How to Conduct a Google Tag Manager Audit

February 8, 2022 Michael Fong

Managing an entire tagging implementation can be a complex task, even if you’re using Google Tag Manager (GTM). 

This complexity often comes as a result of website updates over time, which involve continually adding and modifying web tags (the third party technologies installed on your site) to accomplish various tasks around analytics, marketing automation, advertising, and more. 

As your website changes and you continually add new marketing tech to your site, you will need to regularly audit your implementation to validate which tags are deployed and whether they are working properly. This practice of auditing your tagging implementation will need to be done either manually or through automation.


Manually Auditing Google Tag Manager [3-Point Checklist]

Conducting an audit of Google Tag Manager means verifying and spot checking each tag deployed on your website or app is functioning correctly and compliant with data privacy laws. 

The three main auditing activities you will have to carry out include:

  1. Validating and checking container tags
  2. Inspecting your data layer
  3. Verifying that triggers are firing as expected

Let’s take a closer look at each of these tasks individually.


1. Validating and checking container tags

When using Google Tag Manager, your analytics tags reside in GTM's cloud database and then are called onto your website pages by a container tag when applicable rules are met.

Container tags are pieces of code installed on each page of your site that serve as digital middlemen between the GTM database and your website. These container tags communicate with the GTM database to deploy and fire each page’s applicable tags. 

Container tags free you from having to manually deploy each individual tag directly onto each page of your site, and instead allow you to manage all your tags through the Google Tag Manager interface. 

When manually auditing your site, you need to check your Google Tag Manager container tags are installed on each page of your site and are effectively firing the desired tags. Manually ensuring the proper functionality of these container tags requires you to find each container tag in your site’s code, and then check on your website source code and within the GTM interface to ensure your assorted analytics tags are appropriately aligned and firing within each container tag.

In addition to auditing your container tags, you will also want to inspect your data layer.


2. Inspecting your data layer

The data layer is a JavaScript object that sits as an intermediate data repository connecting your website’s data to your your tag manager and other marketing solutions. In other words, the data layer gathers that data into a centralized, organized manner for easy data sharing across vendors.

In order to accurately send information, your data layer must be set up with clearly defined variables that match specific conventions. As a result, you will need to validate your data layer to ensure accurate data formatting and capture. 

When inspecting and validating your data layer manually, you need to inspect the data layer JavaScript object page by page to ensure the values match your specifications, which can be a daunting task.

Another aspect of managing GTM is making sure the rules associated with your analytics tags are firing correctly. 


3. Verifying your GTM rules

Within Google Tag Manager, you assign triggers to your analytics tags, and these triggers serve as instructions that tell the analytics tags when to fire and record data. As your site changes with time, you'll like need to update these triggers for them to continue operating as expected.

Managing and verifying all the triggers associated with your implemented tags can be challenging, due to the sheer volume of tags, as well as the fact that each trigger needs to be verified one-by-one, vendor-by-vendor. As a result, manually verifying these rules is not an ideal method. 

Whether you’re debugging Google Tag Manager container tags, inspecting your data layer, or verifying your triggers, approaching these processes manually is time-intensive and prone to human error, especially if your site and accompanying analytics implementation is large. Additionally, websites change regularly, which only adds to the complexity of an already challenging situation, and often leaves tag management professionals struggling to keep up. 

The cumbersome nature of attempting to accomplish the aforementioned tasks manually ultimately leads to mistakes and poor data output. As a result, using automation is an appealing alternative. 


Auditing Google Tag Manager with Automation

Using automation to audit your GTM implementation will allow you to quickly and accurately ensure your implementation is deploying tags where needed. ObservePoint is one such solution that enables you to efficiently schedule and run automated tests of Google Tag Manager, saving you time and resources. 


Audit tags automatically

Auditing tags with ObservePoint is straightforward and efficient, as you can simply schedule automated Audits that will render each page of your website and automatically detect all the tags present. These audits allow you to see the container tags present on each page, as well as each of the tags your container tags deploy.

These audits will quickly give you a clear and accurate view of your entire tagging implementation. 


Automatically inspect the data layer

In order to relay consistent information from your website to your tag manager, the data layer must be congruent and accurate across all pages of your site. As a result, automatically auditing your data layer will save you from wasting time and resources on combing through each page of your site in an effort to ensure the values in the data layer are correct. 


Use automation to verify triggers

Triggers can get messy as your tagging implementation changes over time. You can verify that all the triggers in your Google Tag Manager implementation are firing correctly using ObservePoint's Audits and Journeys. The Audits feature enables you to check triggers at a page level and ensure your tags are properly functioning, while the Journeys feature allows you to check the rules associated with user flows and sequences on your site.  


Keep GTM Running Efficiently with ObservePoint

When using tag management software like GTM, you need to recognize that maintaining the integrity of that solution is not a one time activity. You can’t simply set and forget your GTM solution and hope for a dependable implementation now and into the future.

ObservePoint enables GTM stakeholders to conduct ongoing governance of their tagging implementation. Take a look at the short demo below for an idea of how ObservePoint can assist your governance efforts.

If you decide to utilize automation, ObservePoint’s validation software will allow you to ensure that your GTM solution is currently functioning as desired, and that your solution will continue to do so as you move forward. With this knowledge and peace of mind, you can confidently ensure your website is providing your customers with great experiences. 


About the Author

Michael Fong

Mike is the Sr. Manager of Product Go To Market at ObservePoint and assists in aligning the Product, Marketing, and Revenue teams on product strategy, value propositions, and promotion. Previously a Senior Consultant and Solutions Engineer on ObservePoint’s EMEA team in London, Mike has been integral in ensuring ObservePoint users are obtaining the highest quality of data from their marketing technologies. With over 10 years of experience in the analytics world, Mike is an expert when it comes to data analytics, SQL, problem solving, and spreading good vibes.

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