Exploring Server-Side Tracking: Revolutionising Digital Marketing Analytics

Digital marketers and businesses are increasingly turning to server-side tracking, integrated with Google Tag Manager (GTM), as a solution to collect data more accurately for digital marketing analytics. This shift from traditional client-side tracking relying on third-party to first-party data improves future campaigns, protects user privacy, and adheres to strict data privacy regulations in a competitive landscape.

Table of Contents

What is Server-Side Tracking?

Server-side tracking is revolutionising how website data is collected, offering a robust alternative to traditional client-side tracking, which has long been the most popular medium for websites to send information directly from a user’s browser to platforms like Google Analytics.

Unlike client-side tracking, where code (e.g., JavaScript cookies) is executed in the user’s browser to create a data layer on the website, server-side tracking captures and transmits data to servers and APIs, bypassing limitations like tracking prevention and ad blockers. This method ensures higher-quality data collection unaffected by these barriers.

Adding Google Tag Manager (GTM) to their site, businesses can connect to third-party providers through APIs, enhancing their online marketing campaigns with full data control. The transition to server-side tracking with GTM not only delivers a 10%-15% improvement in data quality but also boosts site speed by 5%.

Integration and Advantages of Server-Side Tracking with Google Tag Manager

Integrating server-side tracking with Google Tag Manager represents a significant leap forward in how data is collected and managed. This integration combines the complexity of server-side tracking with the versatility of GTM, creating a beneficial tool for digital marketers and website owners.

How It Works

Server-Side Tracking Basics

At its core, server-side tracking involves sending data directly from your server to another server (e.g., an analytics platform), bypassing the client's browser. This method overcomes many limitations of traditional, client-side tracking.

Google Tag Manager System

GTM serves as a tag management system that allows you to quickly update and deploy tag configurations for analytics, marketing, and support without altering the code on your website or app directly.

Integration Process

The integration begins with setting up a server-side GTM container. Unlike a standard GTM container that operates within the user’s browser, this container resides on a server hosted on the Google Cloud Platform.

The server hosting the GTM container acts as an intermediary, receiving data sent from the client’s browser or app, processing or filtering this data as necessary, and then forwarding it to the desired third-party services or analytics platforms.

Benefits of This Integration

Bypass Browser Limitations

Server-side tracking with GTM can overcome some of the challenges posed by browser restrictions, such as Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) on Safari and Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP) on Firefox. These features limit the lifespan and functionality of third-party cookies, which are essential for tracking user behaviour across websites. By using server-side tracking with GTM, businesses can extend the cookie duration and reduce the impact of ad blockers, resulting in more accurate and complete data.

Enhance Tracking with 99% Accuracy

Server-side tracking with GTM can also improve the reliability and quality of the data collected, as it reduces the chances of data loss or discrepancies due to network failures, browser errors, or user actions. Server-side tracking with GTM can also consolidate and unify data from multiple sources, such as websites, apps, and offline conversions, into a single data stream, allowing for a more comprehensive view of the user journey and attribution.

Improve Data Privacy

Server-side tracking with GTM can also help businesses comply with data privacy regulations, such as GDPR and CCPA by giving them more control over the data they collect and share with third-party vendors. Server-side tracking with GTM can filter out any personally identifiable information (PII) or sensitive data before sending it to analytics platforms or marketing tools, ensuring that only relevant and appropriate data is shared. Server-side tracking with GTM can also protect user data from unauthorised access or manipulation by malicious actors, as it reduces the exposure of data on the client-side.

Flexible Attribution Window

Server-side tracking, leveraging first-party data, allows businesses to set their own cookie expiration dates. This flexibility enables them to retain user data for longer periods, avoiding the wasteful targeting of the same customers and maximising advertising budgets.

Better On-site User Experience

Unlike client-side tracking, server-side tracking offloads data processing to a separate server. This reduces the strain and website traffic on the user’s device, leading to improved application performance, which can positively impact SEO and a better on-site user experience.

In a cookieless world, server-side tracking upholds data privacy and customer trust building, ensuring digital analytics remain both effective and respectful of user consent.

Leveraging Server-Side Tracking in Digital Marketing

Everything is evolving – digital marketing and analytics are no exception. This advanced tracking method offers benefits that enhance tracking accuracy across marketing channels and optimise marketing activities.

Preserve Your Cookies

Server-side tracking enables the preservation of cookies by collecting data from the server instead of relying on the user’s browser. This approach mitigates the impact of browser-based limitations and privacy restrictions, ensuring consistent tracking over time.

Optimised Marketing Performance

The accuracy provided by server-side tracking allows for the fine-tuning of marketing strategies. Marketers can allocate ad spend more effectively, leading to improved conversion rates and more successful lead generation efforts. Google’s latest web analytics tools, GA4, provides advanced tracking capabilities and differs significantly from Universal Analytics.

High-Quality Audiences

By accurately analysing data and user behaviour, server-side tracking supports in creating high-quality audiences for targeted ad campaigns. This precision ensures that marketing efforts reach individuals most likely to engage, enhancing the overall efficiency of campaigns.

In-depth Analysis

The comprehensive data collected through server-side tracking offers deep insights into user behaviour and digital marketing metrics. This in-depth analysis is crucial for understanding the effectiveness of each marketing channel and optimising digital marketing strategies accordingly.

Protect User Data

Server-side tracking enhances data privacy by processing user data at the server level, away from the public internet. This approach significantly reduces the risk of data breaches, maintaining user trust and compliance with privacy regulations.

Improved Data Governance

With server-side tracking, businesses gain full control over the data collection process. This centralised management allows for better data governance, ensuring ethical and responsible use of data.

Impact on Data Privacy and Website Performance

Server-side tracking not only enhances data privacy by processing data with less exposure to vulnerabilities but also improves website performance. According to a Cisco survey, 76% of consumers value data privacy, with 32% switching providers over data privacy concerns.

By reducing the load from scripts and tags in the user’s browser, server-side tracking decreases site load times. As per Google research, 53% of users leave if loading takes longer than 3 seconds. This boosts SEO ranking in Google and user experience.

Optimising Campaigns with Server-Side Tracking

Server-side tracking is changing how Google Ads and Meta Ads campaigns are optimised by collecting user data through a 1st party cookie and transmitting it securely to a cloud server. This method allows for a more accurate and comprehensive understanding of user behaviour, facilitating the use of advanced machine-learning algorithms to target the right audience more effectively.

Providing marketers with deeper insights and better control over their digital marketing strategy, server-side tracking supports data-driven decisions that enhance lead quality. 

It not only improves campaign performance but also increases conversion rates (CVR), enabling marketers to address specific pain points and create content that resonates more deeply with their audience, optimising the overall impact of their digital marketing efforts.

Why Google-Ads Server Side Tracking?

Google Ads Server-side Tracking (SST) enhances marketing campaigns by avoiding cookie reliance, addressing privacy user concerns, and not relying on browser restrictions. It ensures accurate conversion measurements and tracking data, minimising potential data loss for improved campaign optimisation and deeper insights into customer behaviour.

The Future of Digital Marketing Analytics

The future of digital marketing analytics is on the verge of a significant evolution, with a projected compound annual growth rate of 9% from 2020-2026 and the digital advertising market expected to reach $786.2 billion by 2026. As the regulatory environment around data and analytics tightens, the governance and compliance aspects of digital marketing become more crucial than ever.

With Google’s plan to phase out third-party cookies by the end of 2024, the need for alternative tracking solutions is evident. Server-side tracking (SST) offers a solution to the limitations of cookie-based tracking, promising enhanced marketing campaign personalisation and accuracy.

Marketers are encouraged to integrate server-side methods into their strategies, leveraging its important benefits to navigate the evolving landscape of digital marketing effectively.

Make the Most of Server-Side Tracking With Evolving Digital

As we undeniably move into a cookieless era by the end of 2024, businesses and digital marketers face the challenge of adapting their strategies for website analytics and digital marketing analytics.

Evolving Digital offers an all-in-one solution for all your marketing attribution and advertising management needs. By leveraging first-party data and ensuring compliance with data privacy regulations, we help businesses gather accurate data essential for precise conversion attribution and enhancing the on-site user experience. 

This not only prepares businesses for the impending changes but also secures valuable insights important for digital advertising and the future of data-driven marketing.

Everything is evolving, and with Evolving Digital by your side, your business will not just adapt but thrive, leading the way in a digital future.

Evolving Digital's Expert Guidance

Boost your Google Ads performance with Evolving Digital‘s expert guidance and enhanced conversion tracking. Learn more about our Google Ads management service.

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