May 11, 2021: Marketing Analytics Summit, virtual
While server-side tagging already has a wonderful built-in Client for proxying the Google Tag Manager container via your own first-party domain, it’s not perfect. The main issues are that it doesn’t let you delimit access on a per-origin basis, so requests for the allowlisted container IDs can be sent from anywhere, and that it doesn’t let you freely choose the path via which the container ID is loaded. To address these issues, I’m happy to reveal that I’ve written a new Client template for Server containers, named GTM Loader.

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I’ve written about Google’s reCAPTCHA v3 before. It’s a verification API, which analyzes the signals fed into it and returns a bot score, based on how “bot-like” the hits are. It’s a great way to validate whether or not to collect data from certain sources that exhibit bot-like behavior. You’ll want to ignore those in your analytics tools, for example, as they tend to add a lot of (unrealistic) noise to the data set.

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The automatic provisioning process of the Google Tag Manager server-side tagging service is extremely useful. With just a few clicks of the button, you can have a fully functional (albeit limited to testing use) server-side tagging endpoint on the Google Cloud Platform (GCP). For a video overview of the automatic deployment, see this video. However, the automatic provisioning process creates a new Google Cloud Platform project and, at the time of writing, always deploys the App Engine application (on which the tagging server runs) in the us-central-1 GCP region.

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With server-side tagging, you can send any types of HTTP requests to the Server container. The Server container parses these, fires up container instances, and sends the data onwards to first-party data stores and third-party vendors alike. Often these requests contain URL strings encoded in query parameters. A prime example is the document location parameter in Universal Analytics requests. Server-side Clients would parse these URL strings and convert them into the format required by the event data object.

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Facebook has now officially released their Conversions API tag template for server-side tagging in Google Tag Manager. With this tag template, you can create a server-side tag that fires with any Client designed to parse requests into a unified event model. One such Client already exists, and every single Server container has it built-in: the GA4 Client. If you haven’t yet deployed a Server container, check out this video walkthrough for more details on how to do it.

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One of the biggest perks of working with server-side tagging is that you can establish a first-party context between the site sending the data and the server-side tagging endpoint itself. This leads to many benefits, including improved control of the data streams, the possibility to set cookies that extend beyond ITP’s restrictions, and reduced stress on an already very likely overloaded Content Security Policy. However, by default you only map a single custom domain to any given tagging server.

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Ever since it was released that server-side tagging in Google Tag Manager would run on the Google Cloud Platform stack, my imagination has been running wild. By running on GCP, the potential for integrations with other GCP components is limitless. The output to Cloud Logging already introduces interesting pipeline opportunities, but now it gets even better. It’s finally possible to write directly to Google BigQuery from a Client or tag template!

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Simo Ahava

Husband | Father | Analytics developer
simo (at) simoahava.com

Senior Data Advocate at Reaktor

Finland