Configuring the Google Analytics 4 data stream

A server container can digest any type of HTTP request dispatched from an online source. However, the recommended way of collecting data is through a Google tag or a gtag.js event running in the web browser. In this part of the course, you’ll learn how to set up a Google tag on the web page, using Tag Manager.

Parallel measurement

If you already have a Google Analytics 4 tracking setup on the website, keep it as it is for now. Don't change your current tracking setup to send data to the server container yet.

Instead, set up a new Google Analytics 4 property for the server-side dispatch. That way you can copy the existing tags one-by-one, until you have a dual-tagged Google Analytics 4 setup on the website.

Dual-tagging means that you essentially duplicate your existing tagging to collect data to a GA4 property for client-side hits and to a GA4 property for server-side hits.

If your intent is to move all data collection to go through your server container, you need to wait until your server-side measurement is at parity with your client-side measurement. At that point you modify your tags to collect to the server, removing your dual-tagging setup in the process.

You can, of course, choose to collect some data directly from the browser to vendors and have some pass through the server container. This type of hybrid collection is very common.

About the Google Analytics client

First, you need to set up a client in the server container. A client is a Tag Manager resource type that intercepts certain types of incoming HTTP requests and generates events that are passed to a destination, like Google Analytics 4.

In this case, the HTTP request is a Google Analytics 4 event, so you need to configure the built-in Google Analytics: GA4 client. You only need one GA4 client.

Diagram showing how the GA4 client serves as a library and a proxy for GA4 events.

The GA4 client has a dual purpose.

  1. It serves as a proxy for Google Analytics 4 library that loads in the browser. GA4, just like any other analytics service running in the browser, requires a JavaScript library to work. Instead of the browser loading this library directly from Google's content distribution network, you can configure the GA4 client to allow the library to be loaded through your server container instead.
  2. The client also serves as a proxy for the GA4 event requests themselves. Instead of the browser sending the events directly to Google's analytics servers, they are first sent to the server container, where the GA4 client intercepts them and dispatches them onward to Google servers (and any other destinations you like).

Setting up the GA4 client

To set up the GA4 client in the server, follow the next four steps.

1. Configure the client

To configure the GA4 client:

  1. In your server container, open Clients.
  2. Click on the GA4 client to open its configuration.
  3. Set up your GA4 client with the following parameters. Save when you are done.
Screenshot of the tag configuration dialog
1 Priority Only one client can claim an incoming request, but there can be multiple clients trying to claim the same request. The Priority setting establishes the order in which clients get to evaluate the request. For example, if you have a client with the priority of 100, it will get a chance to claim the request before another client with a lower number (99 or less).

In this case, you only have one client that's interested in Google Analytics 4 requests, so you don't have to change the default value of 0.
2 Default GA4 paths If the box is checked: The GA4 client will activate when the incoming request matches a GA4 event request URL. These requests typically have path signatures like /collect and /g/collect and /j/collect.

If the box is not checked: The Client will not claim incoming GA4 events.

Leave this option checked, as parsing incoming event requests is one of the key purposes of this client.
3 Default gtag.js paths for specific IDs If the box is checked: Allows the server container to handle requests for the Google Tag JavaScript library, in addition to the individual event requests covered by the previous setting. Use this setting only when you've placed the Google Tag (gtag.js) snippet in your source code and changed the URL to point to your tagging server.

If this box is not checked: The GA4 client will not handle Google Tag JavaScript requests.

Enable this option and list all the GA4 Measurement IDs (G-XXXXXXX) for which you want to allow JavaScript library loads through your server-side endpoint.
4 Automatically serve all dependent Google scripts If the box is checked: The server-side endpoint will load any dependencies that the Google Tag library might need.

If this box is not checked: You must explicitly allowlist all dependent scripts that your Google Tag library requires.

Keep this option checked to ensure that all related scripts are loaded through your server container.
5 Compress HTTP response If the box is checked: The server container application compresses the HTTP responses that go back to the request source. Compression helps with keeping network traffic cost to a minimum. While compression does increase computation (and associated cost), it often still saves you money.

If the box is not checked: HTTP responses will not be compressed by the server container. This can potentially congest the user's network bandwidth, increase your network egress costs, and affect site performance. You can learn more in a Lighthouse report.
6 Enable region-specific settings If the box is checked: The server container reads visitor location and adjusts settings accordingly. When you check the box, select Choose Built-In Variable from the drop down menu and use the Visitor Region variable.

If the box is not checked: The server container can't read the visitor region and some features, such as advanced consent mode will not work. Learn more about region-specific settings.
7 Cookies and Client Identification Set the value to JavaScript Managed, as that's the only method that will work until you change the domain settings of your server container.
The GA4 client can utilize a server-managed cookie for GA4 client identification in first-party contexts, which you set up later in the course.

2. Configure the tag

Next, you'll need to create a Google Analytics: GA4 tag in the server container.

The client parses the incoming HTTP request into an event data object. The tag's purpose is to take this event data object, map it to the correct format, and then dispatch it to the Google Analytics 4 servers.

  1. In your server container, navigate to Tags and create a New Tag.
  2. Click on the Tag Configuration window to open the tag selector. Choose Google Analytics: GA4 from the list.
  3. Leave all the fields with their default values.

Screenshot of the default GA4 tag settings

By default, the tag will inherit all the relevant fields and parameters from the event data object created by the client. The incoming Google Analytics 4 request passes through the Google Analytics: GA4 client, and the tag inherits the Measurement ID and event parameters.

3. Add a trigger to the tag

Next, establish when this tag should fire. The Google Analytics 4 client parses the incoming request into an event data object, and the tag will inherit its values. Therefore, the tag needs to fire whenever the GA4 client generates an event data object.

To set up the trigger:

  1. In the tag settings, click the Triggering area to open the trigger selection overlay.
  2. Because the only pre-built trigger (All Pages) isn't sufficient for our need to handle all events (and not just page views), we'll need to create a new trigger.
  3. To create a new trigger, click the + icon in the top right corner.
  4. In the overlay, click the Trigger Configuration area to choose the trigger type.
  5. Choose Custom from the list. This trigger type, by default, fires the tag when any event is generated by a server-side client. You need to modify it a little to make sure that only events generated by our GA4 client will be able to fire the tag.
  6. Select Some Events to enable the list of activation conditions for this trigger.
  7. In the list of available Variables, you'll see Event Name pre-selected. Click that selector and select Choose Built-In Variable from the list.
  8. To automatically return the name of the client that generated the event, select the Client Name variable.
  9. The name of the client you configured earlier was GA4, so set the condition accordingly. Result: Your trigger should look like this:
    Screenshot of the trigger setup
  10. Save the trigger and name it descriptively, for example "All GA4 Events".
  11. You should now be back in the tag settings, with the new trigger in its place. Save the tag and name it descriptively, for example "GA4".
    Result: Your tag should look like this:
    Screenshot of the final tag setup

Next, you need to configure a tag in the web browser to dispatch data to the server-side tagging environment.

4. Configure a Google tag in the web container

You can configure Google Analytics 4 using Tag Manager or gtag.js.
To establish data flow from your web container to GA4, you need to set up a Google tag:

  1. In your server container, click the Container ID (GTM-XXXXXX) in the top navigation bar to open the container information overlay.
  2. Note of the Default Url value of your server container. You will need this shortly. This is the URL to which your browser tag needs to send the requests.
    Screenshot of the server information overlay
  3. In the website's web container, open the Tags menu.
  4. Create a New tag of the type Google tag.
  5. In Tag ID, supply the tag ID of your Google tag. Where can I find my Google tag ID?
  6. In the section Configuration settings, add the following parameters:
    Name: server_container_url
    Value: Enter the URL you noted in step 2.
  7. Add a trigger to this tag as you normally would in your Google Tag Manager process. For example, the All Pages trigger loads the tag on page load and then sends all your events to the server container.


Great job! You've set up the Google Analytics 4 to work with your server-side setup.

Next, you'll learn the tools verify your setup and debug when needed.