Future-proof Your Analytics and Data 

Google Tag Manager is a free service that lets marketers manage their website tags and scripts via a centralized interface.

The world of analytics is changing. New types of data are coming in, and we don’t always know how to interpret it. With a powerful, future-proof analytics platform, you can keep up with the changing world.

Our how to for setting up server-side tracking 

Two years ago this month, iOS 14 made its debut on Apple’s mobile devices, blocking third-party data and completely changing online marketing in the process.

On the surface, this statement seems hyperbolic. But, depending on who you ask, the iOS-run iPhone is used by over 50% of the market in Canada and the U.S.

So, when Apple moved away from third-party data sharing, it had far-reaching consequences that led to the death of the pixel. . And now, Google is joining the movement with a new solution that stops third-party tracking while still giving businesses the ability to record and analyze their marketing data.

The next generation of data collection – server-side tracking

Google’s answer to these new restrictions is for each business to set up their own, secure server. Then, visitors are asked for permission to collect data from the website – all of which is stored on the business’s own server.

From there, all the data can be parceled out to Google, Facebook or any other platform.

This is called server-side tracking. By restricting all initial data collection to the website owner, the collection and use of the data becomes legal across jurisdictions, and Apple will allow the collection. 

This is great for personal privacy because it provides greater transparency for how the data is used and helps anonymize the data

For businesses, server-side tracking offers a new way forward that not only takes into account the fall of third-party tracking, but also the new ways we interact with our devices and how we look at data by providing full control and ownership of your data.

Why it’s important to make the change

Currently, Apple iOS is blocking analytics tracking capabilities from roughly 40% of all visitors because it’s processed by a third-party system (advertising vendors – Google, Meta, DSPs). And, Apple isn’t the only one cracking down on cookies. Various governments, including our own, have decided that the information of the end user is valuable and worth protecting. 

Of course, we agree. It’s vital to control your data – to know who sees it and how they’re using it.

But, these new rules make traditional tracking much more difficult and less effective for businesses. But, we think that’s a good thing, because the old way of tracking is too chaotic and full of real security flaws.

The origins of third-party tracking 

For years, digital advertising has relied on pixels/cookies to monitor how audiences reacted to advertising campaigns, newsletters, even billboards.

Everyone had their pixels scattered everywhere. It was the Wild West of data collection. Streams of code flowed from one major tech company to another without anyone truly knowing who had access to what, or what these companies were doing with all that information. 

That was great for advertisers, marketers and big tech, but it was a nightmare for personal privacy.

When it became clear some companies were abusing the public’s trust with all this information, the European Union led the charge to make a change. This kicked off the downfall of third-party tracking. Then Apple started blocking third-party data sharing, pushing the change further. 

How to switch to side-server tagging

Switching to side-server tagging should be seamless. 

However, unlike some transitions in the digital sphere (where push updates are common), switching to side-server tagging is initiated by the website owner. 

If you haven’t updated to Google’s new analytics platform (GA4), that’s the first step. Once you’ve updated, you can set up your Google side server to capture the information. 

This requires a bit of technical know-how. If possible, it’s best to leave it to your IT department or talk to your digital advertiser to see if they can set it up for you.

However, for those who are technically inclined the steps to make the transition are all online. Here is an abbreviated view of the Google Server-Side Setup:

  • Create a GTM Web Container, if one doesn’t already exist
  • Place the GTM Code Snippet on Site (It will have to be updated later but is needed now to test the setup during the process)
  • Create a GA4 Property and configure it through Web GTM
  • Create a GTM Server Container
  • Create A Google Cloud Project, and stay in testing stage for now (It’s possible to use an existing cloud server as long as the project is not utilizing the app engine for anything else) 
  • Manually configure your GTM Server container in the cloud server with the closest location, etc.
  • Setup a Custom domain (e.g. data.yoursite.com)
  • Update txt records and a/aaaa records in DNS records to verify the domain and get the SSL certificate
  • Configure the GA4 in web GTM to send data to the server container.
  • Configure GA4 client in Server GTM
  • For Facebook ads:
    • Send the event data from web and server-side 
    • Prevent the event duplication through event id in the GTM Web Container
  • Update GA4 Tags to contain Facebook event data if you are sending any custom parameters (the server GTM container cannot directly accept Facebook event data so, that has to be sent to the server through GA4 tags)
  • Proxy GTM using a GTM web client in SGTM Container.
  • Update the GTM code snippet on the site so that the GTM loads through The server container by replacing www.googletagmanager.com with data.mysite.com
  • Set up Facebook conversion API Tag in Server Container.
  • Update the GA4 and Fb tags to remove or add any other parameters.
  • Verify your domains in Facebook by updating txt records or by using your preferred method
  • Update your Cloud instances accordingly and put them in the production stage

For a more in-depth, technical look, follow Google’s instructions on the transition.

Make the switch sooner

To stay ahead of the curve, we recommend all businesses that rely on digital advertising make the transition to side server tracking as soon as possible – AKA now.

If you haven’t made the change yet, give us a call. All we need is a little information and we can set up your server for you so you can switch to GA4 Data Analytics without a hitch.

Ashley Reutlinger

Tags

Google Ads, Marketing Strategy