What Is Server-Side Tracking and Do You Need It For Your eCommerce Website?

Server Side Tracking Guide

For eCommerce businesses, understanding user interactions on your website and have accurate conversion data is crucial for making informed business decisions. With so many privacy restrictions, pixels are no longer as effective at capturing accurate data as before which in turn may affect the optimization for advertising platforms like Facebook and Google.

Server-side tracking has emerged as a powerful tool to increase data accuracy and overcome the limitations posed by traditional pixel-based tracking methods.But what exactly is server-side tracking, and how can it benefit your business?

In this article, we’ll explore the mechanics behind how server-side tracking works, how it compares against traditional pixel tracking methods and how you can implement it on your website.

The Limitations of Classic Pixel-Based Tracking

Most websites are first set up using pixel-based tracking (like Google Analytics or Facebook Pixel) to monitor user interactions. Every time an interation or event happens on your website, the data is sent directly to the Google server.

This method faces challenges due to browser restrictions, ad blockers, and stringent privacy regulations, leading to incomplete data collection. For instance, Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) significantly curtails the effectiveness of pixels by restricting cookie functionality, thereby affecting the accuracy of analytics tools widely used by businesses.

Cookies have long been the backbone of data tracking, but the recent privacy restrictions have greatly crippled thier effectiveness. Another significant problem is the time for cookie expiration. ITP blocks all third party cookies by default and also caps first party cookies set with javacript to 7 days or 24 hours.

💡The workaround: ITP only acts on the client side cookies and not on server-side cookies which makes it possible to have an improved cookie lifespan that you can set to a custom number of days or years instead of just 7 days.

Impact on Online Paid Advertising Platforms

Not only is Google Analytics affected, but advertising platforms such as Facebook and Google ads have also been impacted.

Facebook ads have long been the pinnacle of online advertising, but after the iOS update that “killed” so many advertisers, conversions are no longer accurately captured and reported to the Facebook pixel. This in turn severely impacts campaign optimization efforts and limits the algorithm’s ability to learn properly.

The Advantages of Server-Side Tracking

Server-side tracking offers a solution to these challenges by ensuring data accuracy, reducing the impact of ad blockers, and providing a more robust approach to privacy compliance. It enables marketers to have more control over the data collected and shared, ensuring both data integrity and user trust. Moreover, server-side tracking extends the lifespan of cookies, allowing for more extended user engagement tracking.

  1. More control over your data and what gets reported
  2. Higher accuracy data reports for making business decisions
  3. Reduce the impact of ad blockers
  4. Overcome privacy compliants
  5. Prioirtize data integrity and user trust
  6. Cookies duration is no longer limited to only 7 days

Understanding What Server-Side Tracking Actually Is

Server-side tracking is an advanced method of collecting and managing user data directly from the server, bypassing the common pitfalls associated with client-side tracking (like pixels). This approach offers a more reliable and secure way to gather user behavior data, making it an invaluable asset for businesses aiming to make data-driven decisions.

This approach isn’t just an alternative to overcome privacy limitations. It’s actually a more reliable and secure way to gather user behaviour data that is accurate and can aid you to make better data-driven decisions to grow your business.

Implementing Server-Side Tracking: A Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Choose Your Server

Selecting the right server is crucial for effective server-side tracking. Consider factors such as traffic volume, data storage needs, and scalability. Cloud servers like Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Google Cloud Platform are recommended as they are reliable and offer flexible, robust solutions that can adapt to your traffic needs.

Step 2: Select a Server-Side Tag Management System

A server-side tag management system, like Google Tag Manager Server-Side, simplifies managing and deploying tags on your server. Ensure compatibility with your existing platforms for seamless data collection.

Step 3: Set Up Your Tags

Identify the key user interactions or events crucial to your business goals (e.g., form submissions, product purchases) and set up the corresponding tags in your chosen tag management system to capture this data accurately.

Step 4: Integrate with Your Website or App

This step involves making specific code changes to your website or app to facilitate data flow from the client to the server. Collaboration between developers and marketers is vital to ensure smooth integration.

Step 5: Test, Troubleshoot, and Optimize

After integration, thoroughly test the system to ensure tags are firing correctly and data is being collected without issues. Regularly review and optimize your setup to align with your evolving marketing and business objectives.

Should I Implement Server-Side Tracking Now?

Whether or not your business needs server-side tracking really depends on your current situation and goals.

For most businesses just starting out and making less than $10,000 a month in online sales, you probably wouldn’t need to implement it yet. Due to the additional technical resources and set-up required, it may not be worth your money or time to invest in this at the moment.

However if you are doing much larger numbers and are really looking to ramp up your advertising spend or marketing efforts, then you may want to consider this approach for more accurate data attribution.

Leveraging Server-Side Tracking for Your Business

Server-side tracking is not just a novelty upgrade; it’s increasingly becoming a necessity for businesses that want to maintain effective marketing strategies in the face of evolving digital challenges.

By implementing server-side tracking, you can achieve a higher level of data accuracy, overcome privacy and technical limitations, and ultimately make more informed decisions that drive your business forward.