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!
One of the largest costs in a server-side tagging can be logging. Google warns about this in their official documentation, and it’s definitely something to keep a keen eye on if your server-side endpoint processes enough data per month. How much should it process for logging to become an issue? It depends, but you could start seeing some impact once the endpoint processes >1 million incoming requests per month. The best way to find out if logging is a problem is to visit the Billing dashboard in your server-side tagging Google Cloud project and check what the portion of Log Volume is in your monthly costs.
With the introduction of server-side tagging in Google Tag Manager, the variety of things you can do with your own server-side proxy is mind-boggling: Reduce client-side bloat by consolidating data streams and distributing them to vendor endpoints server-side. Improve data security by adding safeguards and validations to prevent harmful data from being sent to vendor endpoints. Enrich data server-side, by combining the incoming data stream with data from APIs and data stores that you own and control.
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.
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.
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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