Google Tag Manager for Beginners, User Research, Fast and Rigorous User Personas Review

Ashley Neal
6 min readNov 9, 2020


This article is part 6 of 12 reviewing the CRO Minidegree at the CXL Institute.

Image credit: John Hain from Pixabay

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This week I studied Google Tag Manager for Beginners, User Research and the ‘in’s and out’s” of creating Fast and Rigorous User Personas. Below I will share key details that I learned from each of these courses.

Google Tag Manager for Beginners

In this course, I received another in-depth tutorial, packed with 20 lessons taught by Mercer! I wrote a detailed review of his Google Analytics for Beginners course that has literally changed my digital marketing life for the better. It was great to have his enthusiasm yet again!

Google Tag Manager in action! Image credit: Giphy

Mercer begins the course defining exactly what Google Tag Manager does:

Google Tag Manager (GTM) gives greater visibility as to the specific behaviors that are happening on a particular page.

Google Tag Manager collects information does NOT:

  • Store information
  • Report information

Each GTM account has one or more containers. Containers contain all of your tags, your triggers, and your variables.

Mercer defines a Tag as:

Tags are segments of code/script provided by analytics, marketing, and support vendors to help you integrate their products into your websites or mobile apps. With Google Tag Manager, you no longer need to add these tags directly to your projects. Instead, you configure and publish tags and how they fire from within the Tag Manager user interface.”

Tags answer the question of what? What are users doing on the site?

Some examples of tag platforms are Google Ads, Facebook, Hot Jar, GA, and PayPal.

Next, we learned about triggers? Triggers answer the question when? When do you want Google tag manager to take an action?

3 Types of Triggers

  1. Page view (occur when the page is loading)
  • DOM Ready
  • Page View
  • Windows loaded

2. Click (occur when a hyperlink is clicked)

  • All Elements
  • Just Links

3. User Engagement (occur when certain elements load or are submitted)

  • Element Visibility
  • Form Submission
  • Scroll Depth
  • YouTube Video

Variables aid in telling a more detailed story because they provide information that GTM needs in order to get the job done. The two types of variables in GTM are built-in and user-defined.

Another important element to be familiar with in GTM is the data layer. It is essentially a virtual filing cabinet that temporarily stores details that are important to tag manager, it’s not a variable.

There are two parts to the data layer

  1. Key
  2. Value

Every time GTM loads a page there is a new data layer. If there is no GTM on the page there will be no data layer.

In a deep-dive lesson, Mercer shared that we can use cross-domain tracking to measure user activity across multiple platforms (Facebook, Instagram Snapchat, etc).

Image Credit: Giphy

User Research

The User Research course is taught by Megan Kierstead where she teaches us strategies for doing the best user research to reach company goals. Kierstead kicks of the course by sharing her definition of user research:

“User research focuses on understanding people’s goals, needs, and beliefs.

We can use this insight to create better experiences and greater business value. Companies that put the user first do better!

5 key benefits of user research:

  1. Use research is about asking meaningful questions and thinking critically about the answers.
  2. User research recognizes we all have biases, beliefs, and assumptions. It takes none of them for granted.
  3. User research reduces risk and saves money by eliminating subpar options from decisions early on in product development.
  4. User research helps identify opportunities to delight customers.
  5. More research early on makes a big difference.

The two user research methods that we learned in this course are attitudinal (interviews and surveys) and behavioral (eyetracking, A/B testing, and usability testing).

Kierstead reiterates that we should, never lead with a method, instead we should use our questions to lead us to the right method!

When recruiting participants the goal is to get the right people, but without getting “false positives”.

The following screener questions will help you recruit the right ones:

  1. Don’t make it obvious who you are recruiting for: (a) Include a complete list of responses (b) Don’t rely on yes/no questions
  2. Be as specific as possible
  3. Exclude people whose experience will bias them
  4. Don’t use only open-ended questions
  5. Design questions where it isn’t easy to “guess” the right answer

Fast and Rigorous User Personas

Image credit: John Hain from Pixabay

This course is taught in several brief (2 to 5 minute) sessions by Stefania Mereu and Eric Taylor.

What are User Personas?

A user persona is a model that gives an approximate description of the customer and provides insight into their motivation and goals. A well-constructed persona will provide clear focus for development projects, create empathy for product designers, give perspective to stakeholders, and add context to design choices.

By definition a persona is:

“A precise descriptive model of the user, what he wishes to accomplish and why” — Alan Cooper

It is important to note that a good persona is both:

  • relevant
  • actionable

When building user archetypes it is vital to start with our customers' needs. Once user personas are created they can be used for several months before new ones need to be created.

My thoughts

I learned a wealth of knowledge in the Google Tag Manager for Beginners course. Mercer has a way of explaining these very technically daunting (and sometimes boring) concepts in a very easy to follow Lehmann’s terms that make the content very easy to digest. I do wish that his lesson slide decks had more course notes and screenshots of some of the content we learn. I love the fact that he gives us a live over-the-shoulder view of each lesson that he teaches. I also like the fact that each lesson is very actionable.

User research, while I do think that this course is extremely necessary, it was a tad on the boring side for me personally. I fell asleep a few times and had to re-watch certain videos for this course. I had to drink a lot of coffee to get through it.

This is no slight to the instructor at all, it is simply my truth. I did learn a lot and I actually love research. It is a vital part of my writing and digital marketing career, but learning about it in a structured environment is just not my thing.

Fast and Rigorous User Personas is a very useful course but instead of several short two to five-minute video clips, I think that they should all be combined into one 30 - 50-minute course. The information provided within the course is very informative and useful but the short clips seem a little unnecessary in my opinion. There are also no lesson slide decks and few outside resource links (there are a few, but I think more could have been included). The videos are not transcribed either, like the rest of the courses. I am assuming it is because they are a little too short.

Overall, I am very pleased with the content in the course this far. I am halfway through the CRO mini-degree program at CXL Institute. I have completed 16 of the 31 courses (196 lessons!) and I am excited about completing even more. I also earned my certificate for Google Tag Manager and User Research! My brain feels like it has expanded greatly with CRO knowledge that I can’t wait to share with companies that desperately need it (P.S. There are a lot of you guys out there so desperately in need! Sadly only 10% or less even know it…)

Would you like to join me by learning from the top 1% of digital marketers in the whole entire world?

Check out more of my in-depth reviews of CXL Institute’s CRO Minidegree courses:

  1. Intro to CRO and Best Practices Review
  2. Intro to Conversion Copywriting, Product Messaging, Psychology, and Social Proof Review
  3. Neuromarketing, Emotional Content Strategy, Influence, and Interactive Design Review
  4. Google Analytics for Beginners Review
  5. Landing Page Optimization, Conversion Research and Using Analytics to Find Conversions Review
  6. Google Tag Manager for Beginners, User Research, Fast and Rigorous User Personas Review
  7. Heuristics Analysis Frameworks for CO Audits, Google Analytics Audits, How to Run Tests
  8. Testing Strategies, Statistics for A/B Testing and A/B Testing Mastery Review
  9. Optimizing for B2B, Customer Value Optimization, Digital Psychology, and Behavioral Design Training Review
  10. Advanced Experimentation Analysis and Applied Neuromarketing Review
  11. How to Design, Roll Out, and Scale an Optimization Program; Evangelizing for Optimization in Enterprise Review
  12. Building Your Optimization Technology Stack and CRO Agency Masterclass Review



Ashley Neal

Queen👑of CRO💖 Conversion Rate Optimization Let's make even more money!