Benefits of server-side tagging

Author
Stape
Published
Jan 12, 2022
Also available in

You’ve probably already heard about server-side tagging. It’s getting more popular mainly because of the Facebook Conversion API, which was designed to increase targeting and conversion tracking accuracy. Besides FB, more and more platforms have started supporting server-side tracking last year, including Google Analytics, Google Ads, TikTok, and email platforms like Klaviyo or Active Campaign, etc.

If you have doubts when or if you should start implementing ss tagging, this article may be interesting for you. Here I want to talk about server-side tagging benefits.

1. More accurate data collection and conversion trackingCopy link to this section

After implementing server-side tracking, our clients see an immediate increase in their PPC campaigns results. According to Google’s research, Square has seen a 46% increase in reported conversions from Google Ads after implementing server-side tracking.

Adblockers, tracking restrictions like ITP, iOS 14, broken javascript all affect the accuracy of the data you collect about website visitors. And these are the main reasons why Facebook, Google, and other platforms highly recommend their users start implementing server-side tracking. 

You most likely see the different numbers of purchases in your CRM compared to GA. For some of our clients, Google Analytics was underreporting 25% of purchases compared to the CRM data. After setting up ss tracking, this discrepancy decreased to 3%. 

Server-side tagging can help improve the data loss due to ITPs, iOS restrictions, and it may also decrease the impact of AdBlockers. It all happens for two reasons: using a custom subdomain for server-side tracking that sets first-party cookies and replaces request domain, as well as advanced event matching based on user data. 

It is crucial to understand the difference between tracking restrictions and user consent. You should respect the user’s decision to opt-out of tracking and not fire any tracking scripts or set cookies if users do not give their permission. 

By the way, we have a blog post that describes how to use consent status in the server Google Tag Manager

2. Improved website page load timeCopy link to this section

This benefit is significant for SEO. Third-party tracking scripts can slow down your site, which leads to two negative effects: lower organic position and worse user experience. Many studies showed that page load time correlates with the bounce rate. The longer your page takes to load, the more likely users won’t wait and close your page, leading to a higher bounce rate.

improved website pagespeed server side tracking 

Site page speed is one of the critical organic ranking factors. Especially now when Google rolled out mobile-first indexing and core web vitals. Reducing the number of tracking javascript on your site may have a massive impact on your organic positions. 

Many stape's clients decided to set up server-side tracking mainly to get a better page speed. A large part of these clients contacted us because of Klaviyo javascript. It slows down the site immensely. But the good news is that the Klaviyo server-side tag does the same thing as the web integration, and you can switch to Klaviyo server-side tagging without losing any integration feature. 

We also did a small experiment comparing the website page speed with web tags vs. server-side. Google also has an article showing how Nemlig improved its page load time by 7% by moving tags to the server.

When setting up a server container in Google Tag Manager, it is highly recommended to use a custom subdomain. With the help of a custom subdomain, you can set first-party cookies. 

It mainly affects browsers with Intelligent tracking preventions like Safari or Firefox. For example, when using web tracking for Google Analytics, GA sets cookies from the domain https://www.google-analytics.com. In this case, cookies live for 1 or 7 days. If you’ve set up server-side GA and used a custom domain for your server GTM, cookies will live for two years.

server-side tagging extended cookie lifetime

4. Control what data each vendor receivesCopy link to this section

When implementing web tracking pixels, you can't control what data they scrape from your site. For example, they can collect the user's first, last name without notifying you about it.

On the other side, with the help of server-side tagging, you control what data each vendor receives. They can access only the information you configured in the request. If you do not send user data in the request, you can be 100% sure that they do not have access to personal user data.

One of our clients decided to set up server-side tracking for affiliate platforms only because he wanted to limit the conversion data affiliate networks receive. We decided to trigger affiliate conversion tags only when the closing channel in the user’s conversion path is an affiliate network.

5. Governance and ControlCopy link to this section

This benefit has something in common with the data control one. Due to regulations like GDPR, CCPA, or CSP, you should strictly control when you collect information about your site visitors and to whom you share it. It is forbidden to send any PII (personally identifiable information) to third-party vendors. 

Since server tracking allows you to completely control data flow, each vendor will receive only information configured in your server-side tags.

6. Reduce the impact of ad blockersCopy link to this section

There are several ways how AdBlocker can stop tracking scripts. Server-side tracking can help with one of these methods - when adblocker detects a script identifying the domain that sends the request.

If you use server-side tagging with the configured subdomain, tracking requests are sent from your primary domain, meaning that AdBlocker can't detect it. For example, they check if the requested domain is google-analytics.com to detect and block GA. But with the ss tracking and custom subdomain, Google Analytics will send requests from your custom subdomain, such as ss.example.com, which means that Adblockers can't detect whether it's GA or not.

7. Data EnrichmentCopy link to this section

With the help of server GTM and ss tracking in general, you can enrich data. For example, you can track orders via phone in Google Analytics or Facebook. It may help you build custom audiences or get a full picture of where orders are coming from. 

Another frequent use case of data enrichment is sending order information from payment systems like Stripe. It helps ensure that all sales data appear in GA, FB, or other analytics tools. 

8. Hide Tracking IDs and Secret API keysCopy link to this section

Anyone can see your tracking ID in the console or using a browser plugin with web tracking. Server-side tracking has the opposite situation -  your tracking IDs are hidden. It may help to prevent spam hits. 

ConclusionCopy link to this section

Server-side tracking has numerous benefits. From my perspective, improved tracking accuracy, faster page load, and data control are most important. Considering that Safari and Firefox prevent third-party cookies and Chrome will phase out third-party cookies in 2022, I would highly recommend adding server-side tracking in your pipeline for 2022.

There are two main downsides of server-side tracking: costs and complexity. But stape.io hosting for server  Google Tag Manager fixes those. With stape, you can set up server-side GTM hosting in 1 click, plus we are 5 times cheaper than Google Cloud. And if you need help setting up ss tracking, we can help too!

We can set up server-side tracking for you!

All it takes is a few simple questions. Click Get A Quote, fill-up the form, and we will send you a quote.

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