Server-side tracking: How it can boost campaign performance

Server-side tracking: How it can boost campaign performance

Are you looking to improve the accuracy of your campaign data while navigating the ever-changing landscape of digital privacy?  For a marketer, server-side tracking may be just what you need, as its importance burgeons. 

Unlike client-side tracking which depends on browsers that often face data integrity issues, server-side tracking sends user data directly from your servers to your analytics tools. This results in more reliable data collection, better compliance with privacy regulations, and less interference from browser-based limitations like ad blockers or cookie restrictions.

Here’s what server-side tracking entails, how it outperforms client-side methods, and why adopting it can elevate your marketing campaigns.

 

Key Takeaways

 

What is server-side tracking?

Server-side tracking is a web analytics method that routes user activity data directly to a server, bypassing the user’s browser. The process is facilitated by a dedicated server acting as an intermediary, collecting data from the website and sending it directly to the data destination, such as:

…and more!

This method offers a more accurate and reliable data collection process that enhances marketing performance by reducing dependency on the user’s browser.

 

Server-side vs. client-side tracking

In the world of analytics, both server-side and client-side tracking are essential methods used to transmit data collected from a browser to an analytics platform. Client-side tracking collects data directly in the user’s browser via JavaScript tags, which involves tagging a website with a small piece of code that is executed whenever users interact with the site. This allows for real-time data collection and immediate insight into user behaviour. However, this method can be susceptible to issues such as data blocking by browsers or the presence of ad blockers, which can misrepresent the data collected and lead to less reliable analytics.

On the other hand, server-side tracking collects data by sending it to a web server or another type of server before passing it to the destination. By handling data on the server, this approach overcomes many of the shortcomings associated with client-side tracking, resulting in a data set that is both more consistent and less susceptible to the disruptions commonly caused by client-end issues.

 

How is client-side tracking affecting campaign performance?

Launching a campaign often involves integrating a pixel or code snippet to track user interactions and measure conversions resulting from traffic generated by each marketing platform or channel.

These pixels or code snippets drop first-party and third-party cookies into the user’s web browser for tracking purposes. However, with rising challenges and limitations, such cookies stored via client-side tracking no longer work as intended.

As a result, the majority of brands still utilising client-side tracking face issues with poor data collection and accuracy, hindering the performance of their campaigns.

 

Third-party cookies phasing out by the second half of 2024

Third-party cookies have been an integral part of web experiences for nearly three decades, supporting a range of online experiences, from helping users log in to showing them relevant ads.

However, as privacy concerns grow, these cookies are set to be phased out by the second half of 2024, creating a significant shift in the landscape of data tracking. The impending disappearance of third-party cookies means that website operators need a new way to identify users, learn about their activities, and share data with partners.

This new method needs to be privacy-compliant and not browser-dependent, prompting a shift towards server-side tracking methods.

 

First-party cookie expiration due to Apple’s ITP

Another challenge facing marketers is the Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) feature introduced by Apple. ITP limits the use of cookies set in a first-party context, affecting how data is collected and used for marketing purposes.

When a user browses a website in Safari, first-party cookies remain active for up to 7 days, unless it is set from a domain whose IP matches at least 50% of your website IP address. ITP deletes all cookies created in JavaScript and all other script-writeable storage after 7 days of no user interaction with the website.

This significantly reduces the amount of time marketers have to track user interactions and gather valuable data for their campaigns, effectively shrinking the window of opportunity for capturing user engagement and conversion metrics. In practical terms, this means that marketers must act more swiftly and efficiently in analysing user behaviour, optimising their campaigns, and retargeting potential customers. The shortened data lifespan may require more frequent and dynamic campaign adjustments to ensure that the insights gained are as timely and relevant as possible.

 

Ad blockers prevent data collection

Ad blockers represent another hurdle for marketers using client-side tracking. These tools, designed to eliminate intrusive advertisements, can block data not related to ads in certain scenarios.

With more and more users installing ad blockers, these can prevent client-side tracking from capturing data accurately, affecting the effectiveness of marketing strategies.

 

Benefits of server-side tracking for marketing

Addressing the challenges of client-side tracking, server-side tracking offers numerous benefits for marketing.

 

Prolongs first-party cookie expiration

One significant advantage of server-side tracking is its ability to prolong the expiration of first-party cookies. By setting them as first-party cookies and extending their lifespan, server-side tracking maintains valuable user tracking data.

This method overcomes the limitations imposed on third-party cookies by browsers like Safari and Firefox, ensuring that valuable user data remains available for longer periods.

This extended availability helps marketers track user interactions more effectively, leading to improved campaign performance.

 

Reduces impact of ad blockers

While ad blockers are effective at obstructing client-side tracking, server-side tracking circumvents this obstacle by utilising a website’s subdomain.

This approach complicates the ad blockers’ ability to identify and impede tracking requests, enabling marketers to collect data even from those users with ad blockers installed.

 

Improves page load time

Another major benefit of server-side tracking is the improvement in page load time. By moving heavy tags and complex logic to the server’s side, the burden on client browsers is significantly reduced, leading to improved site performance and page load time.

Scripts from third parties can be a drag on your website’s speed, which impacts user experience and potentially search rankings. With server-side tracking, these scripts are moved to the server, reducing the load on the client’s browser and improving the user experience. 

This results in faster page load time, smoother user experiences, and, ultimately better conversion rates.

 

Data accuracy

Data accuracy is a critical aspect of any marketing campaign. The more accurate your data, the better your insights and the more effective your marketing strategies.

Server-side tracking provides increased data accuracy by avoiding data loss due to challenges with client-side cookies, tracking restrictions and ad blockers. This method ensures a more comprehensive data collection by mitigating the risk of data loss when cookies are blocked or deleted.

Additionally, server-side tracking bypasses the limitations often encountered with client-side tracking, such as cross-domain tracking issues and user data inconsistencies due to browser privacy settings.

As a result, marketers can rely on a more consistent and holistic view of user interactions, which is crucial for analysing the effectiveness of campaigns and making data-driven decisions to optimise marketing strategies.

 

Data control & security

Data control and security are major concerns for any brand. When you deploy web tracking pixels, there’s no guarantee regarding the extent of data they extract from your site. For instance, they can collect users’ first and last names without notifying you. This lack of control can lead to leaks of personally identifiable information (PII), a major privacy concern.

Server-side tracking addresses this concern by giving you complete control over what data is sent to vendors. You decide what data you want to share with third-party vendors, ensuring that data is safer when collected and shared in a customer-managed, server-side environment.

This increased control and security make server-side tracking an essential tool for brands aiming to comply with data privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA.

 

Get more conversions with server-side tracking now!

Given the numerous benefits of server-side tracking, there’s no better time to adopt it to improve campaign performance and increase conversions. Much like the migration from Universal Analytics to GA4, the shift to server-side tracking is inevitable and highly beneficial.

Brands that have made the switch are already seeing improved performance:

Now’s the time to get more conversions with server-side conversion tracking, utilising conversion data, and optimisation!

 

Summary

In conclusion, server-side tracking offers a powerful solution for overcoming limitations and challenges posed by client-side tracking. It provides high-quality, accurate data that enhances marketing performance. It also offers greater data control and security, ensuring compliance with data privacy regulations.

Adopting server-side tracking is more than just a strategy; it’s a necessity in the rapidly evolving digital marketing landscape. It’s time to take control of your data, improve the effectiveness of your campaigns, and achieve your marketing objectives with server-side tracking!

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is server-side conversion tracking?

Server-side conversion tracking is a method where a central system collects and relays data to third-party vendors, streamlining the data collection and delivery process. This involves sending one data stream to a cloud-based repository and then transmitting the data to vendors.

 

What is the difference between server-side tracking and client-side tracking?

The main difference between server-side tracking and client-side tracking lies in where the data is collected from. Client-side tracking gathers data directly from the user’s browser, while server-side tracking obtains information from the data collection server before relaying it to the tracking platform.

 

What is the benefit of server-side tracking?

Server-side tracking benefits include offloading the processing burden from client devices, leading to increased application and device performance. Additionally, it offers increased control over data and the ability to receive data in a first-party context, circumventing ad blockers and browser tracking protection.

 

How does server-side tracking prolong first-party cookie expiration?

Server-side tracking extends cookie lifespans, setting them as first-party cookies to bypass browser restrictions on third-party cookies. By classifying cookies as first-party, they are subject to fewer restrictions and enjoy a longer lifespan, maintaining a stable means of tracking over time despite increasing browser privacy measures.


Written By

Michelle Tenoudji