Apr 30, 2024

Google Tag Manager vs. Google Analytics: An Explainer

There’s no question that e-commerce is king in today’s online world. And while responsive search ads and display ads are valuable PPC tools for driving business, your most important online asset – and the one you have complete control over – is still your business’s website.

So how’s your website performing? Are you tracking and analyzing your web traffic? Do you know what steps you might need to take to increase conversions? Is there a page on your site that’s losing visitors?

Google Analytics (GA) and Google Tag Manager (GTM) are two popular tools from Google that can help you track and measure your website’s performance, but they serve different purposes. Let’s dive in so you can understand how these two tools can work together to give your website performance a boost.

A graphic showing graphs and analytics

What Is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is a free service from Google that helps website owners understand their web traffic. It can be used by businesses of all sizes to better understand how their website is performing, and whether or not visitors find what they’re looking for when they visit your website.

What info does a Google Analytics report contain?

  • How many people visit your website
  • Which pages they visit
  • How long they stay on your website
  • Where they came from (e.g., search engine, social media, paid advertising, etc.)
  • What device they’re using (e.g., desktop, mobile)
  • What actions they have taken on your website (e.g., purchases, email capture, downloads, etc.)

If you can leverage the insights you learn from GA, you can improve your website to make it more user-friendly, to create more relevant content for users, and to improve marketing campaigns.

There’s a free version of Google Analytics, as well as a paid version with more features, so whether you’re brand new to using GA or a more experienced user, you can get help optimize your website by diving into GA.

What Is Google Tag Manager?

Google Tag Manager (GTM) is a tag management system. GTM acts as a container for all the different snippets of code (tags) you use to track and analyze activity on your website or app.

While GTM doesn’t provide analytics itself, it simplifies managing those tags.

Here’s a breakdown of how GTM works:

  • Centralized Management –Instead of editing the code on your website every time you want to add a new tracking tag (such as Google Analytics or conversion tracking), you can add it through GTM’s user-friendly interface.
  • Reduced Errors – Editing website code can be risky. GTM helps eliminate errors by keeping the code in one place.
  • Easy Updates – Need to update a tag? You can make changes in GTM without modifying your website code.
  • Multiple Tags – GTM can handle tags from various sources.
  • Security and Speed – GTM offers features to ensure tags load securely and efficiently without slowing down your site.

Think of GTM as a central hub for managing all your website’s tracking codes. It simplifies the process, reduces errors, and gives you more control over how you collect data. And best of all, GTM is a free tool that you can use in tandem with GA to optimize your website tracking and analytics.

Google Tag Manager vs. Google Analytics: Key Differences

GTM and GA are both powerful tools, but they have different jobs or areas of focus. They can work together seamlessly though! Let’s break down their differences.


  • GA – Analyzes website traffic and user behavior. It provides insights on this data to help you understand how people interact with your site.
  • GTM – Manages tracking tags (snippets of code) from various sources, including Google Analytics. It doesn’t provide analytics itself.

Data Collection

  • GA – Collects and analyzes data directly.
  • GTM – Doesn’t analyze data itself. It simply manages the tags that send data to analytics tools like GA.


  • GA – Requires code snippets added directly to the website.
  • GTM – Uses a single container script for all tags, offering more flexibility.


  • GA – Provides comprehensive reports on website traffic and user behavior. In addition to reporting metrics listed above, the newest version of GA, Google Analytics 4, uses machine learning to identify unusual changes or trends, as well as offering predictive metrics such as purchase probability.
  • GTM – Doesn’t provide website analytics or reports. It just manages the tags that collect data for analytics tools.

When to Use Each Tool

  • GA – Recommended for website traffic analysis, user insights, predictive metrics, and marketing campaign measurement.
  • GTM – Best used for managing various tracking codes (including GA), easy implementation updates, and improved website performance.

While they are not the same, Google Tags Manager is a great way to implement and manage your Google Analytics tracking code on your website.

Using GTM and GA Together: A Powerful Combination

While separate, GA and GTM work effectively together because GTM allows you to add and manage your GA tracking code, eliminating the need to modify your website code directly. In addition, GTM lets you set up additional tags to track specific user actions and custom events beyond basic website metrics.

Think of GA as the analysis tool that tells you what’s happening on your website while GTM is the manager that helps you collect the data GA analyzes. By using GA and GTM together, you gain a powerful combination for website analytics and optimization.

If you’re still unsure about what this integrated approach looks like in practice, here’s an example. Imagine you run an e-commerce website selling shoes. You want to track how many people visit your product pages and how many actually make a purchase (in other words, your conversion rate).

Here’s how you could use Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager together:

  • Set Up Tracking – You wouldn’t directly add the Google Analytics code to your website. Instead, you’d use GTM to create a tag for Google Analytics. This tag would be configured to fire (send data) whenever someone visits a product page.
  • Track Additional Details – Using GTM, you can set up additional tags to track specific actions, like adding a shoe to the cart or initiating checkout. This gives you granular data on the entire purchase funnel.
  • Easy Updates – Let’s say you want to track a new promotion with a specific discount code. Through GTM, you can easily update the tag to capture this information without touching your website code.
  • Testing and Experimentation – GTM allows you to create different versions of your tags (A/B testing) to see which one performs better, like tracking button clicks with different colors or placements.
  • Centralized Data – All the data collected from these tags, including product page visits, cart additions, and purchases, would flow into Google Analytics. There, you can see how these metrics all work together to understand your customer journey and optimize your website for better conversions.

In this example, using Google Analytics and Tag Manager together allows you to collect rich website data, analyze user behavior, and ultimately improve your online store’s performance.

Let Us Help You Implement Better Website Tracking

Are you sold on the insights you could get from an integrated approach to GTM and GA, but feeling uncertain on how to dive in? Let the experts at Cordelia Labs help. Contact us today to get started leveling up your website analytics and tracking.