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For the longest time, Google has been working towards consolidation of their products to build a unified tagging platform. Products that are instrumented (or associated) with “tags” would fall under this umbrella. These comprise tools like Google Tag Manager, Google Ads, Google Optimize, and, of course, Google Analytics. If you’ve been peeking under the hood, you might have noticed how all the tools listed above already run through the gtag.js library.

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Seven years ago, I wrote on my former employer’s (the amazing Reaktor) blog a tongue-in-the-cheek article titled 10 Truths About Data. Looking back on it today, I’m still proud of the handiwork, but I can’t help but think that some of the truths were wasted just to reach the magic number 10. So, today, I want to revisit these truths and provide a rehashed version for you, my dear reader.

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With asynchronous variables recently released in server-side Google Tag Manager, it’s time to dig into data enrichment flows using another release from the Google team. * drum roll * We have a new Google Cloud Platform API! It’s fast. It’s sleek. It’s beautiful. It’s Firestore! Firestore is a NoSQL, transactional, and scalable database that offers near-real-time write/read and sync operations for data. In practice, it’s a great way to enrich and widen the data that you pass through your Server container.

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OK, that’s one unappealing title for a blog post, but rest assured that the content more than makes up for this obscurity. Recently, my favorite toy in the world, Google Tag Manager’s server container, introduced the capability to handle asynchronous operations in variables. This is done through a JavaScript interface known as Promise. A Promise is a way to run code in JavaScript without knowing what its eventual value will be.

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One of the key skills for anyone working with web analytics and tag management is understanding how to identify where things went wrong, why they went wrong, and ideally how to fix them. There are plenty of excellent browser extensions for helping you debug, and we’ll discuss these in the guide, too. But most of all we’re going to use browsers’ own developer tools, as they are always the best source of truth for anything that happens within the browser window.

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To continue my extensive collection of Google Tag Manager’s server-side tagging articles, in this guide I’ll walk you through how to set up a Server container in Microsoft Azure’s App Service platform. For my previous guides on manually provisioning a Server container, follow these links: Amazon AWS (Elastic Beanstalk): Deploy Server-side Google Tag Manager In AWS Google Cloud (App Engine): Provision Server-side Tagging Application Manually Azure’s App Service is similar to AWS Elastic Beanstalk and GCP App Engine, in that it lets you create a web application from scratch with minimal effort.

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For many, it seems, one of the most important justifications for server-side Google Tag Manager is its resilience to ad and content blockers. After all, by virtue of serving the container JavaScript from your own domain, you escape many of the heuristic devices today’s blocker technologies employ. Well, I’ve gone on record over and over again to say how this is poor justification for using server-side GTM. By circumventing the user’s wish to block scripts, you are disrespecting them and forcing their browser to download scripts that they wanted to avoid downloading in the first place.

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Simo Ahava

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

Senior Data Advocate at Reaktor

Finland