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With the sunset announcement of the Universal Analytics service, it certainly does seem like a waste of time to write articles about it. However, a recent update to Google Tag Manager is an interesting one and should provide relief to those Google Analytics users who are set on double-tagging their sites for both Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 and who want to make use of GA4’s new Data Layer schema.

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With certain types of HTTP requests, the web browser might first dispatch a request with the OPTIONS method, also known as a preflight request. The purpose of the preflight request is to “check” with the web server that it’s equipped to handle the type of cross-origin request the browser wants to dispatch. If the server doesn’t handle this preflight request, or if it returns a response that doesn’t agree with what the web browser wants to actually dispatch, the check fails and the browser refuses to send the actual request.

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Server-side Google Tag Manager has an excellent Preview mode, which lets you inspect incoming requests, monitor the event data object, view console messages, and identify outgoing requests, among other things. To enable this Preview mode on the web, you simply need to click the Preview button in the container, after which any requests sent from the same browser instance will be automatically shown in the Preview mode window. However, what about if you want to send requests from another browser?

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If you want to manually install server-side Google Tag Manager on App Engine in the Google Cloud Platform, you are of course welcome to do so. The main benefits of doing this are that you get to choose the region where App Engine is deployed and that you can use existing project resources instead of having a new project automatically created for you. However, to run the script without errors, there are a number of things you need to enable first.

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While Google App Engine, the default implementation pattern of server-side Google Tag Manager, is straightforward to setup with the automatic provisioning steps, it’s certainly not the only way to deploy the server. You can set it up in Amazon AWS (this blog) You can set it up in Microsoft Azure (this blog) You can set it up with Cloud Run (Mark Edmondson’s blog) In fact, the manual setup guide gives you the details on how to deploy a Google Tag Manager Server in any environment that runs Docker.

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Although most of Server-side Tagging in Google Tag Manager revolves, quite rightfully, around Clients, there’s still plenty of value to be derived from tags, too. Naturally, the most common use case for server-side tags is to map the incoming requests to the Server container (filtered through Clients) and dispatch them to their respective endpoints. But in addition to dispatching HTTP requests, tags can do so much more. In this article, I’ll share with you a neat way how to utilize tags to manipulate the HTTP responses the Server container sends back to the request source.

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Setting up cross-domain tracking in Google Analytics 4 has been well-documented. The main departure from Universal Analytics is how cross-domain measurement is something you configure through the Google Analytics user interface rather than through implementation and JavaScript. While this approach is obviously beneficial especially for those who lack the know-how or the resources to configure the JavaScript trackers, it does lead to problems, too. In this article, I want to tackle these edge cases.

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Simo Ahava

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

Senior Data Advocate at Reaktor

Finland