As digital marketers, we rely on the web analytics data we collect to inform our strategies, measure the success of what we do, and identify opportunities to improve the user’s experience on our websites.
The industry has seen a change over the last few years, with increased legislation, regulation and expectations related to user privacy, as well as a rise in the use of ad blockers forcing us to reevaluate how we collect and use data.
One way this is being solved is with the advent of server-side Google Tag Manager implementations, which aim to address many of the concerns in this changing landscape. Traditionally, data collection has taken place directly in a user’s browser, where a tracking pixel fires upon page load and pushes data to 3rd party providers such as Google Analytics for processing.
Server side implementations shift this from a third-party tracking approach to first-party, with the tag management system running on a server linked to your own domain, rather than in the user’s browser. Instead of data being sent to the various 3rd parties, it’s routed to your server instead, which then passes this along as and when needed.
Implementing tracking in a server environment isn’t new – this was previously possible via the Google Analytics Measurement Protocol, which was a complex and laborious process that was only used as a last resort. Setting up a server-side Google Tag manager instance is much simpler while keeping the flexibility a tag management solution provides.
These solutions offer a different approach to measurement, with a number of clear benefits.
The benefits of a server-side tracking implementation
Improved Site Performance
Better Data Control
A server-side implementation gives you much more control over the data captured, as well as over what gets sent to 3rd party providers. Instead of every marketing pixel capturing as much identifying information as possible, having these run in a server allows you to limit what data gets passed along – key to addressing user privacy concerns.
Limit The Impact Of Ad Blockers
Reducing Google Analytics Spam
There’s been a rise in Google Analytics spam over the last few years, with bots scraping websites for tracking IDs and flooding them with automated hits posing as actual data, often having a big impact on data accuracy. Server-side implementations limit the impact of these by removing any tracking code from the browser and restricting what can be scraped by these spam bots.
A server-side implementation isn’t for everyone, and one of the main considerations is the cost involved. Where a traditional browser-side tracking implementation can easily be run cost-free, the server-based approach requires Google Cloud Platform hosting, which incurs a cost.
This cost is variable based on your requirements, starting around $40 USD per month, and increases along with the amount of data collected. Google also recommends running 3 instances to reduce the risk of data loss in case of an outage, so you could easily be looking at $120 USD per month to move across to a server-side approach.
The decision to move to a server-side Google Tag Manager implementation comes down to weighing the costs involved against the benefits of better data accuracy, improved site performance and more control over what gets collected by 3rd parties.
If you’re considering making this change, Algorithm Agency can assist in migrating your existing tracking to a server-side environment. Contact us for more information.
Author : Derik Nieman