Moving to server-side analytics? Here’s how to make the most of it


Richard Jonkhof
Strategy Consultant and Customer Success Manager

Like many analytics app providers, Google is sunsetting its Universal Analytics (UA) solution – and not before time. Born in an era when the web was largely a desktop experience, with site visits tracked by JavaScript cookies, it’s far from ideal for today’s device-agnostic, omni-channel, multi-platform world. 

Its replacement – Google Analytics 4, or GA4 – is more than an evolution; it’s a fundamentally different method of collecting data. This means any organization interested in understanding visitors doesn’t have a choice but to switch to GA4. But there’s no need to panic. 

In fact, the opportunity for your business is much larger than just GA4 …it spans all analytics software and countless data source providers. And that’s the subject of this blog.

What’s the big deal with server-side analytics solutions?

The key difference between old UA and solutions such as GA4: the latter, purpose-built to operate server-side, – allows you to collect data without the need for browser-side cookies. This answers many tracking limitations and regulatory requirements – but the list of plus points is bigger than that. 

Because if your (analytics) data is collected server-side, and other sources of data about each visitor are also server-side (as many are) you have the chance to combine them more easily and accurately… to form an even better picture of an individual’s travels across the datasphere (for an example, see how server-side data helps you recognize many more returning visitors.) If you’re stuck in a client-side mindset of tracking visitors with cookies, going with a server-side data collection now can change your entire outlook – ready for the years ahead. 

Relay42 already supports server-side data collection

And with our help, that move may be easier than you think. Many clients already use Relay42 as the platform to feed all sorts of data into analytics applications like GA4. Because the Relay42 platform supports server-side data collection right now – and our in-house consultants are experts in making it work for companies moving to a server-side model. 

Going server-side now future-proofs your analytics

The first of those wins: you’ll save time and energy. Too many companies are taking a halfway house approach, rolling out GA4 client-side in much the same way as UA. It works, and sounds simple enough … until you realize it doesn’t take you fully into the new world of server-side analytics data. Which means you’ll face another migration later on! (UA is ceasing services on July 1st, 2023.)

Going all the way server-side now avoids this. And also, if you’re already using Relay42’s CDP, lets you take full advantage of the platform – enabling oceans of customer data from many sources (they’re called “event connectors”) to be integrated into your analytics dashboard or any other tool. Going all the way now benefits you in three ways: you’ll save time, improve outcomes, and synchronize with the broader sector – after all, the entire advertising and marketing ecosystem is moving in the same direction.

So what’s the game plan that delivers these three big wins? Obviously, it’ll be different for everybody – but we suggest it should include these four basic steps. 


How to prepare for your migration to server-side data

1. Get your team together
People matter – so get the right ones on board right at the start. Starting with the person who’ll gain most benefit from a high-performing analytics tool implementation: your Marketing Director and his/her technology reports like your head of Marketing Intelligence, Analytics Director, and Data Analysts both junior and senior. What you’re looking for is the team that knows which data sources need integrating, which reports need generating, and who they’re distributed to. (Of course, in some companies one person performs several roles.)

In addition, of course, you’ll need your head of IT. It’s highly likely he/she already knows the benefits of handling data server-side, with the main worries being the usual ones: upfront time and effort. Focus on the positive outcomes here: few IT professionals have ever enjoyed client-side data collection with cookies and tracking scripts, so get them enthused about a gradual move to server-side data collection. 

2. Check your tech stack is ready
At the center is your website or web application itself, probably on UA at present. You’ll need to know which domains need to be connected to your data collection services like Relay42 – this might not be limited to your customer-facing website! 

Once decided, the business end comes from Relay42, and setting up the right “event connectors” to trigger a data point in your analytics. Some great news here: you no longer need Google Tag Manager, which with current discussions and cases around data privacy might be a blessing. (Phew.)

3. Define the steps of your migration
With that done, making your actual migration plan is easier than it sounds. If you’re not using Relay42 at the moment don’t worry – your initial task is simply to list the events and parameters you’d like to track in your analytics tool, a list you probably have in play already. 

(And yes, it’s time to get creative! Relay42 can connect events of many kinds on and off your website. Why not huddle with your Marketing colleagues and write a “dream list” of data that’d solve all your problems?)

With that list of data types written, next up is to define how you’d collect them – which means working out where that data resides. Sometimes it needs a little detective work, but often the answers are known to your IT colleagues already. Where is that data, what events matter to you in it, and what set of that data answers your needs?

Together, these give you your implementation plan, ready to set up Relay42 in your website(s) and start connecting to the data sources you want. Best of all, because you’ve engaged both marketing and technology people in your plan, this part can move surprisingly fast. 

4. Work with Relay42 to make your implementation shine
At Relay42 you’ll find people with broad and deep experience of the challenges you’re facing. So let us help! Think of our involvement as propelling you into the new server-side data collection world, without halfway-house solutions or temporary fixes.

So whatever your choice of analytics solution, Relay42 can help. Because they’re all moving server-side – and we’re experienced in all the big ones, including GA4! Which is the biggest win of all. Working together, we can help you move to a server-to-server solution – not just with GA4, but with any other tool in your ecosystem.

CONCLUSION: Use Relay42 for your move to server-side data collection

Few things are certain in technology – except this: server-side represents the future of web analytics. So it’s worth grasping the opportunity early, and migrating to server-side data collection across your business right now. 

We’d love to talk further about your plans. Don't hesitate to reach out to our team.

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