How to install and use Google Tag Manager in Segment.com

If you are not already familiar with Segment.com, here is a quick recap.

Segment.com (formerly known as segment.io) is a tool used to route/send data between multiple data sources.

The data source from which the data is extracted is called the ‘originating data source’. The data source to which the transformed data is sent is called ‘destination data source’.

The role of Segment is to ‘Extract’, ‘Transform’ and ‘Load’ data between different data sources. It acts as a hub between originating and destination data sources.

If you are new to ‘Extract’, ‘Transform’ and ‘Load’ (ETL) functions then read this article: Why you may no longer need Google Tag Manager where I explained the concept of ‘ETL functions’ in great detail.

I would strongly suggest reading this article first, so that you can make sense of what I am talking about next, in the present article. I won’t be explaining the very basics of ETL functions in the present article.

Differences between Segment.com and Google Tag Manager

  1. Both Segment and GTM are designed to route data from one data source to another. However, unlike GTM, Segment can be much more easily used to route data between multiple data sources.
  2. Both Segment and GTM are primarily designed to be used by developers. However, unlike GTM, Segment is much more non-developer friendly as it has the ability to automate many ETL functions.
  3. Segment can automate ETL functions for you. GTM can never do that. This is the biggest advantage of using Segment.
  4. GTM core is based on ‘data layers’. Segment core is based on an API. As such, there is no concept of ‘data layers’ in Segment.
  5. GTM is a tag management tool. Segment is not a tag management tool.

Though Segment often promotes itself as an alternative to GTM, it is worth noting that it is not a replacement to GTM (yet).

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#6 Google Tag Manager has one very strong advantage over Segment and that is its ability to control tags. Through GTM you can easily control:

  1. When a tag should fire
  2. When a tag should not fire
  3. Where a tag should fire
  4. Where a tag should not fire
  5. How often a tag should fire
  6. In which order different tags should fire
  7. What the tag should do when it fire.

Segment lacks that ability. So in many cases, you have to rely on a tag management solution like GTM to route data.

However here is a thing. I don’t see any reason, why Segment (or any similar tool) in the near future, can not also provide the features of a traditional tag management solution.

If you keep this possibility in mind, there will come a time, when traditional tag management solutions may just no longer be required. Because of that reason, I think the future of GTM is bleak.

For now, you have to use a tag management solution alongside Segment.

Should I install GTM in Segment, or Segment in GTM?

You can do both. You can install GTM in Segment or Segment in GTM.

Segment recommends installing GTM in Segment. I am not 100% sure why, but here is my theory. Segment has the ability to send the same event data to multiple data sources in the format they understand.

For example, Segment can send the same clicks on ‘add to cart’ button, to Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, Kissmetric, Piwik etc. For Segment, GTM is just another data source. 

Segment can send the same event data to GTM in the format it understands. For example, Segment can convert existing events to data layer so that it can be used via GTM. However, for GTM, Segment is just another tag. So if you install Segment via GTM, Segment will either have a hard time translating and routing data in the format GTM and other data sources can understand or it will simply not work in certain cases.

So you should avoid installing Segment via GTM.

Installing Google Tag Manager in Segment.com

Follow the steps below:

Step-1: Create an account at Segment.com. You can sign up for their free developer account just to get a taste of what Segment is.

Step-2: Select your originating data source. You can select ‘My Website’ for now:

Step-3: Copy-paste the segment snippet in the head section of all of the pages on your website:

Step-4: Click on the ‘Debugger’ link in the top navigation to confirm whether Segment is recording events:

If the ‘segment’ is recording events, you will see the event data and it confirms that segment is successfully installed on your website.

Step-5: Login to your GTM account and note down the container id.

Step-6: Navigate back to your segment account and then click on ‘Integrations’ link in the top navigation:

Step-7: Find and click on ‘Google Tag Manager’ integration:

Step-8: Enter your GTM container ID and click on ‘Activate Integration’:

Step-9: Remove the GTM container tag code from all the pages of your website.

Note (1): Google Tag Assistant won’t work once you start using GTM within segment as it won’t be able to find the container code embedded on a web page.

Note (2): Do not activate Google Analytics integration within segment, if you are deploying Google Analytics via GTM.

Step-10: Use Google Tag Manager the way you normally do. However, you will no longer be hard coding data layers on your website. You would track events via segment and segment translate the tracked events into data layer so they can be used via GTM. In this way, you can send same events to multiple data sources and not just GTM.

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