The whole year browsers were busy developing solutions that would purge some tracking methods out of existence. Blocking third-party cookies and scripts to protect personal data has been a trend for a while now. Despite that, many still believe it is a good idea to place the tracking code in the GTM container.

Well, it is not. But quite a few advertisers still follow the old ways, and affiliate networks have to heed their needs. So, let us sort the good seeds from the bad ones.

Since its appearance, GTM integration has been one of the simplest tracking solutions possible. In most cases, the advertiser can handle it without even turning to the affiliate network specialists. This is what makes it so popular — it is fast, convenient and does not demand too many resources. Frankly, it is no wonder why so many companies still use it in spite of the new threats.

But we do have to admit: although it might be a perfect fit for advertisers, publishers hardly feel the same. Losing orders due to adblock and other scripts is not exactly enjoyable, so many publishers tend to avoid programs that support only GTM integration.

This year, Google corporation released Custom Templates for its Tag Manager service. Admitad was one of the first in the market to take advantage of this new tool and, after careful scrutiny, Google approved the solution provided by the company. Admitad dubbed it “simplified integration” as opposed to the regular, advanced one.

What is so simplified about it? And what does one have to gain or lose?

#1: Tested by Google

In the days of fraud and constant data leaks, trust towards third-party code is at its lowest. Who can guarantee that a certain browser plugin is not malicious spyware?

Well, some corporations take a degree of responsibility hereby scrutinising each and every new line of code. Getting into the list of approved custom templates means that Google specialists found the code safe enough for free distribution. It is proof your customers’ data will never leave the impenetrable walls of the affiliate network.

#2: Less code, lower risks

Even though GTM integration is one of the simplest ways to track actions, it still demands code awareness. And we have to admit, many marketers still tremble in awe when it comes to adding a few lines of JavaScript to their website. This is why the market still needs solutions that minimize meddling with code.

Templates make the integration even easier. Less code means higher chances to track orders correctly and, respectively, better relationships with publishers in the long term — unless you ruin those with groundless rejections and non-payments.

#3: Balance of features…

Another definition of ‘simple’ in terms of software is the appropriate balance between default and manual settings. You have to keep maximum features, yet comply with the browser terms and conditions.

The solution is the following: 

  • deduplication is on by default (but you have to define the key parameter, such as utm_source, otherwise it won’t work);
  • cross-device tracking is optional (it can be configured by transferring the account id); 
  • cookie lifetime protection is off. 

Why so? Templates are not omnipotent. The number of available parameters is quite limited. And even if they are, the restraint is still very tangible. For example, current template rules only allow storing click_id in a single possible way, which becomes a problem when it comes to cookie lifetime protection.

“The path of the righteous affiliate network is beset on all sides by the limited number of available parameters and the tyranny of regulations.”

#4: …but somewhat curbed mobile

Simplified GTM integration might not be your best option if you deal with large volumes of mobile traffic. Let me explain.

Google Ads Parallel Tracking was originally introduced to shorten the page loading time. Speeding it up was supposed to lead to increased conversion and more efficient monetization. However, in the GTM Custom Templates, GCLID parameter needed for parallel tracking is not extractable. Which renders the feature pretty useless when it comes to attributing actions from Google Ads publishers (specifically, orders placed via Chrome Android or Safari iOS).

Mobile traffic is not completely blocked, but the actions delivered by Google Ads are not attributed accurately to the full. Orders from other sources are tracked as usual.

If you need mobile traffic from contextual ads, you might want to have a look at the advanced GTM integration, where the feature is available.

#5: Alternative to out-of-date tracking pixels

Right now you must be thinking: with that many downsides, does it even make sense to use GTM templates for integration?

It sure does, compared with the out-of-date solutions. The old hidden image pixels (aka <img> pixels) had no deduplication, no reserve domains, and demanded manual code editing. If the advertiser wanted to avoid paying for the same order twice, they would have to set deduplication themselves. The cross-device feature was also out of the question since the advertiser could not transfer account ids.

To sum it up, GTM custom templates might not be THE best integration method, but it is good enough for those who fear complexities implied by the new tracking codes. Usually, we would recommend standard integration by the JS code. However, if you are out of options and still need a balanced multifunctional solution… Well, this is exactly the one.

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