At Lynchpin, we’re eager to share how a server-side tracking deployment can inject a power boost to your website. If you’re keen on exploring the traditional benefits of server-side Google Tag Manager, we’ve covered them in (more technical) detail in a previous blog post.

It’s important to note that this blog maintains vendor neutrality; whether you opt for Adobe Launch server-side, server-side GTM or any other analytics vendor, the insights and strategies shared here are applicable across platforms. So, let’s delve into the myriad ways server-side analytics tracking can elevate your online presence and user experience.

What is the difference between client-side and server-side tracking?

In client-side analytics tracking, data is collected on the user’s browser or device, using scripts or tags embedded in the website’s code, often through a tag manager. These tags are usually written in JavaScript and run on the user’s browser, sending the data straight to an analytics vendor such as Google Analytics.

In server-side analytics tracking, the data is collected on a server, and any data processing and storage is performed on that server. As the owner of the server, you have direct control over what happens to that data, including its destination and any processing that may happen. You can still send the data to an analytics vendor, without the limitations of using your user’s browser or device.

1. Dynamic website content

A server-side tracking implementation gives you the tools to add content to your website based on real-time customer engagement with the site. This data can be pushed back to the website via a server-side tag or exposed via an API.

Take for example, social proof messaging in ecommerce stores. The concept has been around for a long time; messages like “hurry, only 5 in stock” or “100 bought in the last hour” give a sense of urgency.

Data collected server-side can be pushed straight back into the site, then crafted into compelling social proof messages, providing an authentic reflection of current popularity.

Imagine a product catalogue of “Most Popular” items that is populated based on viewing activity from the past 10 minutes – a real-time indicator of what’s trending right now!

So, how does a server-side implementation enable these features? The key lies in owning the data at the point of collection. Leveraging this ownership can help create a user experience that is not only engaging but also significantly boosts conversion rates.

2. Site performance

In our blog on GTM server-side, we spelled out in more technical terms why a server-side implementation reduces load on the site. With a client side implementation, every new vendor tag added through a tag manager adds its own JavaScript library to be loaded, and collects and sends its own data. This causes massive redundancy for every tag added, ending in page load times to increase. This problem never gets any better and often leads to difficult decisions pitting analytics against performance.

With server-side tracking, that load is taken away from the user’s browser, meaning that additional tracking causes little to no impact on the performance of your site.

Performance isn’t just an abstract ideal – it manifestly affects conversions. Mobile users feel site performance issues more keenly, and with many users being mobile first, it is more important than ever.

3. Enrich data at point of collection

Data Engineers and Scientists spend a lot of time stitching together disparate data sources to get a holistic view of their customer. Why not do this stitching at the point of collection instead?

  • Business sensitive data
    There might be some data that would be unwise to expose on the application, or is infeasible to do so.
    For example, you might have a data source with product costs. Once a purchase event has been collected, one can enrich it with product costs (and thus, profit) before sending it to the data warehouse. This enables you to have this analytics ready for consumption by end users, without complicated stitching. This data can also be fed directly into an analytics vendor for reporting purposes.
  • Customer Personalisation
    Other possibilities of data enrichment are focused on the customer. ‘this customer also bought these other products previously’ or ‘this user visited the site 100 times in the past month’.

4. Real-time analytics

Server-side tracking also gives access to real time data in a useable state, which can be fed into any sort of data product, whether that be a machine learning model, recommendation engine or real-time reporting dashboards.

Although there exists streaming capabilities for analytics vendors such as Google (BigQuery streaming Export) and Adobe (Real-time reporting), the keyword here is control – often these solutions are subject to rate limits and quotas, or have inherent cost implications.

5. Future proof for the death of the third-party cookie

What is absolutely clear is that third-party cookies are going to disappear from our browsers in the near future. Many tracking tags rely on these cookies in order to track conversions, and just keeping the current level of analytics will require significant investment. With many vendors supporting server-side implementations, it’s clear that investing in server-side tracking is the best way to future proof against the shifting horizons of the privacy landscape.

Again, more technical detail on this can be found in our blog on GTM server-side.

6. Privacy

There are quite rightly some concerns about how server-side tracking affects a user’s privacy. Server-side tracking is often able to bypass ad blockers or other methods of blocking tracking, and can mask how sites are tracking users when it’s hidden behind the server.

Turning this around however, server-side actually allows you to be more transparent about how you are using customer data, and can be integrated with any of the consent platforms on the market, allowing users clear options to opt out of tracking.

Being as transparent as possible with your users about how you are using their data has never been more important. Not only is it the right thing to do; but we are seeing a tougher line from regulators, with the UK Information Commissioner recently warning it will start clamping down on websites that are flouting GDPR and PECR legislation.

Here at Lynchpin we are experienced in navigating the privacy landscape in the UK and beyond, and can assist with any concerns you may have related to regulatory compliance or best practices for safeguarding the privacy of your users.

Server-side tracking has already changed the landscape of digital analytics. Leveraging the power that a server-side tracking implementation can transform not only your analytics capability, but your website in a much wider sense, enhancing the user experience and increasing conversions.

The key theme behind each benefit is control, as the owner of the data, you get to decide what to do with the data you collect. The examples in this blog are only scratching the surface of new possibilities that a server-side implementation can offer.

To find out how Lynchpin can help