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Exporting a container in Google Tag Manager can have many purposes. From backing up Google Tag Manager versions to creating and distributing repositories of useful container snapshots, the container export is one of the most useful non-tagging-related tools that the GTM user interface offers. However, one big misgiving in the feature (until now) has been that exporting just a subset of the container version or workspace has been impossible. It’s always the entire container or nothing.

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A recent update to Google Tag Manager introduced container notifications. By subscribing to container notifications, your Google Tag Manager login email address can be configured to receive an email for some of the key workflows in Google Tag Manager: containers getting published, and containers being submitted for approval (Tag Manager 360 only), for example. Be sure to check out the official help center article about container notifications. In this article, I’ll walk you through the feature and share a couple of tips on how to make it even more useful!

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When you create a Server container in Google Tag Manager, GTM creates an App Engine deployment in the Google Cloud Platform for you. App Engine is a managed serverless platform, which basically means it’s a (set of) virtual machine(s) running in the cloud, with some extra bells and whistles added to make managing it easier. A potentially useful thing that App Engine does is decorate all incoming HTTP requests with some HTTP headers that can be used in the app.

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Since the release of Server-side tagging in Google Tag Manager, I’ve jumped at every opportunity to celebrate the tools it provides for improving end-user privacy and data security. One of the biggest benefits is obfuscation-by-default. Since all hits are passed through the server-side proxy, the default view for any third-party tool (such as Google Analytics) is that of the server in the Google Cloud rather than the browser and device with which the user was browsing the site.

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With Server-side tagging, the developer community has a chance to vastly improve the data collection capabilities of Google’s analytics platforms (Universal Analytics and App+Web). The ability to build our own templates is particularly potent with a Server container. However, it’s not as if Google themselves are just sitting idly by and seeing what the community can come up with. In the built-in Universal Analytics Client template in a Server container, there’s an option to migrate to a Server Managed Client ID.

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You can utilize Server-side tagging in Google Tag Manager to build your own custom Universal Analytics proxy. This proxy comes in the shape of a new Client custom template, which takes the incoming /collect requests and sends them to Google Analytics. While doing so, it also returns the _ga cookie in a Set-Cookie header, thus preventing Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention from capping its expiration to just 7 days. You might also be interested in reading what Google’s own solution is for migrating from JavaScript cookies to those set in HTTP headers.

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When you use Google Analytics on the web, you are most likely implementing one of analytics.js, the global site tag (gtag.js), or Universal Analytics tags via Google Tag Manager. These libraries all end up doing the same thing: compiling a payload-rich HTTP request to an endpoint at https://www.google-analytics.com. What if you want to have the JavaScript libraries do their job, but instead of sending the data to Google’s servers, you send them to a new, custom endpoint?

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Simo Ahava

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

Senior Data Advocate at Reaktor

Finland