How To Overcome GA4 Server-Side Tracking Challenges?

In the realm of data collection, staying ahead of the curve is imperative for organizations. As of July 1, 2023, Google will discontinue its support for Universal Analytics, unless you are a GA360 user who benefits from a one-year extension. This impending shift underscores the significance of understanding how this transition will impact your business.

One of the most profound changes accompanying the shift from Universal Analytics to GA4 is the adoption of a modern event-based data model. While this shift commands attention and necessitates a learning curve, it is equally essential not to overlook another substantial transformation that could significantly influence your business: server-side tracking.

Universal Analytics was proficient at collecting both server-side and client-side data, catering to a wide range of use cases. However, GA4’s approach to server-side tracking is less autonomous and relies on complementary client-side (browser) tracking to enable essential use cases that businesses depend on, such as attribution modeling, sessionization, geolocation data collection, and tracking conversions for Google Ads Remarketing.

In the current landscape, server-side tracking has gained unprecedented importance. Yet, if not implemented correctly within GA4, it can potentially impede the functionality of features you rely on. In this article, we’ll delve into why you should consider a hybrid deployment to maximize the potential of GA4. Additionally, we’ll introduce you to Datahash’s GA4 integration, which simplifies the hybrid implementation process.

Advantages of Server-Side Tracking:

  • Enhanced Website Performance: Server-side tracking minimizes the volume of code needed for client-side loading, resulting in significant improvements in page loading times and overall website performance.
  • Resilience to Ad Blockers: Server-side tracking empowers you to capture data even in the presence of ad blockers, thereby recovering substantial volumes of data that were previously unattainable.
  • Ownership of First-Party Data: By utilizing server-side tracking, you can assume control over the capture of your first-party data. Instead of injecting third-party code throughout your site, you can transmit data server-side, affording you greater granularity and control over its utilization.

Options for Server-Side Tracking in GA4:

  • Google Tag Manager (GTM) Server-Side: GA4’s GTM server-side tagging diverges from a traditional web GTM container. It is hosted on a server-side container (like Google Cloud Platform or others), relocating the instrumentation from the browser. However, it is not a purely server-side solution as it still requires a web GTM container to dispatch events to the server-side container. Furthermore, the use of browser GA4 tags for data transformation introduces additional points of potential failure, making it less seamless for certain websites.
  • GA4 Measurement Protocol API: The Measurement Protocol API allows you to write code and transmit data directly to Google Analytics via While it offers an effective means of supplementing client-side data collection, its standard implementation has limitations. Notably, GA4’s out-of-the-box attribution reporting, Google Ads remarketing, and geographic information require browser tracking. Sessionization necessitates specific session and client IDs, which must align with a particular session and warrant meticulous quality assurance. Crafting a server-side client ID for anonymous users may also entail additional development work for some businesses.

Both of these server-side approaches have significant drawbacks, leading most organizations to opt for a hybrid GA4 implementation, incorporating server-side tracking with auxiliary support from browser code.

In conclusion, the impending retirement of Universal Analytics underscores the necessity of understanding GA4’s transition and the role of server-side tracking within it. A hybrid deployment approach emerges as a pragmatic solution to harness GA4’s potential while mitigating the limitations associated with server-side tracking. Datahash’s GA4 integration streamlines this hybrid implementation, offering a more seamless and efficient path forward for businesses adapting to the changing analytics landscape.