CXL Institute Growth Marketing Minidegree review Part 6

8 min readOct 18, 2020


Google Analytics Intermediate and Google Tag Manager for beginners

Photo by Myriam Jessier on Unsplash

After a great start to understanding Google Analytics, we moved forward to understanding further into the world of GA and introduce Google Tag Manager taught by Mercer at CXL Institute.

The quest for clean data is one that all marketers are on. Mercer explains in two parts how to make sure that we make marketing decisions on clean data. Part 1 deals with Spam filtering and Part 2 deals with internal traffic.

In part 1we discuss filtering out spam data:

  1. Enabling the bot filter checkbox in your view
  2. Reducing spam by checking your referral traffic sources. To do this create a referrer based exclude filter. You can follow this format:
  3. To reduce referral spam you can also create a hostname only inclusion filter. This will only include traffic from the said hostname.
    Follow this: predefined / Include only / traffic to hostname / equals to (or contains)
  4. You can also include traffic which provides analytics with a password that you set while creating a filter.

In part 2 we discuss filtering out internal data:

  1. Internal hit is basically internal traffic that is from within your team/company. As a small team, you might need to remove it asap as it can influence decisions.
  2. One way to filter this is through the Google Opt out extension.
  3. You can also use the filter excluding the city, the IP Address, the country or UTM source from where you are happy to exclude the traffic.
  4. You can also use the exclude filter to set a custom dimension and implement it with the help of GTM.

You need to be careful with the filters and also make sure that there are multiple views that can support some filters.

We then moved to understand cross-domain tracking which is important to give the correct referral credit for where the traffic is converting from. To set this up we first need to link the client ID and then add certain domains to the referral exclusion list.

There are also some great reports in GA other than the tabular reports. Reports like funnel visualization and goal flow report. Funnel visualization report makes it easier to view the flow of a user within a goal easier. You can view the stages that users have been in leading to goal completion. However, unlike the goal flow report the funnel visualization report doesn’t contain the data retro.

Furthermore, with the goal completion report, you can see -1,-2,-3 and +1,+2,+3 pages within a particular step. This means we can see the user flow, retro before they reach a step and after they reach a step. Within goal flow, we can also segment the report.

Segments and filters can make reporting so clean. The data on an overall level is less useful but until it is not segmented it doesn’t tell a wholesome story. For Eg: User spent $500 vs females in the age range of 25–34 spent $500. We can use built-in or custom segments to give us a clearer view of the data. Segments also flow through all of the reports so that we can find answers about what we are looking for. Filters on the other hand permanently alter data and can be great for a particular answer/reporting we are looking for.

Custom segments also help us to segment for ad content, Facebook traffic and also add sequences that can really help in understanding the traffic flow. The key point is to come up with questions and try to find the data with the help of segments and sequences. After custom segments, we moved to custom reports that cut to the chase and show what we want to see. We can add filters and flow to answer very specific questions.

Dashboards provide great visibility and action points for taking actions. You can import certain dashboard from the gallery section and also create a custom dashboard.

GA offers some really interesting stuff on reporting including the saved reports that might help save time in slicing/dicing and reporting the same stuff for a recurring report. I also learned about the custom alerts option that can help in alerting when a specific goal is achieved or some metric occurs.

We then moved to understand the much talked about the tool — Google Tag Manager.

Mercer started this by providing a basic overview of Google Tag Manager. We covered setting up the Tag Manager which is pretty straightforward. The script is to be placed in the head and body of the source code of your website. This can be done once the account is created and a container is defined in Tag Manager. A container is similar to Property in GA and once set up provides a GTM code (similar to UA code in GA).
Tag Manager helps us to collect data of those finer interactions which is not possible by GA and helps us to send that data to GA, FB, Ads etc.

Tags are basically the scripts to the platforms we want tag manager to fire on a page. We can use the platforms listed on GTM or we can use the custom field.

Triggers in GTM is the moment/action when those tags are fired. So, a tag will be Google Ads, Hotjar script on a page, the trigger will be to fire it when there is a page view and a video play. Triggers are the behaviours when those tags need to be fired. Triggers can be set for a page view, scroll, video play, button click and much more.

Variables is drilling down further in understanding which pageview, which scroll and which button to track. A trigger can be a page view but the variable can be /welcome, or they clicked on a video and which video. The variables can have different values.

Tags are what you want to GTM to do and Triggers is when you want GTM to do that. Variables is the information that GTM would need to do that action.

A data layer is a temporary place for GTM to store data. It loads only when the GTM script loads. Data layer has a Key: Value pair. A key can be Price and $29.99 can be the actual value.

It is all about understanding the relationship between multiple parts. The numbers in the data layer are temporary but the story can help us make some great decisions.

GTM has an alphabetical hierarchy in place which should be taken advantage of. The naming convention can be something that will help when the repository increases. We can use the folders to further store the category tags in one place. People can add too many containers or give everyone admin access which should be avoided. We then discussed the preview mode which is a very handy view to debug the tags.

GTM workflow
Within the environment of GTM, we can also create a workspace (a temporary place for one person to work so that multiple people don’t create a mess), you can test with preview and these changes create a version. A version in GTM consists of all the changes published at a particular time. You can avoid mistakes with the help of versions. In case there is a mistake or error, with the help of version you can revert to a later version. A work

Whenever a container is published, a version of that container is recorded and the workspace is removed.

Understanding the Google Analytics settings Tag
The way to create a GTM tag leads us to GA settings tab which is basically the UA code of GA. You can create a Tag by creating a tag>selecting the GA universal tag> trigger>save>publish. You can set multiple track types like basic web page activity (page view), measure events, measure activity across domains, e-commerce, dynamic re-marketing.

Life is simple with GTM when choosing to install multiple tools on your website. You just need to add the scripts of those tools. You can also use custom HTML Code for some tools like FB pixel.

We then talked about measuring engagements. In terms of engagement we can measure multiple metrics:

With GTM we can measure link clicks, all clicks or also specific clicks that might contain a specific text or CSS id or other built-in variables. This helps in tracking what behaviour visitors are showing on the page, what links are visitors clicking.

We can further refine this with the timer variable. We can also set up a timer basis a specific click the visitor is taking.

Scroll depth triggers can be used to understand engagement behaviour. The scrolling variables can be easily set up from activating from built-in variables. I also learnt that though scrolling event is helpful it can affect the bounce rate to plummet. If it does, turn the non-interaction event off (by turning it true) so that GTM doesn’t pass the event as an interactive event to GA.

Youtube triggers and Video variables make it easier to understand the interaction by users on videos on the site. This makes it easier to ask relevant questions in GA.

We then moved to understand Data Layers and Mercer showed how we can push a variable in the data layer by using HTML script. We can also update the event with the use of the HTML script for any of the data layer push. I also learned that less is more in GTM and the multiple ways in which one can reduce tags and triggers. This is how we can store a new variable in the data layer.

Though all this data stored in GTM is not useful until GA or any other tool reads them and we can form a story. To pull the information out of the data layer we need to use the data layer variable. Always remember to be careful with the case sensitivity of the DLV. We can then update the trigger to be fired when the event is passed and then a Tag is fired to GA to record this. There are lots of information that can be pushed in the Data Layer and we can direct it towards analytics or remarketing or any other tool.

You can also track eCommerce with the help of GTM. In order to do that we would need to find the data, push the data in the data layer and then send the data to GA for storing and analysing purposes. I got to learn the URL variable where we can set the component type as query and query key as a product.

The key during the data layer push has to remain the same. Reference

Before this course, I was like a space cadet roaming the web but after Mercer’s pro tips I am always on the lookout for small little things that I used to miss. One of which was the .ga= (known as decorating link) string in the URL address that refers to cross-domain tracking. This happens when multiple domains receive the traffic within one user session.

How can we set this up?
This can easily be tracked without a change in client ID through Cross-Domain tracking. First, we need to set up GA by Admin>Referral exclusion list>Add the domain name. Then we set up the GTM side of the story Variables>GAS variable>More settings>Cross Domain Tracking>Enter the domains>fields to set>Add set>allow linker>true. This allows the client ID to be linked within the domains mentioned.


This module helped me refine my knowledge about Google Analytics where I learnt more about segments, filtering data, custom reports, dashboards, channels, multi-channel funnel, attribution and also a great introduction to Google Tag Manager. GTM is definitely a tool that can free so much time and reduce complexities. The content was taught by Mercer in a really easy and complex-free manner.

If this makes you interested in growth marketing and you wish to learn more, I can definitely recommend CXL Institutes’s Growth Marketing Minidegree or any of their other courses.




Startup Growth | Business Development and Sales | Creative thinker