Get the Most Out of GA4 (While Respecting User Privacy)

Get the Most Out of GA4 (While Respecting User Privacy)

The landscape of website data analytics has been undergoing a significant transformation over the last year. Universal Analytics stopped recording data last summer, and we've all had to adjust to the new reality that is Google Analytics 4 (GA4). Third-party cookies are disappearing, and regulations are becoming increasingly strict regarding the collection of data for analytics and digital advertising purposes.

It's not all bad, though.

There are some tools at our disposal that help to mitigate this loss of observable data, and we're going to look at two of the most effective here.

Google Analytics app on a black background

Advanced Consent Mode

In today's privacy-conscious world, respecting user choice is paramount. We can facilitate this by implementing consent banners that clearly explain data collection practices and provide granular options for users to grant or deny consent for specific purposes (e.g., analytics, personalization.) This transparency fosters trust and ensures compliance with privacy regulations like Québec's Law 25 and Europe's GDRP.

While it may seem as though this would limit the amount of data available to us, advanced consent mode helps with this by sending GA4 cookieless pings from users who don't consent to have their data collected. GA4 is then able to fill in the gaps by modelling attribution for that data based on user data that was directly observed (users consented to have their data collected).

Setting up advanced consent mode can be done using Google Tag Manager (GTM) in tandem with a Consent Management Platform (CMP.) Google even provides a list of partners which can help narrow down your search for a CMP.

If you have users visiting your site from California, Europe or Québec, consent mode is a must. The future will likely bring more privacy regulations to more of the world, which makes setting up consent mode a no-brainer for any website.

Server-Side Tagging

Server-side tagging is another integral piece in a robust web analytics program. Instead of data being sent directly from a user's browser to vendors (client-side tagging), in server-side tagging, the data is collected in a server-side container before being sent to the appropriate vendors. Effectively, the server-side container acts as a middleman.

You'll need to set up a server container to get started, and a readily available option is to set up a Google Cloud Platform container. Another great option that we've come to appreciate over the last year is setting up a server container with Stape. Once you've done that, it's just a matter of setting up a server-side GTM container.

What's Wrong with Client-Side Tagging?

Client-side tagging can bog down your website by forcing the browser to send multiple requests to different vendors whenever an event occurs. Furthermore, data is sent directly to third-party vendors, potentially leaking personally identifiable information (PII) or exceeding data privacy regulations. Finally, data consistency and validity can be challenging with client-side tagging due to variations in browsers, devices, and client-side processing.

Server-side tagging empowers you to take control. Within your server container, you can remove PII before forwarding data to vendors, ensuring compliance and minimizing data exposure. You can also set up your server container as a "first-party context," keeping website data and cookies within your domain, restricting vendor access to third-party cookies and allowing for stricter content security policies. Additionally, you can validate data to ensure it meets vendor requirements and eliminate redundant or unnecessary data that might be added by the browser or app.

Cookies on a Google Ads specialist’s wooden desk

Server-side tagging offers a more secure, performant, and data-centric approach to website analytics. By reducing client-side processing, enhancing data privacy, and improving data quality, server-side tagging empowers you to gain deeper insights from your audience while ensuring compliance with evolving privacy regulations.

Embracing the Future of Analytics with GA4

GA4 represents a significant leap forward in website analytics. With its seamless integration with consent mode and server-side GTM, GA4 empowers businesses to make data-driven decisions in an evolving privacy landscape. By embracing GA4, businesses can gain a deeper understanding of their users, optimize their digital marketing strategies, and ensure compliance with evolving privacy regulations.

If your business hasn't yet taken advantage of consent mode or server-side tagging for your website, feel free to reach out to our team of Google ads specialists. We can help your website and business get the most out of GA4 with our digital marketing services.


Nick Baldassarre
Data Lead

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