Complete Guide to Google Tag Assistant

Google diagnostic is a feature of Google Analytics which makes regular evaluation of your analytics property in order to identify implementation issues and configuration anomalies via alerts/notifications in a GA view:

But the biggest limitation of Google diagnostic is that, it reports implementation issues on the data which you have already collected (in large quantity) and it cannot tell you whether an issue has been fixed or not, until it can re-crawl web pages and collect more data.

If you want to diagnose implementation issues as soon you have implemented tags and minimize collecting corrupted data, then you need to use Google Tag Assistant.

Other limitation of Google diagnostic is that, it cannot report implementation issues on the web pages which are hidden behind Google login or blocked by robots.txt. 

On the other hand, Google Tag Assistant can report implementation issues on such pages.

Introduction to Google Tag Assistant

Google Tag Assistant is a chrome extension which is used to identify, validate and troubleshoot the installation of various Google Tags on a web page.

These Google Tags can be:

  • Google Analytics
  • Google Tag Manager
  • Adwords Conversion Tracking
  • Remarketing
  • Floodlight etc.

Following are the various functions of Google Tag Assistant:

#1 Display the list of various Google Tags installed on a web page

#2 Report on implementation errors.

#3 Suggest fixes by providing useful tips and link to help articles.

#4 Record user flow across webpages/websites to identify implementation and configuration issues. 

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How to use Google Tag Assistant like a Pro

Step-1: Make sure that you are not using any add-on/extension which disable Google Analytics in your browser.

For example, I use ‘Google Analytics Opt out Add on’ to filter out internal traffic.

So I need to disable it (via chrome extension page) before I can use tag assistant:

If you are using any such extension then turn it off.

Otherwise when you used the tag assistant, you may see following notification:

No Google Analytics HTTP responses because opted out code detected‘:

opted out code detected

Sometimes firewall settings can disable Google Analytics.

Make sure that your settings allow Google Analytics tracking code to execute.

Otherwise Google Tag Assistant may not work correctly and/or produce false positive results (positive results which are more likely to be false than true).

Step-2: Install Google tag assistant chrome extension

You need to install Google tag assistant chrome extension.

Step-3: Enable Tag Assistant

Once you have installed tag assistant chrome extension, you would need to enable it before you can use it on a web page.

To enable tag assistant, click on the blue Google Tag Assistant icon on the top right hand side (next to the browser address bar):

and then click on the ‘Enable’ button and then refresh the web page:

Note: By default Google Tag Assistant is disabled and it won’t check for any Google tag on a web page.

Step-4: Change Tag Assistant Default Settings

Right click on the tag assistant icon (next to the browser address bar) and then select ‘Options:

tag assistant options

Note: You can also access tag assistant ‘options’ setting from within the tag assistant window:

options button

Enter one or more domains in the ‘My Favorites’ text box for which you want the tag assistant to be always enabled, by default:

Note: You can also add a domain to the ‘My Favorities’ list by following the steps below:

  1. Navigate to the domain which you want to add as a favorite in tag assistant.
  2. Enable the tag assistant
  3. Open the tag assistant again and then click on the star icon button

Select following two checkboxes:

Recording: Follow Links Across Tabs

recording follow links

If this checkbox is not selected then what will happen is that whenever you use Google Tag Assistant recording, any page which open up in a new tab or window will not be recorded.

Auto open recordings report when recording is stopped.

If this checkbox is not selected then what will happen is that whenever you stop your Google Tag Assistant recording, the recording report will not automatically open for you.

You will have to manually click on the ‘Show Full Report’ button in order to see the recording report:

Navigate back to the Google Tag Assistant ‘Options’ and change the ‘Level of Details’ for all Google tags to ‘Detailed Information’:

detailed information

Note(1): Make sure that the ‘Default Level’ is also set to ‘Detailed Information’.

Note(2): If you do not want ‘tag assistant’ to check for a specific Google tag, you can turn that tag ‘off’.

For example, if you do not want tag assistant to check for ‘Floodlight’ tag during a page load, you can turn it off by selecting ‘Off’ from the ‘Floodlight’ drop down menu:

floodlight off

On the contrary, if you don’t find a particular tag being checked and reported by tag assistant then make sure that it has not been turned off in the tag assistant ‘options’ settings.

Note(3): Every time you change one of the ‘options’ settings, you need to reload the page whose Google tags you want to validate via tag assistant.

Step-5: Turn on the ‘Auto Validation’ and ‘GA Debug’ settings

Click on the Google Tag Assistant icon again and then click on the ‘Menu’ button:

tag assistant menu button

Make sure that ‘Auto Validation’ and ‘GA Debug’ settings are turned ON.

Auto Validation ON

By default tag assistant is not enabled across browser tabs.

So whenever you open a new tab, you will have to manually enable the tag assistant before you can use it.

If you want the tag assistant to be automatically enabled across all browser tabs then turn on the ‘Auto Validation’ setting.

GA Debug ON

When you turn on the ‘GA Debug’ setting, it is equivalent to using the Google Analytics debugger Chrome extension.

In other words, you do not need to install and use the Google Analytics debugger Chrome extension when the ‘GA Debug’ setting of the tag assistant has been turned on.

Different colours of Google Tag Assistant icons and what they mean

When you navigate to a web page where tag assistant is enabled, you are going to see the tag assistant icon with one of the following colours:

  • Green
  • Blue
  • Yellow
  • Red

Google Tag Assistant icon

Tag Assistant Icon in Green Colour

If you see tag assistant icon in green colour then it means, tag assistant has found all of the identified Google Tags to be perfectly valid.

Tag Assistant Icon in Blue Colour

If you see tag assistant icon in blue colour then it means, tag assistant has found Google tags which have no major or minor implementation issues but which are still not perfectly valid tags because of some non-standard GA implementation.

Tag Assistant Icon in Yellow Colour

If you see tag assistant icon in yellow colour then it means, tag assistant has found some or all Google tags with minor implementation issues.

Tag Assistant Icon in Red Colour

If you see tag assistant icon in red colour then it means, tag assistant has found some or all Google tags with major implementation issues.

Check out this short video on the different tag assistant icon colours:

Number in the tag assistant icon

You will also notice a number in the middle of a tag assistant icon:

This number represents the represent the number of tags identified by Google Tag Assistant on a web page.

For example the red icon has got number 6 on it.

It means there are 6 Google tags identified by tag assistant.

However this number does not automatically imply that all 6 Google tags have got major implementation issues.

Note: Google Tag Assistant works only on those web pages which have got at least one of the Google tags.

So if you try to use this tool on a page with no Google tag, you won’t see any result and you may be asked to add Google Analytics to your website:

no tags found

Open Google Tag Assistant in a separate browser tab

Load that web page into your browser window whose Google tags you want to identify, validate or troubleshoot.

Click on the Google Tag Assistant icon again and then click on ‘Menu’ button > ‘Show in separate tab’:

show in seperate tab

The ‘Show in separate tab’ menu item will open the Google Tag Assistant in a separate browser tab.

If you do not use this option then every time you navigate to a different browser tab or reload the web page, the Google Tag Assistant window will automatically hide which will become annoying for you, really fast.

Understanding Google Tag Assistant results

Once you open tag assistant in a separate browser tab, you will see the result of tag analysis:

result of tag analysis

From the result above, we can conclude that:

#1 Total 12 Google tags are identified on the page by the tag assistant.

#2 One tag has got error (major implementation issue).

#3 The list of tags which are visible in tag assistant window are: Remarketing Tag, Floodlight, Google Analytics and one other Google Analytics.

#4 Since the Google Analytics tag is displayed twice and both tags have got different property ID, it means, the web page is using two different trackers.

The ‘Where to optimize’ section shows general notifications or errors which do not necessarily relate to a specific tag but which require your attention.

where to optimize

However when you click on a particular tag within the tag assistant window, the ‘Where to optimize’ section provides more specific notification/fix:

where to optimize2

#6 The red, yellow, blue and green icons next to identified tags, have all got special meaning:

google tag assistant icons

Click on one of the tags in the tag assistant window:

click on tag

You can now see the ‘Meta Data’, ‘Code Snippet’ and ‘Where to optimize’ information for the selected tag:

tag details

Meta Data

The Metadata can contain:

  • Web Property ID
  • Google Tag Manager Container ID
  • Code Version/Syntax

Where to Optimize

The ‘Where to Optimize’ section includes notifications and links to help articles related to the selected tag.

For example, if you hover your mouse over say ‘No HTTP response detected‘ notification, you will see additional notification pop up box + the ‘? ‘ button:

help button

Click on the ‘?’ button will redirect you to one of the Google help articles related to the ‘No HTTP response detected‘ issue.

Through this help article, you can troubleshoot this problem.

Font colour of the notification text under ‘Where to Optimize’.

You also need to pay attention to the font colour of the notification text under ‘Where to Optimize’.

The notification ‘No HTTP response detected‘ is in red color which means it is a major implementation issue and need to be fixed ASAP.

The notification ‘Code found outside of <head> tag‘ is in blue color which means it is neither a major nor a minor implementation issue but is still not perfectly valid because of non-standard implementation.

You can choose to ignore this issue.

The ‘Code Snippet’

The ‘Code Snippet’ section provides the actual code you can look at, for troubleshooting:

code snippet

Click on the ‘View Source’ link, if you want to see the code in a different tab along with other website code.

 

Depending upon the tag you are analysing, you are going to see different type of data for different tags.

For example, if you click on ‘Google Tag Manager‘ tag then you can see the data layer being used on a web page:

gtm tag

data layer

Analyzing individual GA hits through Google Tag Assistant

Through Google Tag Assistant, you can also analyse individual Google Analytics hits.

To do that follow the steps below:

  1. Click on a tag in the tag assistant window
  2. Scroll to the bottom
  3. Look for links related to request/hit:

hit details

The ‘Pageview Request‘ link is the pageview hit.

Click on this link to see more details (Metadata and GIF request) about this hit:

pageview hit

If you click on the ‘URLs’ link, you can see the GIF request sent to the GA server:

urls click gif request

However this GIF request is hard to read.

So click on the ‘table’ button to see the GIF request in tabular format:

gif request2

To learn about the recording feature of Google Tag Assistant, read this article: Guide to Google Tag Assistant Recordings

Other Articles you will find useful:

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Himanshu Sharma

Certified web analyst and founder of OptimizeSmart.com

My name is Himanshu Sharma and I help businesses find and fix their Google Analytics and conversion issues. If you have any questions or comments please contact me.

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