server tracking


Pixels and tags have been used for a long time to track visitors to web resources. In turn, this helped to understand what exactly they are interested in when they go to a particular page of the site. Today, other methods are used for this. Some of the popular ones are as follows: 


  • server-side tracking;
  • tracking user actions on websites that rely on cloud web servers rather than the visitor’s browser. 


Analytical tracking methods on the server and client-side show the level of user interaction with the client site, and application. They are used to move the data collected from the Internet browser to the platform. 


Let’s consider the advantages of server-side vs. client-side analytics tracking.


Client-side tracking

Client-side tracking is used to connect web resources to tracking platforms. Such high confidence in this method is due to the following advantages:


  • easy setup;
  • provision of detailed information about the behavior;
  • flexible deployment;
  • delineation.


The client browser sends information to a tag management system (Google Tag Manager and others), an analytics platform. By connecting a site to Google Tag Manager, it sends information to the following platforms:


  • TikTok;
  • Google Analytics; 
  • Mailchimp;
  • Facebook and others. 


For uninterrupted client-side tracking, it is necessary to enter the Google Tag Manager code (or any other tag management system) into the website. The ideal solution is to create a data layer and set up tags and triggers. Then, they send a report of client activity to third-party tools.


When using this method, the call is made from the browser. It allows access to the following information about the browser and the user:


  • UTM parameters;
  • IP address; 
  • cookie;
  • user agent;
  • referrer.


For a long time, client-side tracking was the preferred way to collect data. However, everything is changing. Client-side tracking is becoming problematic because of the rejection of third-party cookies. 


ITP and other browser mechanisms limit the lifetime of cookies and prevent fingerprinting and CNAME masking, giving us inaccurate information. In addition, a large percentage of web users around the world use ad blocking, thereby blocking tracking technologies. 


What are the shortcomings of tracking on the client side:


  • site performance degradation;
  • preventing ad blockers and ITPs from collecting data, which reduces data quality;
  • low level of security;
  • lack of ownership of the data.


In summary, client-side tracking provides inaccurate information. In other words, the user will receive confusing or invalid data.


Server-Side Tracking

It’s critical for marketers to consider analytics and channel performance data to understand shifts, budget direction, or strategy. For this, server-side tracking is used.


Using this method, the user can collect data on the server side rather than the client side. The collected information is sent to the server with the user’s site or application. The data is then transmitted to the final destination.


There are traditional and modern server-side tracking methods. Server-side tracking originated in the 1990s. The original statistics consisted of counts of the number of client requests (or hits) made on the web server. In addition, some transactions were recorded in a log file. Later, analysts decided that a program that provided information about the popularity level of a website could read these log files. 

Log analytics is the initial method of server-side tracking. 


One of the popular ways of server-side tracking is using SDKs/APIs. This method can collect information about users and their interactions on applications or servers using special APIs and server-side tracking libraries. 


The process of analyzing user log data is called log analytics. The method extracts records according to specific criteria to provide information about the data. 


The server logs’ data are of a different quality than those extracted by client JavaScript. Server logs do not store information about cookies set in the user’s browser, making it challenging to identify visitors.


Server-side tracking is a more reliable and secure way to collect and distribute sensitive information.


By setting up server-side tracking of the client website, we get sending data to a cloud server. Then, it distributes the information to third-party providers and tracking platforms (Google Tag Manager is one of the best data collection platforms). 


In this situation, the cloud server acts as a third party between the client information and the site (or any other source of data sent). What are the advantages of server-side tracking? Let’s learn more about that next:


  • ease of implementation (no special skills required);
  • reliability (server-side tracking gives more accurate information than client-side tracking since ss tracking is more resistant to ad blockers and ITPs, tags assign cookies in the 1st party concept);
  • sending data to the destination;
  • improvement of the site performance (in the client’s browser, it is possible to adjust Javascript (reduce or delete altogether), which will reduce the page load time, significantly improve the user experience, and will raise the rating);
  • data processing (using CRM systems, the tag dispatcher can contribute additional information);
  • the ability to control data from your website (the provider will only see the data that is configured in the GTM server tags or outgoing HTTP requests, additional information from the client site will not be available);
  • an extra level of security;
  • cookie validity period (GTM servers set their cookies, which significantly reduces the validity period of third-party cookies).


The disadvantages of server-side tracking include the high cost of a cloud server, the limited number of platforms that support this action, and the complexity of implementation compared to client-side tracking.


Because not all platforms support SS-tracking, it is impossible to switch entirely to the server side. But clients who are interested in increasing website performance, data accuracy, and user privacy are advised to implement server-side tracking. In addition, this will help to understand better analytics of user actions, which will undoubtedly positively impact the results of PPC specialists’ advertising campaigns. 


The use of the Google Tag Manager Server

A significant advance in server-side tracking was the release of the Server Google Tag Manager container. As the data source for your server’s GTM container, the web GTM is used when the web server and Google Tag Manager are connected. For example, Google Analytics 4 or Data Tag/Data Client sends data to the GTM server.


Server-side tracking has advantages over client-side tracking. But before starting to implement the tool, it is recommended to get acquainted with its disadvantages. First of all, it can be challenging to install on your own. 


Suppose you do not have the resources for server-side tracking. Experts recommend that you choose a dedicated analytics provider to provide support and customer service. Such a decision will significantly simplify your worries related to the day-to-day maintenance of server-side tracking.


By contacting the team of experts, the client will avoid such difficulties! 


Final Conclusions

Summing up all the above, we can draw the following conclusions. Collecting reliable information is the leading direction in the marketing strategy. The presence of unreliable data can lead to incorrect results. Client-side tracking can be unreliable if data privacy is restricted. In this case, the most appropriate solution would be to use another method – tracking on the server side.


According to Renta analysts, this method is the future of marketing. It provides reliable information to companies, the ability to retain ownership rights, allows them to control the amount of data they share, and controls who they share it with.