The Whole Story Behind Server-Side Tagging (SST)

Effective digital marketing needs excellent data quality. But effected by ad blockers and tracking prevention, marketing tools often only capture a part of your users’ behavioral data. Other users will not be recognized when they revisit your website. And some browsers already now prevent tracking by default, which as a negative side effect also blocks your collection of marketing data. The result is an incomplete customer journey, false attribution and a partial waste of advertising spend.

The emerging trend in data collection is server-side tagging. New regulations designed to protect users’ privacy online are making it difficult and time-consuming to acquire data. Cookies have become the de facto standard for gathering information online. However, with the impending disappearance of third-party and cross-domain tracking cookies, data collection and accurate analysis are becoming considerably more challenging. Already, many industries are experiencing data loss at rates of 30% and climbing. In this article, we will explore server-side tagging, its benefits, and its role in addressing these challenges.

server side tagging CookieInfo
Server side tagging – CookieInfo

What does “tagging on the server” mean?

The most common question we receive is about the concept of “tagging on the server.” Tagging can also be done on the server side as an alternative to the more common client-side method. In the client-side approach, the user’s browser is where the pixels and cookies are placed, and the information is then transmitted to the services you use, such as Google Analytics or Google Ads. However, this data flow can be obstructed.

When tags are applied on the server side, the data flow is reversed. Tracking scripts are loaded directly from your domain, and all data is transmitted to your own server before being used. This creates a new layer where you can manage which information is accessible to which programs from your own server. The main benefit of this approach is that the data stream is uninterrupted. But there’s more to it than that.

The advantages of tagging on the server side

There are many benefits to using tags stored on the server. Let’s explore some of the top advantages:

1. More information available for use: Data is crucial in web marketing, and cookies and conversion tags play a vital role in assessing the success of marketing initiatives. However, privacy concerns and evolving regulations are limiting the amount of information that can be collected. By utilizing server-side tagging, you can overcome some of these limitations and have access to more data, enabling better analysis and optimization of your campaigns.

2. Enhanced data management: With server-side tagging, you have greater control over how data is managed. You can decide what information is made available to different tags and programs, providing more flexibility in data sharing and privacy compliance. This is particularly important for websites dealing with sensitive topics or industries that require strict data control.

3. Compliance with data privacy regulations: The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and other data privacy regulations are becoming increasingly important. Storing data on servers located in specific regions can help ensure compliance with these regulations. By default, the TAGGRS server-side tagging hosting service, uses servers in the Netherlands, allowing your use of Google Analytics to be compliant with local laws.

GDPR compliant use of Google Analytics 4
GDPR compliant use of Google Analytics 4.

4. Improved website performance: Loading multiple scripts, pixels, and cookies the traditional way can slow down website performance, negatively impacting SEO and user experience. By managing tags synchronously on the server, you can reduce loading times and improve website speed, resulting in a better user experience and potentially higher conversion rates.

5. Greater adaptability: Many businesses use various software applications for their daily operations, and each program collects data. Server-side tagging provides opportunities to consolidate and integrate data from multiple applications. For example, you can enrich conversion data with information from a customer relationship management system, leading to better-targeted advertising and increased sales.

Is there a downside to server-side tagging?

While server-side tagging offers numerous benefits, there are a few drawbacks to consider:

1. Limited program support: Not all programs currently support server-side tagging. For example, LinkedIn requires client-side installation, which can pose challenges when implementing server-side tagging. However, as server-side tagging gains traction, more programs are likely to adopt and support it in the future.

2. Complexity: Configuring web container tags, triggers, and variables can be complex, especially when adding the server-side dimension. As server-side tagging is a relatively new area, there might be limited documentation and resources available. However, as the practice becomes more widespread, resources and guidance will likely increase.

3. Potential costs: Implementing server-side tagging with Google Tag Manager may require server space, and using Google Cloud services can involve costs starting at €120 monthly. However, specialized server-side tagging hosting services like TAGGRS offer competitive pricing options, including plans starting at €25 per month for basic websites.

What are the first steps in implementing server-side tagging?

If you’ve decided to explore server-side tagging, it’s essential to know where to start. While there are various options for implementing server-side tagging, we recommend using Google Tag Manager (GTM) as it seamlessly integrates with your existing setup. Follow these steps to add server-side tagging to your current system of tags:

  1. Set up a container for your website in Google Tag Manager.
  2. Optional: Establish a functional datalayer for online stores and transactions.
  3. Set up a separate server for Google Tag Manager server-side tagging.
  4. Configure a subdomain for your server.
  5. Arrange web server hosting.

We understand that server-side tagging might seem complicated initially, but we are here to help. The TAGGRS solution provides a comprehensive setup process and guidance tailored to your company’s needs.

Making the switch to server-side tagging can benefit your company and customers alike. Sign up for TAGGRS at no cost, and we will assist you in configuring and optimizing your tracking to achieve its full potential.