server side tracking
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Server-site tracking

Server-side tracking has become a key component of digital marketing and data analysis. With the increasing complexity of online data collection, server-side tracking offers a solution that navigates through tight legal frameworks and browser limitations. Read on to find out why server-side tracking is not just a nice-to-have - but a need-to-have.

Natasja Gronfeldt
- Head of Performance
Last updated: Jan 2, 2024

Tracking - why you need to keep track of your data

Tracking plays an important role in understanding how users interact with websites. It provides insight into which parts of a site capture interest and which do not. To customize and improve the user experience, you need to have insights into your users' data.

Data collection helps you identify trends, streamline your marketing and improve your online presence. To best meet your users' needs and expectations online, tracking their behavior is the alpha and omega.

What is server-site tracking (tagging)?

Server-site tracking, or server-site tagging as it's also known, has become a hot topic of conversation for marketers over the past few years, and for good reason. Because tracking has been caught in the crossfire between tough legal restrictions and browsers' handling of privacy and cookies. But server-side tracking is your solution to collect data - without being hindered by AdBlockers, GDPR regulations, unsaved cookies, etc.

Server-side tracking is an advanced form of data collection on the internet where information about users' activities on a website is collected and processed on a server.

Instead of using the user's browser to collect data, as in traditional tracking, server-side tracking sends the data directly from the website's servers to an analytics platform. This means that the data collection happens on the server side and does not depend on the user's browser or device.

Client-site tracking vs. server-site tracking

To put it simply, server-side tracking is server-level data collection, whereas traditional client-side tracking is browser-level. When you use client-site tracking, the data is transferred directly from the user's browser to the tracking platform's server.

However, collecting data through cookies in a browser comes with several challenges:

  • More people are using AdBlockers or browsers like Brave that stop JavaScript cookies.
  • Apple's updates make it difficult to track users on Apple devices as Safari blocks common third-party cookies with its Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP).
  • As more marketing channels and associated cookies are added, browsers become overloaded. Furthermore, it is possible for browsers to completely delete cookies from websites (Enhanced Safe Browsing in Chrome, Enhanced Tracking Protection in Firefox).
  • Shorter cookie lifespan, sometimes as short as 24 hours.

Only data from unblocked cookies and with a valid lifetime is tracked - and this is where server-side tracking becomes relevant.

By tracking at the server level rather than the browser level, you are less reliant on browsers like Safari and Chrome to forward information to third-party platforms like Google Analytics and Facebook.

This creates a kind of "middleman" where user data is sent to a server that you have at your disposal.

Why should you use server-site tracking?

Server-side tagging is not only an effective solution but also a necessity to meet modern demands for data security, accuracy and website performance. 

Server-site tracking gives you:

  • More control over your data: With server-side tracking, you have full control over how your data is collected, processed and where it goes. This allows you to tailor the data collection to your specific needs.
  • Better data security: Server-side tracking uses first-party cookies that only your server can read. This prevents third parties from accessing data and increases security.
  • Track more conversions: By bypassing AdBlockers, privacy browsers and Apple's Intelligent Tracking Prevention, you can track more conversions.
  • Reliable data across platforms: You get more accurate and reliable data for your statistics and marketing platforms, which can improve the efficiency of your marketing automation.
  • Less dependency on browsers: Avoid issues with AdBlockers and browser restrictions that can limit client-side tracking.
  • Better website speed: Server-side tracking can improve your website speed as it avoids loading heavy JavaScript tags in the browser.
  • Future solution: With third-party cookies on the way out, server-side tracking is a viable future solution for first-party data collection.

Pros and cons of server site and client site tracking

There are both advantages and disadvantages to the two tracking methods:

Server-side tracking - pros and cons


  • More accurate data collection as it is less affected by AdBlockers and browser technologies like ITP.
  • Improved website performance as tracking scripts do not burden the user's browser.
  • Higher levels of data protection and privacy compliance.


  • Technically more complex and may require advanced development resources.
  • Potentially higher costs for server operations.

Client-side tracking - pros and cons


  • Easier to implement and manage as it often involves standard cookies and JavaScript.
  • Good for real-time data and user-level interaction tracking.


  • More vulnerable to AdBlockers, browser settings and privacy technologies like ITP.
  • Can negatively affect website load speed and user experience.
  • Reduced precision in data collection due to limitations in browser-based tracking.

Server-site tagging adds value to your business

Server-side tagging is a game-changer for businesses looking to optimize their online presence. With server-side tagging, you get more accurate and reliable data on how users interact with your website. 

This means you can make informed decisions based on your customers' behavior and preferences.

Your business benefits from server-side tagging:

  • Better decision-making for your business/marketing as you have a more accurate picture of your marketing channels.
  • Server-site tagging can have a significant impact on your business/marketing decisions if you are missing up to 20%-40% of your data.
  • Streamlining advertising budgets when you advertise.

Setting up server-site tracking

Setting up server-site tracking requires technical savvy and can be a bit challenging if you're not used to working with tracking, as the setup has several stages:

  1. Platform selection: First, you need to choose the right platform. Google Tag Manager offers a server-side variant, which is popular. Consider the options based on your specific needs and the technology you already use.
  2. Server setup: You will need a dedicated server to run your server-side tracking. This can be hosted via Google Cloud or another cloud service like AWS or Azure.
  3. Configuring Tag Manager: In Google Tag Manager, you need to create a server-side container. This step requires a basic understanding of how Google Tag Manager works.
  4. Integration with analytics tools: Integrate server-side tracking with your analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, Facebook Pixel, etc.
  5. Testing and validation: Conduct thorough tests to ensure that tracking works properly and collects the desired data.
  6. Monitoring and maintenance: Continuous monitoring and maintenance is necessary to ensure your server-side tracking remains accurate and efficient.

Get even smarter about digital marketing

Whether you're a generalist or a marketing specialist, our specialists have put together some great advice for you on our blog.

Learn more about digital marketing in the Webamp Academy.