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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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Google has released the Google Ads Remarketing tag for server-side tagging in Google Tag Manager. Functionally, it’s remarkably similar to the Conversion Tracking tag they released previously. In fact, you should go ahead and read that article first, so that you have an understanding of how Google Ads tracking works through Server containers! Follow this link to read the official documentation. In this article, I’ll walk you through how to set things up, and I’ll also provide an overview of how it works.

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The FPID cookie in server-side tagging for Google Tag Manager is an HttpOnly, server-managed ID cookie that’s designed to replace the JavaScript-managed _ga cookie used by Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics. For more details about the cookie itself, check out my previous article on FPID. In that article, I mentioned one caveat for adopting FPID being the fact that cross-domain tracking will not work. I mean, how could it? FPID is an HttpOnly cookie, which means it’s not available to JavaScript in the browser.

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One of the biggest blockers for Google Tag Manager’s server-side tagging to slip out of beta is Google Ads. Until server-side tagging supports a solution for both conversions and remarketing capabilities to be reproduced server-side, it’s unlikely that Server containers will lose their beta label. While I can’t say what will happen to the beta label now, the fact is that Google Tag Manager has now released support for Conversion tracking using server-side tagging.

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Since Google Tag Manager released the manual setup guide for server-side tagging, my mind has been spinning with the idea of walking through the deployment into Amazon’s AWS. I personally prefer Google Cloud Platform over AWS, because I think it’s so much more user-friendly. Even though in this guide we’ll be utilizing one of the simplest AWS services, Elastic Beanstalk, the deployment is still much more complex than if you were to use GCP’s App Engine.

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Last updated: 2 September 2021. Added details about how Preview containers won’t work if you override the Container ID. 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.

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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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Simo Ahava

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

Senior Data Advocate at Reaktor

Finland