What Is Google Tag Manager Server-Side Tracking?

In this article, I want to tell you about a new feature from Google, Tag Manager Server-Side Container. GTM server-side is a hot topic right now for all marketers, website owners, and developers. The main change in this technology is movie tracking from client-side to server-side. This functionality allows you to bypass tracking blockers, hide business logic in the server code, speed up website loading, and improve user data protection by restricting access to third-party scripts.

What Is Google Tag Manager Server-Side?

There are two ways to collect data about your website visitors: client-side and server-side—both with their benefits and restrictions. Existing tag management, analytics systems, and advertising services collect data using the Client-Side Tracking method. How does it work?

With Client-Side Tracking, the browser sends a request directly to the third party tracking service like Google Analytics. The interaction occurs between two parties: the browser (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc.) and a third-party service (Google Analytics, Facebook, etc.).

With Server-Side Tracking, an intermediate point is added, in the case – Google Tag Managers cloud server. The request goes first to the cloud server, then the server processes this request and sends it to a third-party system (Google Analytics). It means that instead of the client’s browser, the request is processed by the cloud server.

server-side schema

Why GTM Server-Side Container is Important?​

Many of you remember this screenshot from WWDC, where Apple announced a suite of new privacy features in the macOS Big Sur version of Safari. It included a new Intelligent Tracking Prevention system that was designed to prevent 3rd party cookie tracking on your website. Including Google Analytics that is installed on around 50% of all websites. With this update, you won’t track Safari users’ behavior, and it is around 15% of all users on your site. Mozilla’s Firefox is also blocking 3rd party cookies by default since summer 2019. If browsers will stop 3rd party cookies, you wouldn’t be able to see user’s behavior on your website and follow them around the internet with your remarketing ads.

intelligent tracking prevention

Intelligent Tracking Prevention technology is there, and it is designed to limit website owners’ ability to track users across domains. As privacy concerns increasing during the last several years, marketers and business owners expect that ITP technology will spread across all popular browsers and devices. 

How can you prepare for Intelligent Tracking Prevention? 

Move from using third party cookies to first-party cookies. And you can achieve that by integrating the Google Tag Manager Server container. If you set up GTM server-side on your subdomain, Adblockers and ITPs won’t be able to find and stop your tracking technologies. It will lead to better data quality. 

Another huge benefit that the Tag Manager Server Side container gives you is your website speed. Most of the time, massive third party codes and Javascript execution in user browsers are the biggest problem for website site speed and demand too much efforts to fix it. If you move javascript execution to the server-side, it will make your website load faster and rank higher. 

gtm server side google speed test

Tips and Reminders for Implementing Google Tag Manager Server Container

Setting up the GTM server-side is not an easy task. You’ll need various experiences: Google Tag Manager, Google Analytics, Google Cloud, and web technology in general. Plus, your development team will be involved in this process, especially if you want to test it on the production environment. 

Google offers a free test environment. But if you want to integrate it on production you will need to pay a minimum of $100/month + additional fees that depend on the website traffic. Google will charge you around $300/month if you have about 60k monthly visitors.

We created a service that will help you set up a GTM server-side container without any programming skills. It can be hosted either on your or our subdomain. The benefit of hosting it on your subdomain within the same top-level domain is that all requests will be considered a first-party cookie and prevent data loss. 

We offer a free plan for website with up to 5000 users/month. For the website with higher volume there are $20 and $100/month plans

How can you test Server-Side Tagging in Google Tag Manager?

You can easily set up server-side GTM using our service. Click this link to sign up.
After you create an account, to set up Server-Side Tracking, you will need:

  1. Access to your website’s domain name registrar.
  2. Access to publish content on your site, as the method requires hosting a GTM container.

Conclusions

Should you try server-side tracking? The answer is YES if you want to start collecting data about your website visitors and be prepared for things like Intelligent tracking protection.

GTM server-side container offers a reliable solution to website analytics. It will improve your data quality, user privacy, and speed up your website or app.