', new Date());

gtag('config', 'G-5KV5D7YABC');
</script>

The first step to using Google Analytics is adding the Global Site Tag to every page on your website. This can be done in a template or theme file. If you have a WordPress website, you may use a plugin that supports Google Analytics such as MonsterInsights. Squarespace, Wix, and Shopify also support the easy implementation of the Google Analytics code.

Using Google Tag Manager to Add Google Analytics to your Website

There is an alternative to implementing your GA Tag directly on your website. Instead, you can utilize Google Tag Manager (also known as GTM).

Google Tag Manager makes it easy to manage all of your website tags without editing code. You can think of GTM as being a container. You place the code for the container on your website once. Then, you can add tags into the container directly in the Google Tag Manager interface without having to edit the code on your website.

In this application, we place Google Tag Manager on your website and then we place the Google Analytics code within the Google Tag Manager account.

There are several advantages to this approach:

  • Google Tag Manager has tag templates for frequently used tags like Google Analytics. The template will automatically update for you if/when the tracking code changes. This saves you time down the road.
  • Google Tag Manager makes it easy to extend the out-of-the-box functionality of Google Analytics with event tracking and more. This makes it easier to tie a website visitor to a desired action such as completing a form.
  • Google Tag Manager supports much more than just Google Analytics. Need to add a Facebook pixel to the website? No problem. Just drop it in Tag Manager. GTM supports third-party tags.
  • Google Tag Manager fosters collaboration. Once the Google Tag Manager code is on the website, multiple people can manage tags without having to send developer requests.

Google Tag Manager & Google Analytics

Our preferred method of installing Google Analytics on a website is Google Tag Manager. These two tools are complementary.

Pathfinder SEO subscribers have access to our Google Tag Manager training which is part of the SEO Checklist. Sign up today and start growing your website’s traffic following our step-by-step approach.

FREE 1-hour On-Demand Training

Getting Started with Google Analytics 4 and Google Tag Manager

Lindsay Halsey

Lindsay Halsey is a co-founder of Pathfinder SEO. She has over 10 years of experience working in SEO with small to large businesses. Lindsay focuses on teaching site owners, freelancers, and agencies how to get found on Google via a guided approach to SEO. Stay in touch on Twitter - @linds_halsey.

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