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Updated: May 6th, 2021
Google Tag Manager. The thing that makes the lives of marketers and web analysts easier. But the purpose of this blog post is not to convince you to start using it (I have another one which explains all GTM benefits). Today, I assume that you have already decided to give Tag Manager a chance (or maybe even used it once or twice). In this blog post, I’ll show you how to check if Google Tag Manager is working properly.
There are several ways to do so but keep in mind that these tips are not alternatives to each other. If possible, you should use them all or at least half of them.
To check if Google Tag Manager is working, you need to complete the following steps:
Now, let’s take a closer look at every step individually.
If you prefer video content, some of the tips are explained in the video below. But if you want to know ALL the possible options, then read the blog post as well.
Important: make sure that all the symbols and characters in Google Tag Manager container code snippets are correct and that there are no modifications (especially by accident). For example, it’s quite popular among inexperienced marketers to share tracking codes via Word file or Google Docs. That is a very bad practice because these platforms usually break the code by automatically changing the quotation marks. To learn more, read tip #16 here.
The next technique to check if Google Tag Manager is working is to enable Preview and Debug (P&D) mode. To do so, click the Preview button in the top right corner of your GTM interface (near the Submit button).
After you enable P&D mode, the preview mode will be opened in a new tab. It will ask you to enter the URL of the website. When you do that, another tab/window will open with your website. In the Preview mode, you should see the word Connected
Also, at the bottom of the website’s window, you should see this (or something similar):
As long as you continue navigating your site and see some events in Preview and Debug console at the bottom of your screen, that’s a good sign.
I’ve published a detailed guide that explains what the Preview and Debug mode is and how you can make use of it.
Is the P&D Mode not working? Read the guide on how to fix it.
Tag Assistant is of one the top Chrome extensions for Google Tag Manager, a very useful tool in testing and debugging your implementation. Not only does it help with troubleshooting of Google Tag Manager, but also Google Ads, Analytics, and DoubleClick implementation can be easily verified.
Your aim is to see a green tag with a smiley face, just like in the screenshot below.
Another way of how Google Tag Manager implementation might be broken is when the GTM container code is not added to all pages of a website. There are many reasons why things like this happen:
My point is that things happen and you need to be prepared for that. One of the ways how you can check whether Google Tag Manager code is added to all pages is to use a web crawler.
Screaming Frog is a solution that is especially popular among SEO professionals who want to check what’s happening on their clients’ websites. How is it related to GTM? You could configure it to crawl the entire website and look for https://www.googletagmanager.com/gtm.js in the website’s source code. This URL is used by the Google Tag Manager container.
In Screaming Frog’s application, go to Configuration > Custom > Search and enter the following condition:
Does not contain https://www.googletagmanager.com/gtm.js
Enter the URL of the website you wish to check and hit the Start button.
That’s it! As the crawl progresses, you’ll be able to see the full URLs of the pages where your GTM container code is missing. Your next step is obviously to add the tracking code to those pages or ask a developer to do that.
Another way how to check if Google Tag Manager is working is to dive deeper into the developer’s zone. We’ll need Chrome’s developer tools here (other browsers have tools as well, but Chrome is the browser of my choice that’s why I’ll give it more attention).
On Mac, you can access Developer tools through the View menu.
On Windows, click CTRL + Shift + I.
You will notice that an entire console is enabled at the bottom of your screen with several options. There are two tabs you should be interested in the most, Console and Network.
First of all, click Console and start navigating the website and keep looking for errors. If none occurs, great! Otherwise, if you see a warning or an error and it contains keywords like Google Tag Manager, gtm.js, etc., this means that something’s not right with your implementation.
By the way, if you spot this error:
404 not found for GET: GET http://www.googletagmanager.com/gtm.js?id=GTM-XXXXX
don’t worry, I have a quick solution for it, read this blog post.
Now, let’s go to the Network tab. You will also notice that it’s completely blank (or contains way too little information). This is because you will need to refresh your browser in order for this information to be populated. Refresh the browser and start seeing some data coming in.
This is what’s happening under the hood every time a web page is loaded. You will see the images for your site, scripts that you have in place, and (hopefully) that your Google Tag Manager code has fired correctly.
In the search field, enter gtm and start looking for the line with gtm.js?id=GTM-XXXXX (I replaced the actual ID with XXXXX). If its status is 200, you’re good to go! 200 means OK.
If you see multiple gtm.js requests, it might be caused by the GTM Preview mode. Read more.
Actually, the network tab is an invaluable troubleshooting tool for any webmaster or website owner, and it goes well beyond just using GTM. You can use this tool to fully understand the footprint of your site on the web, how your images or scripts may affect load time, etc. This can be very powerful, revealing, and takes to the whole another level.
If you have implemented Google Analytics 4 with Google Tag Manager, you can check if your data is being sent to GA4. First, enable the Preview mode in GTM, then go to GA4 > DebugView and check if you see some data.
You can learn more about the DebugView here.
If you have already implemented any Universal Analytics events or Pageviews in GTM, one of the most common tips I give to my students is to always check Google Analytics Real-time reports. Since the majority of you use GTM to implement various tracking stuff related to GA, real-time report is a real time-saver.
Log in to your Google Analytics account and on the left sidebar, click Realtime. The Overview section will show you page views and Events will display the events you have just sent to Google Analytics.
If you see them, then all good. If not, then you’ll need to troubleshoot.
There are many possible reasons why real-time reports are not showing you anything and not all of them are directly related to GTM. To help you troubleshoot, I’ve created this guide.
There were my 7 tips on how to check if Google Tag Manager is working properly. If I had to choose 2 most commonly used, that would be Preview and Debug Console and Tag Assistant. But, please, do not underestimate others, in fact, I’m starting to use the rest of them more and more often.
Did I miss anything? Are there any other techniques that you use to check if Google Tag Manager is working? Let me know in the comments!