Server side tagging

06 min

The future of website analytics tracking?  

In the ever-evolving world of online marketing and web analytics, companies are constantly having to find new ways to collect the accurate data needed to optimise their web presence while complying with strict data protection regulations. With the ban on third-party cookies and the increased use of tracking prevention by browsers such as Apple with its ITP (Intelligent Tracking Prevention) protocol, server side tagging is a technology that is becoming increasingly important in this context . In this article, we look at what server side tagging is, why it can be a smart choice and what factors need to be considered when implementing it. It also highlights negative factors and explains why server side tagging may not be suitable for every organisation .

What is server side tagging?

The two terms, server side tagging and server side tracking, which are often confused with each other, fulfil different functions. Server side tagging acts as an intermediary between different data sources such as websites, apps and other internet-enabled devices. The collected data is manipulated at server level before it is forwarded. Unlike tracking, which focuses on direct communication between servers.

The key difference is that server side tagging can collect and process data from different sources, while tracking focuses mainly on communication between servers. These two concepts can work together to provide a more comprehensive understanding of user behaviour. For example, server side tagging can be used to collect and process data from both server side and client side tracking.

Both tagging on the client side and on the server side and the associated tracking at client and server level play a fundamental role in the collection and provision of data. Both approaches have their own advantages. However, the functionality of server side tagging differs fundamentally from that of classic client-side tagging.

With client-side tagging, data is collected by a JavaScript or similar scripts that are loaded and executed in the user’s browser and sent directly to the provider of the tracking services, such as Google Analytics. Each data collection takes place as a direct request from the user’s browser to the provider. In contrast, with server side tagging, a single JavaScript code is installed on D of a website, which is responsible for data collection. The collected data is then not sent directly from the user’s browser, but from a server of the website operator to the recipient, such as an analytics platform. The server acts as an additional instance between the client (the user’s browser) and the third-party providers (tools). This makes it possible to centralise data processing and increase control over the collected data.

How the principle of server side tagging works

The following figure outlines the principle of server side taggings. The boxes reflect the various tools, for example Google Analytics, Google Ads or Facebook wiwhich data is sent from the browser to . With client side tagging (left), the unprocessed data is sent directly to these tools. In contrast, with server side tagging, a server side tagmanager is placed in between. This serves as an intermediate instance, which receives the data before it is passed on to third-party providers.

Advantages of server side tagging

Data protection and compliance

With the increasing awareness of data protection and the associated data protection laws such as the GDPR, it is crucial for companies to ensure that they act in a data protection-compliant manner. Server side tagging can help with compliance with these laws. By implementing server side tagging, third-party providers lose direct access to the websites. Your server thus serves as a direct buffer for user behaviour and personal data, as the tracked data can be processed before it is passed on to the tools. Server side tagging enables the anonymisation or pseudonymisation of user data, for example by excluding IP addresses, which makes it possible to track user behaviour without violating the user’s privacy. Adjustments such as these minimise the risk of violating data protection regulations and at the same time allow to continue using certain tools .

Accuracy of the data

In recent years, browser manufacturers have increasingly been using intelligent tracking prevention (ITP). By using ITPs, connections to tracking servers such as Facebook or Google are automatically blocked or even false data is sent. However, this only affects third-party cookies. First-party cookies are excluded from this. This also results in reliable tracking with accurate data in the future.

With the constant adjustments to browsers by their manufacturer , for example  the cookie runtimes are drastically shortened. This has a negative impact on marketing activities such as the placement of Google Ads. Server tagging provides the option of extending the cookie runtimes. By implementing a S erver-S t agmanager on of your own domain the request for , for example Google Analytics , is first sent to your own server and only then forwarded to Google Analytics. This also allows browser extensions and adblockers to have less influence on data collection , which also leads to more precise results.


Companies with a high volume of data can benefit from the scalability of server side tagging. Server infrastructures are often better able to handle large volumes of data, which is an advantage for companies with heavy data traffic. There are now various providers besides Google with their Google Cloud platform, which make it possible to keep tracking flexible in terms of website traffic.


Server side tagging enables customised data collection and processing. Organisations can implement customised tracking logic and data processing rules to collect exactly the data that is relevant to their specific requirements.

Page speed

A common problem that leads to longer website loading times is the large number of cookies that have to be downloaded each time a page is called up. A separate JavaScript file is integrated for each service provider, particularly in the case of client-side data collection. This can lead to unnecessary code being loaded when using multiple marketing and analytics tools such as Google Analytics and Facebook, as many of these tools collect similar data. If client-side tagging has been used in the past and several of these tracking services are used, it is likely that performance analysis tools such as Google Lighthouse will suggest improvements by recommending that fewer JavaScript files are loaded.
The implementation of server side tracking is an effective solution to significantly improve the results of Core Web Vitals. Here, only one JavaScript file, for example that of the Google Tag Manager, is loaded  and the recorded data is only transferred once. This is from the browser to the tracking server. The data is processed there and, if necessary, forwarded to the relevant third-party providers.

Functions of server side tagging.
Functions of server side tagging

Want to find out more about Google Tag Manager? Check out our eo:magazine article about it! 😊

Disadvantages of server side tagging

Complexity of the implementation

Server side tagging usually requires more technical expertise and time to set up and maintain. For smaller companies without resources or technical expertise, this can be a financial hurdle .


Running servers to perform server side tracking can be costly, especially if the website or app generates a lot of traffic. Nevertheless, the long-term costs of not using it are clearly higher, as a much greater effort is required.

Delays in data processing

As the data has to be transferred from the user’s browser to the server before it can be processed, there may be delays in data collection and processing. This can be problematic in real-time analytics environments. However, you do not analyse interactions with your own website in real time, but retrospectively over a longer period of time.

Limited flexibility for real-time analysis

In environments where real-time analysis or immediate response to user activity is required, server side tracking may be less suitable as it is usually not as fast as client-side tracking.

What is important?

Server side tagging is a key to precise data collection on websites and apps. For this approach to work smoothly and deliver the desired benefits, there are several key factors to consider. Choosing the right server infrastructure is the foundation of this system. The servers must not only be able to process the collected data reliably, but also be scalable to meet the demands of growing data traffic. This requires careful planning and investment in the technical basis. Security is of paramount importance as the data transport mechanisms and server infrastructure handle the most sensitive information. The implementation of encryption and secure authentication methods are essential to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of data and protect it from unauthorised access.

Compliance with all applicable data protection guidelines and laws is essential. Server-side tagging can help with this, as less data is processed directly in the user’s browser. Nevertheless, it is essential to understand the regulatory requirements and implement them consistently. Continuous monitoring and regular maintenance of the server infrastructure are necessary to ensure that tracking works smoothly and no data is lost. The stability and performance of the system depend on careful maintenance. The right combination of these factors ensures not only efficient data collection, but also compliance with data protection standards and the smooth functioning of server side tagging. The technology offers companies the opportunity to optimise their web presence while maintaining data integrity and user security.

Server side tagging is an innovative method for your company

To summarise, server side tagging opens up an innovative method of tagging that could take web tracking into a new era. Server side tagging is suitable for companies with data-driven activities that continue to require user data for their future growth. Server side tagging is helpful for organisations that have the resources to set up and manage it. By implementing it on the server side and using first-party cookies instead of third-party cookies, there are numerous benefits such as improved data control, faster loading times and seamless tracking of user behaviour.

With increasingly stringent data protection regulations and mechanisms to prevent tagging in browsers and plug-ins, the future of third-party tagging is increasingly uncertain. It is possible that client-side tagging will soon become less important.

By introducing server side tagging, for example via the Google Tag Manager (GTM), you can optimally equip yourself for the future of tagging. However, configuring and setting up server-side tagging can be a challenge.


What is server side tagging?

Server side tagging is a process in which tracking tags and scripts are executed on a server instead of in the user’s browser in order to control data collection and processing.

Why should I use server side tagging?

Server side tagging offers benefits such as improved data protection, better data quality, optimised website performance and more control over data collection

How does server side tagging work?

With server side tagging, the user’s browser sends a request to a server, which then executes the tracking tags and forwards the collected data to the relevant analytics or marketing platforms.

What are the advantages of server side tagging over client side tagging?

The main advantages are a higher level of data protection, improved data quality, faster website loading times and greater flexibility and control for companies.

Does server side tagging affect website performance?

Yes, positively. As fewer scripts are executed in the user’s browser, the loading times of your website can be improved.

Alina Hahn is passionate about performance marketing and web analytics. With a bachelor's degree in business management specialising in online marketing and a traineeship at eology, she has extensive experience in consulting and implementing tracking tasks and paid ads. Alina loves to work data-driven, which helps companies achieve their marketing goals. Her passion for online marketing inspires her every day to achieve the best results for her clients.


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