Why should you switch to server-side tracking?

Miscellaneous
Shaikh Nahian
7 mins

Tracking website activity has become vital to running an online business in today's digital landscape. 
Tracking data can provide useful insights into user behavior, preferences, and interests. However, with the phasing out of third-party cookies, website owners are now faced with a dilemma in properly tracking their website visits. 

Here is when server-side tracking comes into play.

Unlike client-side tracking, which relies on the user's browser to deliver data, server-side tracking sends data directly from the server to the analytics platform. 

This is a safer and more reliable method of tracking website activity, and it is also less influenced by recent changes in privacy rules.

In this article, we'll provide a brief overview of website tracking, and explain the difference between client-side and server-side tracking. We'll also delve into the importance of server-side tracking, and discuss how to implement it effectively. 

So, let's get started on why you should switch to server-side tracking.

What are Client-side and Server-side Tracking?

Client-side tracking is the most common method for tracking website activity. It uses tracking pixels, JavaScript tags, or cookies to collect data from visitors' browsers. The data collected includes page views, clicks, and other interactions that are sent to the analytics platform for analysis.

On the other hand, server-side tracking, also known as S2S tracking, uses server-side code to collect data instead of client-side code. The data is sent to the analytics platform from the server, not the browser. This method is more reliable, secure, and accurate since it avoids browser restrictions and ad blockers.

Comparing the two, client-side tracking may seem easier to implement, and it offers real-time data. However, it’s getting less accurate due to browser restrictions and ad-blocker use. Server-side tracking, on the other hand, is more reliable and secure but may have a higher implementation cost and delay in data collection.

S2S (Server-Side) Tracking

S2S tracking stands for server-to-server tracking and is a method of tracking user activity that bypasses the need for a tracking pixel on the client side. 

Instead, the tracking data is sent directly from the server to the tracking platform, making it a more secure and reliable method of tracking user behavior. 

Server-side tracking involves sending tracking requests to the server instead of the client's browser. When a user visits a website, the tracking code on the server sends data to the analytics server, which then processes it and sends it back to the website owner. 

Also, server-side tracking can help improve website speed, as fewer resources are required to load tracking scripts on the client side.

With the growing concern around data privacy, S2S tracking is becoming increasingly important for businesses looking to maintain the integrity of their data while still being able to track user behavior.

Why Do You Need a Google Analytics Alternative?

While Google Analytics is an excellent tool for collecting website data, it is not without limits. For one thing, it is based on client-side tracking, which might result in data disparities owing to ad blockers, browser settings, and other things. Furthermore, with the eventual phasing out of third-party cookies, tracking user behavior with Google Analytics may become even more difficult. 

This is why alternate monitoring methods, such as server-side tracking, are crucial to explore because they can provide more precise data and better control over user privacy.

What is the Difference Between Tracking Pixel and S2S Postback URL Tracking?

Tracking pixels use a small piece of code embedded on a webpage to collect data on user interactions, such as clicks or pageviews. 

In contrast, S2S postback URL tracking involves the server receiving data, processing it, and then sending it back to the tracking platform. 

While pixel tracking is simpler to implement, it is vulnerable to ad blockers and can be less reliable in tracking data. On the other hand, S2S postback URL tracking is more secure, offers greater data accuracy, and is less likely to be affected by ad blockers.

S2S tracking also offers additional benefits, such as increased security and flexibility. It allows for more customization and control over the data collected and can be used in conjunction with other tracking methods to provide a more comprehensive view of user behavior.

Why is Server-side Tracking Important?

Server-side tracking is crucial for businesses that prioritize data privacy and security. By using this method, sensitive data is kept on the server side, providing an additional layer of protection against unauthorized access. This can help businesses comply with regulations like GDPR and CCPA, which require data protection measures to be in place. 

Additionally, server-side tracking can help prevent ad fraud and improve the accuracy of data by reducing the impact of ad blockers.


What is Server-side Tracking for Google Analytics and Beyond?

Server-side tracking can be used not only for Google Analytics but also for other platforms, such as Facebook Pixel, LinkedIn Insight Tag, and more. 

Businesses may bypass the restrictions of client-side tracking by transferring data directly to these platforms from the server, improving data accuracy, security, and privacy. 

Furthermore, with server-side tracking, businesses can track conversions that happen outside of their website, such as phone calls or in-store transactions, and receive a more complete picture of their customer's journeys.

Why is Facebook Server-side Tracking Crucial Post-iOS 14?

With the iOS 14 privacy update, Facebook's pixel-based tracking faced significant limitations, leading to data loss for businesses. 

Facebook's solution was to implement server-side tracking. Server-side tracking has helped businesses adapt to changes in data tracking policies like iOS 14.

Curious About Transferring Your Media Pixels to the Server-side?

Transferring media pixels from client side to server side can be a complex process, but it's worth the effort for the enhanced data privacy, security, and accuracy it offers. Here's how to do it:

  • Set up a server-side tracking platform that supports media pixels.
  • Install the server-side tracking code on your website or app.
  • Migrate your media pixel tracking to the server-side platform, including all relevant data points and tags.
  • Ensure that your server-side tracking solution is properly integrated with your ad platforms and analytics tools.
  • Test your new tracking setup thoroughly to ensure accurate data capture and conversion attribution.

What is GTM Server-side Tagging?

GTM Server-Side Tagging is an advanced feature of Google Tag Manager (GTM) that enables server-side processing of marketing and analytics tags. 

It allows businesses to move their tag management from the client side to the server side, making it easier to manage and control data privacy and security. 

GTM server-side tagging works with server-side tracking by collecting data on the server side, processing it, and then sending it to analytics tools like Google Analytics.

With GTM server-side tagging, businesses can also reduce the number of third-party tags on their websites, which can improve page load times and enhance user experience.

How to Set Up Server-side Tracking for Google Analytics via GTM?

Step-by-step guide on setting up server-side tracking for Google Analytics via GTM

To set up server-side tracking for Google Analytics via GTM, follow these steps:

  • Create a Google Cloud project and a Google Analytics property.
  • Create a Google Cloud Function and set up a tracking endpoint.
  • Configure GTM to send data to the tracking endpoint.
  • Create a Custom HTML tag in GTM to configure the data layer and trigger the tracking function.
  • Test the tracking function using GTM Preview mode.

What Are the Ramifications of Third-party Cookies Phasing Out?

The phasing out of third-party cookies means that advertisers will lose their usual methods of tracking users' online activity. This will affect businesses' ability to target their audience, optimize their ad campaigns, and measure conversion. 

However, with server-side tracking, businesses can continue to collect data and process it on their own servers without relying on third-party cookies. 

This way, they can comply with data privacy regulations, reduce the risk of data breaches, and still gain insights into user behavior.

How Do I Implement Conversions API?

To implement Conversions API with server-side tracking, businesses need to generate an access token and set up an event source. The next step involves sending server-side events to the API endpoint via HTTPS requests. 

The events can be structured using JSON or CSV. The server-side events should include the relevant parameters such as event name, timestamp, user ID, and conversion value.

Once the events are successfully sent, businesses can track and optimize their ad campaigns based on the data provided by Conversions API.

Conclusion

As we move forward to a cookie-less era, the switch to server-side tracking is a crucial decision that businesses must make to keep up with the evolving digital landscape. 

Client-side tracking has been the standard for years, but server-side tracking is gaining momentum due to its superior performance and enhanced data security.

 Whether you're transferring your media pixels to the server side, setting up server-side tracking for Google Analytics via GTM, or exploring GTM server-side tagging, understanding the importance and benefits of server-side tracking is critical. 

Whether you use client-side or server-side tracking, it's critical to understand the benefits and drawbacks of each method and select the one that best meets your objectives. 

So, make the informed decision and take advantage of server-side tracking for your business.

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