As a longtime SEO I love Google Tag Manager (GTM) for three simple reasons:
- The potential performance benefits
- It offers more tracking options & better data
- It’s a great backup schema implementation option
Page load performance
Google Tag Manager’s ability to reduce the negative impact of analytics tags, tracking pixels, web beacons etc. on your site’s page load performance is underrated.
While it’s not universally true that tag managers load tags quicker than if they were hardcoded – it’s generally a fair assumption in my experience. Google Tag Manager (and similar platforms) asynchronously load tags, basically meaning they don’t have to all load one after the other and hold up page load. Asynchronously loading analytics tags and media pixels improves performance in most cases. Additionally, GTM allows you to only fire tags when and where they are needed – further optimizing page load performance.
With all that being said, it’s possible to hurt page load performance with Tag Manager too. And a container may help reduce the impact of your tags on performance, but having no container or tags will of course always perform better (if that’s an option).
More tracking capabilities & better data
If you want granular link tracking in GA4 without doing custom JS development or relying on enhanced reporting – Google Tag Manager is the way to go.
Personally, I’m not an expert JS developer and I’m leering of trusting enhanced measure for all my reporting needs. The ability to send specific events to GA4 through GTM (and be able debug it to make sure it’s firing) was very helpful when setting up a Nuaveu.com.
Backup option for implementing schema
All too often technology limitations and team bandwidth restrict the ability to implement SEO recommendations. With Google Tag Manager it is possible to implement schema (or structure data markup) without modifying the site content or code each time. Once the GTM container is on a webpage/site all the tags, triggers, variables and other settings can be modifying without a developer.
For some use cases, the variables in GTM can also be helpful for populating information within schema. An example would be creating local business schema for a long list of locations. With Google Tag Manager you can create a table for all the variables and have the correct information populate for each location with manually writing each.
In some instances, schema implemented with GTM or similar technologies might not be properly crawled by search engines. Google’s John Mueller even warned SEOs against relying on GTM for implementing schema. And while I 100% agree that this isn’t the preferred method for doing schema – it’s amazing to have a backup option for implementation.
Some SEOs and articles even referencing using Google Tag Manager to implement canonicals. Again, it might not be the preferred method, but there’s a reason The Blueprint Training lists GTM as the #1 most essential SEO tool (not sure I would rate it higher than Screaming Frog, but it’s definitely helpful).
An imperfect love
Tag Manager is far from perfect, but it definitely is a standout among free tools for its versality and depth. Sure, using Google Tag Manager is by no means my first choice for implementing schema, but it’s really helpful on projects where there’s no alternative. I’ve only had to use it in a handful of instances but it really came in handy for those projects (until more permanent solutions were available). It might not be perfect, but love rarely is.