Server-side tagging is a silver bullet that gives you improved data accuracy, performance, privacy, and flexibility.
In this guide you will get an introduction to server-side tagging in Google Tag Manager and learn how to get started with server-side tracking.
Introduction to Server-side tagging (tracking)
Server-side tagging in Google Tag Manager (sGTM) is a feature that allows users to move the tag execution from a website’s client-side (in the browser) to the server-side environment. This is a significant evolution from the traditional approach where all tracking tags are fired directly in the user’s browser.
Here are some of the benefits of server-side tagging:
Improved Data Accuracy
First party server-side cookies: Cookies are restricted more and more due to privacy concerns and the Apple Safari browser will expire client-side cookies in 7 days and in some cases 24 hours. Server-side tagging allows you to extend cookies to several years by using server-cookies.
Reduced ad blocker impact: Server-side tags can bypass some ad blockers that traditionally block client-side tags.
Improved Page Speed
Reduced Browser Load: Fewer tags and scripts are loaded in the browser, leading to faster page load times.
Optimized Network Requests: You can consolidate multiple requests into fewer ones and reduce the cookie-content overhead on each request.
Privacy and Security
Control Over Data: You have more control over the data that gets sent to third-party services, reducing the risk of leaking sensitive information.
Reduced Cross-Site Tracking: Reduces the ability for third-party services to track users across multiple websites.
Custom Integrations: Easier integration with custom back-end systems or databases.
Data Enrichment: Ability to enrich event data with server-side data before sending it to third-party tools.
So, what’s the downside?
The GTM server-side container is free, but hosting it is not free unless you have low traffic. A server-side solution is also more complex so if you are a beginner, you will probably need help or spend some time improving you GTM skills.
You can get sGTM hosting from $20 per month and some providers like Stape.io have a free tier for low traffic sites. The more data you track/process, the higher the price is.
The solution from Stape.io is a simplified approach that demands less technical expertise than solutions like Google Cloud Platform. Additionally, it provides valuable add-ons for enhanced functionality.