How to Set Up a Timer in Google Tag Manager


Google Tag Manager is the go-to tool for configuring custom event tracking in Google Analytics. If you don’t know much about GTM, this tutorial can get you up to speed. If you’re familiar with GTM but can’t decide what to track, check out our 8 GTM events for nonprofits, but here we want to focus on the Google timer. Here’s how to set up a timer event in Google Tag Manager.

Why we love Google timer

Our preferred Google timer is a 15-second timer — a simple configuration and a great place to start in event tagging in GTM. Once a user spends 15 seconds on site, an event fires and they’re no longer counted as a bounce. We use this event to address overinflated bounce rate, which can often be a misleading metric otherwise — how many times have you had a meaningful interaction with a webpage without clicking forward?

Okay, so let’s set up a 15-second Google timer

When you create a tag, you’re telling GTM which interactions to look for and when to look for them. For example, you can tell GA to look out for whenever a user spends 15 seconds on a page, and GTM will create a corresponding event.
Google Tag Manager event tracking
1. To start creating your Google timer tag, open up GTM and choose Tags from the left menu bar. Click New.
google tag manager
2. Name your tag according to the interaction you’re tracking — in this case, we’ll call it 15 Second Timer. From there, click Tag Configuration.

3. Choose Universal Analytics as the tag type. This is the tag type for most simple implementations.

4. Match this configuration to set up your tag. The Tracking ID is unique to your site and can be found in the Admin section of Google Analytics.

6. Pay special attention to the little box labeled Non-Interaction Hit. In Google Analytics, bounce rate is calculated by the number of single-page sessions divided by all sessions for each website page, meaning that Google Analytics is looking for any interactions on a page. If you set Non-Interaction Hit=false, the event will affect your bounce rate. Set Non-Interaction Hit=True if you don’t want the event to affect bounce rate.

7. Triggers are where you tell Google Tag Manager when to fire a tag. Click to configure a trigger, and then click the + on the top right.

8. Click to choose a trigger type. In this case, our trigger is a timer.

9. Follow this configuration to set up the 15-second trigger. If you only want the event to fire on specific pages, enter the page URLs here. Since we want to event to fire on all pages, choose matches RegEx and enter .* as the page URL.

10. Once you’ve configured your Google timer trigger, click Save in the top right corner and then click Save again to save your tag.

11. Before pushing your Google timer live, use Preview Mode to verify and debug your tags. This allows you to check for problems before publishing. Google Tag Manager code needs to be on the site for Preview Mode to work.

12. In preview mode, a console at the bottom of the screen shows you which tags are firing in real time.

13. Once you verify your tag, you’re ready to hit Publish. This pushes the Google timer tag live on your site.

Tracking the Google timer

Event data can be found in the Behavior → Events section of Google Analytics.

Congratulations, you’ve successfully set up your first custom event! And you’re just getting started: The Google Tag Manager world is your oyster. Stay tuned for more step by step event tracking guides from our top 8 list.

Ready to dive in? We also have free basic setup templates that can be imported into any Google Tag Manager container. Check them out at Whole Whale University. Happy tagging!