Server-side Tracking setup with Google Tag Manager

With traditional Client-Side Tracking, your users’ browsers get cluttered with all sorts of third-party JavaScript downloaded by the numerous marketing pixels implemented on your website. This all changes with the rollout of Google Tag Manager server side implementation.

Advantages of Server-Side Tracking
  1. Reduced page load time
  2. Higher compliance, send only the data you approve
  3. First Party Cookies, reduce the impact of ad blockers
  4. Solve the limiting cookie expiration on Safari (ITP)
  5. Hide sensitive API Keys and Client Secrets

Every time one of those marketing pixels are installed on your website, you have basically established a direct communication channel between your users’ web browsers and the third-party vendor’s platforms.

With Server-Side Tracking instead, for every event happening on your website a single HTTP request is sent to your own server. From there, behind the scenes, you can manage which data to send to third-party vendors, after having it cleaned and filtered to your requirements.

This paradigm-shifting technology brings many advantages to web tracking:

Reduced page load time

A web page downloads and processes numerous resources in order to fully load, and with the current average number of JavaScript snippets used for statistics or marketing purposes, your website ends loading very slowly, even if the scripts are loaded asynchronously.

With sGTM, a single transmission of information is passed to your server-side GTM container. The latter then changes the data it in accordance with your specifications, and send it to the third-party platforms of your choice (for example Google Analytics, Facebook Ads, CRM, etc.).

Currently, because only a minority of third-party platforms provide sGTM templates to use with the GTM server-side tracking container, we can help building custom API calls to your vendors platforms, so that you can start reaping the benefits of server-side tracking without waiting for the industry to catch up.

Higher compliance, send only the data you approve

Third-party pixels, more often than not, can and do collect more data about your users than you think, for example device info like screen size, browser and OS, browser preferences etc. With server-side tracking, you can control exactly what is sent to those vendors, and in which format, as the data is intercepted and modified before it is sent to its destination.

Hence, you can delete any data that might be used for profiling and fingerprinting users before it reaches its final destination. This provides enormous advantages for GDPR compliance and related privacy safeguards.

First Party Cookies / Reduce the impact of ad blockers

As your server will ideally sit on a subdomain of your top-level domain, the majority of ad blockers will let the tracking data to be sent to it, without blocking this type of traffic.

You have the ability to edit the response returned to the website from the server-side container, such as which cookies to set. Those can all be first-party cookies, as originating from the same top-level domain.

Solve the limiting cookie expiration on Safari (ITP)

The Apple Safari browser has a set of privacy-enhancing capabilities called Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP). One of its functions is to make first-party cookies created by JavaScript automatically expire in 7 days. This historically makes the tracking and identification of iOS users very difficult.

If the cookie is set from your server, instead, this limit can be avoided. In other words, the cookies expiration date is whatever you set it to be from your server.

Hide sensitive API Keys and Client Secrets

Security is also greatly improved as your API keys, client secrets or API tokens can be stored in the GTM Server-Side Container directly, without being passed in the users’ browsers at all.

The Google Analytics UA-ID, for example, can only be added on the server-side container level, and never appear when the website loads in the browser. This could potentially eliminate well-known spam techniques that rely on stealing the Google Analytics UA-ID and sending fake traffic to it.

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