What is Server-Side Tracking?
Client and server-side tracking are two routes to collecting audience data. With client-side tracking, the user’s browser (client) sends data to the tracking platform’s server. Server-side tracking sends the user data to your website server first before being transferred to the tracking platform.
Examples of the tracking platform’s servers are Google Analytics or social media platforms such as Facebook. This is typically achieved using small pieces of code (cookies, tags, or pixels) embedded in the website.
Why is Server-side Tracking Important?
Marketers have traditionally relied on analytics and audience data gathered through third-party cookies on the client-side to inform their marketing and advertising campaigns and to assess website performance. But growing privacy concerns among consumers, increasingly stringent regulations, and browser restrictions limit the ability to collect data in this way. Marketers are losing 10-30% of tracking data due to Ad Blockers and intelligent tracking prevention (ITP) imposed by the browser.
Current methods to track eCommerce transactions using these client-side events result in significant measurement errors and broken customer journeys. This means the revenue attributable to your paid marketing efforts is underestimated:
1. Default and In-app Safari Browsers Analyzed Separately
A user clicks an advert on a social media platform such as Facebook or Instagram;
They are directed to a pop-up page using the in-app Safari browser;
They are sent to the payment platform or banking app to complete the transaction;
It is only on the thank-you page that the conversion is registered, and this is on the default browser on the user’s device;
Because the cookie IDs are not the same in the app and the default browser, they are analyzed as a new user;
This means the purchase is attributed to the thank-you page instead of the relevant ad campaign.
2. User’s Choice of Browser App Differs From the Default Browser
Many users choose a different browser app on their device than the default browser;
For example, the user might initiate a purchase in the Google Chrome browser on a Samsung Galaxy;
On completing payment in the banking environment, the user is redirected to the default (Samsung internet) browser;
Again, the transaction is attributed to the thank-you page, not the ad campaign.
Server-side transaction tracking (or cloud delivery) does not rely on the client-side thank-you page and therefore provides more accurate attribution data.
What percentage of your transactions have the thank-you page as a landing page? Visit our blog to find out what data you are missing.
How Does Server-Side Tracking Work?
Server-side tracking is where one central cloud-based repository collects all the audience data and forwards that data to third-party platforms. When tracking users in the browser, a website typically has multiple tracking scripts running simultaneously with cookies in first-party or third-party format. Moving to server-side tracking means capturing all behavioral events in a single stream and then distributing them to the end data collection platforms.
CM.com’s TraceDock solution offers a server-side tracking service that tracks each user using scripts that only run when they visit a webpage. It matches transaction data with session data resulting in accurate attribution in Google Analytics and Meta. Performing this on the server-side means it is captured as privacy-friendly first-party data, so storing data as a cookie on the user’s device is unnecessary. This anonymous tracker sends data directly to Google Analytics or your chosen website tracking tool to ensure you obtain a complete picture of your audience.
To achieve this, TraceDock creates a server-side Client ID that can be used for first-party web analytics. This is in hash format, whereby a short string of letters and/or numbers is generated using the user’s IP address, user agent, and website URL and is stored on the server rather than with the client. This makes the process irreversible (hashing only works in one direction and cannot be decrypted) and therefore anonymous and fully compliant with GDPR and privacy laws.
What Are the Benefits of Server-Side Tracking?
The main benefits of server-side tracking versus client-side tracking are that it:
Bypasses browser restrictions, ad blockers, and intelligent tracking prevention (ITP), resulting in more accurate data collection
Brings greater ownership and control: adding this extra layer (your server) makes this first-party data collection and affords you greater control and ownership. You decide which data to track and where to send it.
It makes the process privacy-friendly (because it is first-party data collection, it is GDPR-compliant)
For example, marketers can enrich the data by adding relevant CRM data. This means you can build improved customer relationships and deliver better user experiences.
If you still rely on traditional browser-based web analytics, you are not getting a complete and accurate picture of your audience’s online behavior and preferences. It’s time to explore cookieless, first-party data collection, and server-side tracking strategies.