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.

Now that we’re on the same page about GTM’s all around awesomeness, let’s dive into the nitty gritty of setting up a tag. The 15 second timer is a simple configuration and a great place to start. We use this event to address overinflated bounce rate. Once a user spends 15 seconds on site, an event fires and they’re no longer counted as a bounce.

When you create a tag, you tell 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

To start creating your tag, open up GTM and choose ‘Tags’ from the left menu bar. Click ‘New’.

google tag manager

Name your tag according to the interaction you’re tracking – in this case 15 Second Timer. Then, click ‘Tag Configuration’.

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

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.


Pay special attention to the little box labeled ‘Non-Interaction Hit’. In GA, bounce rate is calculated by seeing if any interactions take place 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.


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

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

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.

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

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


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

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

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


Congratulations, you’ve successfully set up your first custom event! You’re just getting started – the GTM world is your oyster. Stay tuned for more step by step event tracking guides from our top 8 list.

Have questions about Google Tag Manager, or want to get in touch? Contact us or tweet us @WholeWhale.