Server-side tracking tools

Author
Stape
Published
Nov 23, 2022
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Server-side tracking is a great way to improve website performance, impact your advertising strategy and give you all sorts of insights into how users interact with the site. This blog post will introduce you to server-side tagging and walk through some of the most popular server-side tracking tools. We will also check which software might suit your company depending on what kind and feature set it has available.

How does server-side tracking workCopy link to this section

Server-side tracking is a type of tracking/data collection that involves a server instead of a client's browser. You install and manage it yourself, but the principle behind this is precise as with client-side tagging - only now there's an additional step. On that server, a cloud tagging server gets the data about events on your site and then distributes it to the analytics systems.

SS tagging can help your site load faster, handle data loss caused by ITPs, and iOS limitations, and lessen the impact of AdBlockers. This is due to two factors: the use of a custom subdomain for server-side tracking, which establishes first-party cookies and server-side data streams that cannot be disabled or detected and replace heavy javascript placed on your site.

However, there are two drawbacks of ss tagging: price and complexity. Cloud servers that process all requested data are a vital component of ss tagging, and you must pay for servers separately. In addition, though sGTM appears comparable to the web version, the logic for configuring ss tagging is different. As a result, it may lead to misunderstandings and issues while creating ss tags.

But here comes Stape for the rescue! Stape's hosting for the server Google Tag Manager is more than just the cheapest and easiest one to set up. We also offer numerous hosting features and server-side tagging solutions, making your tagging experience straightforward.

Why server-side tagging is importantCopy link to this section

1. Increase cookie lifetime 

Third-party cookies are going away. One of the last but the most popular browsers that still rely on third-party cookies is Chrome. All other big players like Safari and Firefox have been limiting the life of 3rd party cookies to 7 days for several years. Even Chrome plans to stop relying on 3rd party cookies by 2024. By the way, they have already postponed the sunset of third-party cookies two times, so who knows if it will happen in 2024. 

With server-side tagging, you can set secure 1st party cookies that live for 2 years or unless a user cleans cookies. This results in more accurate user journey analysis and accurate estimation of the impact of each traffic source on conversions. 

2. Improve paid ads attribution

Data is the new currency in paid advertising. However, more is needed to track your customers' behaviors - you need accurate data that tells a story about who they are and how best to reach them with ads, offers, or other communications relevant to their needs. This is what correct attribution is all about. 

Server-side tracking can help you improve the quality and accuracy of customer data sent with conversions to each advertising network. For example, with proper cookie lifetime and 1st party user data, paid channels like Facebook or TikTok receive a proper level of credit towards their campaigns, providing meaningful data on the channel or campaign responsible for each conversion. Learn more about FB server tracking, TikTok ss, Snapchat ss, and Google ads in our blog

3. Help comply with privacy regulations like GDPR.

JavaScript libraries on a site can track not only what you ask them to but also any additional info about the device, user, and more they can find on the site. 

This is not the case with ss tagging. With ss you have complete control and ownership of the data collected on the site. Only you can decide what data each platform can access and be 100% sure that no other data will be collected without your permission.

Another important aspect is that European-owned tagging servers can help EU websites comply with GDPR which prohibits data transfer of European customers outside of the EU. A few incidents in 2022 related to the illegal use of Google Analytics in the EU. But most likely, it’s just the beginning, and the subsequent regulations will consider other popular platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Bing, etc. 

4. Improve website pagespeed 

Website page loads can be slowed down by tracking scripts. For example, you may have heard that adding analytics or marketing JavaScript to your website could slow things down for visitors. This is because those scripts need time and resources before they are executed, which results in an increased load time of web pages. Not that just affects organic ranking, but it can also be visible to the end user, especially those on a slower internet. 

With server-side tracking tools, you can limit everything to one tracking script on your site that distributes information to analytics or marketing tools. Data distribution runs on a server-side, having zero effects on the website's performance. 

There are a bunch of tools on the market that help set up server-to-server trackings, such as server Google Tag Manager, Segment, Tealium, Adobe Launch, and other small players. In this guide, I will focus on the 3 most popular ones: server Google Tag Manager, Segment, and Tealium. 

1. Server Google Tag ManagerCopy link to this section

sGTM is the most popular tool for setting up and managing server-side tagging. sGTM container was released in 2020, and the interface looks very similar to the web one. The only significant difference is a new component is added - client. Client claims and processes requests in sGTM to the event data. 

sGTM is one of the cheapest solutions for server-to-server tagging. You must buy cloud servers to process and distribute data from your server to platform servers. With stape, you must host your sGTM containers for $20/month. We even have a free tier for small websites

Pros:

• the interface is free to use. You only need to pay for servers. 

• the most popular server-side tracking tool. It makes it easy to find how-tos, freelancers, or companies who can set up ss via sGTM. 

• community template gallery with a bunch of interrogations and solutions for sGTM. Besides that, the most prominent players in advertising and tracking market their tags, clients, and triggers for sGTM. 

• Using sGTM can be GDPR compliant when using EU cloud infrastructure

Cons: 

• for those unfamiliar with GTM might be hard to set up. 

• no support from Google Tag Manager. 

2. SegmentCopy link to this section

Segment is a tool that combines the functionality of web and server GTM, adding a few features on tops, such as personas or CDP. Compared to GTM, the segment tried to make the tagging process more straightforward. It was initially designed as a tagging tool for non-technical specialists. 

But with simplicity comes an increased price. Segment has a Free plan that fits small websites with less than 1000 visitors/month and uses only two destinations. Most small websites will need the next tier, which costs $120/month and include 10,000 visitors/per month. If you have a more significant business with more than 30 000 users a day, you will need to pay more. 

In the end, it may be more profitable for you to hire an sGTM professional to set up web GTM and sGTM tagging and pay a one-time setup cost than recurring costs that will grow if your site grows.

Pros:

• easy to set up tool.

• develops new destinations and integrations quite often

• provides email support even for the free tier 

• besides web and server tagging tools offer solutions on top

Cons:

• costs. It may be 100x times more expensive than using GTM. It all depends on the traffic volume and tools of the suite you need. 

• no community gallery, which affects the number of integrations. 

• GDPR compliance might be an issue. 

3. TealiumCopy link to this section

From my experience, Tealium is a choice of big enterprise companies that, for some reason, don't want to use GTM either because of Google360 costs or features that Tealium offers compared to GTM. 

Tealium's versatility makes it a complex tool to use. Learning the ropes of this platform will take time, but when you find your footing, there are no limits to what can be accomplished!

Pros:

• an advanced set of features for tagging 

• the support team is available

Cons:

• enterprise-level price

• complexity

Why using the GTM ss tagging tool is the best optionCopy link to this section

I believe server GTM is the best option for the ss tagging solutions among all tools. The reasons are simple: web GTM is free, and sGTM is cheaper than most competitors. In addition, the number of integrations in sGTM is enormous due to a community gallery. 

You can even hire a specialist to develop a custom solution for you. BTW, at stape, we do that often for our clients, so if you need help with a custom tag or any time of integration with the database, etc., feel free to reach out to agency@stape.io.

Please visit the stape blog if you are interested in what possibilities sGTM can give you. We have many articles on only sGTM tags and more advanced techniques like enriching data, storing data, etc. 

Conclusion:Copy link to this section

Thank you for reading! We hope this article has helped introduce you to server-side tagging and shown you some of the most popular server-side tracking tools. If you are interested in learning more about sGTM or what possibilities it can offer your company, Stape has great solutions. Our team of experts is always happy to help new users get started with tracking and answer any questions.

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Host your GTM server at Staperight now!