Google has made it easier than ever to implement server-side tagging with their release of a server container type for Google Tag Manager. Due to recent changes in the use of 3rd party cookies and tracking restrictions, it is highly recommended to replace client-side tracking with server one or use web and server tracking in parallel.
This article will describe the potential of server-side tagging and present the most common server-side tagging use cases.
The main attribute of server-side tracking is a cloud server that works as an intermediary between your data source and 3rd party tracking platforms. If we talk about server-side tagging using server Google Tag Manager, the first step is to set up a cloud server that hosts sGTM container, then create a data stream to sGTM (in this article, I will talk about server Google Tag Manager, since it’s the most popular ss tagging platform) and distribute data further to your tracking tools.
The most significant advantage of server-side tagging is the ability to set 1st party cookies. Browsers with Intelligent Tracking Prevention mechanisms (like Safari and Firefox) have already limited the use of 3rd party cookies. Google Chrome, the most widely-used browser with over half of web traffic, will phase out of 3rd party cookies by 2023. With the help of sGTM, you can set 1st party cookies and extend cookies lifetime.
The second important advantage of ss tagging is loading scripts from your domain. For example, with server GTM, you can load gtm.js or gtag.js from your domain. You can even replace gtm.js with random symbols making tracking even more accurate. It helps to make tracking resistant to tracking prevention mechanisms, adBlockers, etc.
Check this blog post to know how client-side tracking differs from the server-side. We also have another article that describes all server-side tagging benefits.
Setting up a server Google Tag Manager container is relatively easy with stape.
1) From your Tag Manager account:
Select appropriate account -> Click Admin > Click + next to the Container name.
2) Add Container Name -> Under Target platform, choose Server.
3) Click Create.
4) Choose “Manually provision tagging server.”
5) Copy container configuration and add it to the sGTM container setting on stape.
You can read more in our article: setting up Google Tag Manager Server Container.
Though server-side tracking positively affects website performance and tracking accuracy, there are some drawbacks. Here is the list of most essential cons:
● Configuring and testing server-side tracking requires more time than web tracking.
Facebook Conversion API allows sending any events (both standard and custom) from your server to the Facebook server. Facebook recommends using both web and server-side tagging. To prevent overreporting, you should set up event deduplication if sending events from both web and server.
The most significant push FB CAPI received was when Apple implemented web app tracking transparency. Facebook conversion API mainly helps track users who have opted out of tracking on iOS devices.
If you are interested in the detailed guide on how to set up FB CAPI using server Google Tag Manager, please follow this blog post on setting up Facebook conversion API using server Google Tag Manager.
Google explains the need to implement server Google Analytics in a little bit different way than Facebook. Technology that stands behind server GA is also different from FB CAPI.
Google says that ss GA helps to increase cookie lifetime. There is no event deduplication in GA, so you need to use either web or server tracking. If you want to use both, just use different GA properties.
Increasing cookie lifetime might seem like a minor effect, but it may lead to inaccurate attribution to the traffic source responsible for the conversion.
The technology of the TikTok events API is similar to the Facebook conversion API. They have a list of recommended events, event parameters, and user data that should be sent to TikTok servers. You can also use a test ID to test TikTok server events in real-time.
TikTok also supports event deduplication. It's possible to use a hybrid approach - web and server tracking. If you do so, do not forget to set event_id from both browser and server to let TikTok know about redundant events.
With the help of server-side tagging, you can easily enrich data with the help of webhooks from the CRM. It can be offline orders, refunds, enriching user or product data. There are numerous use cases of what can be done.
We have a blog post that describes how you can send data from your CRM to Facebook conversion API using webhooks.
Server-side tagging is a powerful tool that can help you track user behavior and measure the impact of your marketing campaigns more accurately. We’ve outlined the most common use cases for server-side tagging, but there are many other possibilities and platforms that support server-side tracking. If you need help setting up server-side tracking, please contact us. Our team will be happy to help you get started.
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