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How to achieve resilience, agility, and control over data with server-side tracking

Alain Friedli
Published on
Over the last three years, server-side data collection has emerged as a leading trend among marketing, data, legal, and IT teams. Challenges surrounding an increasingly pressing need for controlled data collection (such as applying “proxification” to conform with France’s CNIL regulations) and marketing performance measurement (i.e. market conversion API deployment) have demonstrated the obvious benefits of server-side tracking. Indeed, transferring data from server to server with proxy integration allows for complete control over what is sent to partners. In France, until July 2023, CNIL restrictions on data collection bolstered the deployment of server-side tagging on the market. These restrictions often rendered proxies indispensable, as the latter apply filters on collected data. However, on July 10, 2023, the European Commission ruled that the US had reached a satisfactory level of protection for personal data. As a result, data can now be freely transferred from the EU without having to rely on server-side tracking and its associated proxies. Is server-side tracking no longer needed for businesses, then? No – far from it. Aside from their CNIL/proxy-related use case, server-side measurement techniques also grant increased control, agility, and resilience in constantly evolving conditions, and server-side architecture proposes solutions to many of the challenges faced by marketing, IT, and product teams.

#1 Regaining control over data sharing

Server-side tracking lets you take back control over what data gets shared. Before any request is sent to your partners, each parameter can be filtered or edited (such as IP address, user ID or user agent) during its transfer to the server-side TMS. This allows advertisers to comply with regulations, whether imposed by legislation or induced by internal privacy policies. Based on a standardized, unique measuring protocol on the client’s side, server-side tracking also reinforces control by centralizing the activation of partner requests. By removing piggybacking (i.e., a tag loaded onto a website by another tag), this process also increases transparency. New functionalities allow these modifications to be applied directly from the user interface, such as Transformations on Google’s server-side GTM or a similar feature on PlatformX’s Commanders Act. As brands face appearing and disappearing restrictions they must rapidly conform to, server-side architecture brings the necessary agility for teams to adapt their data collection techniques.

Complete control over data collection

Transparency and control against piggybacking

#2 Real-time data collection enrichment

Aside from control over data, server-side architecture also allows for the enrichment of data collection. The specific data required for proper reporting or campaign optimization is not always available in a website’s code when a request is sent to a partner. This scarcity may be due to confidentiality (sensitive data such as client information or product margins) or complexity (architecture intricacy or a demanding tag updating process) issues. However, data collection can be enriched by the server-side TMS as the request travels, with information gleaned from the cloud or, more simply, from a spreadsheet. Thus, advertisers can activate advanced use cases, such as value-based bidding, by maximizing the generated margin.

Server-side tracking enrichment

#3 Resilient measuring processes

As trackers become increasingly limited, especially 3rd party cookies, a major challenge faced by marketing teams is understanding the effectiveness of their active marketing levers. Browser-implemented cookie limitations complicate this process further as attribution is largely based on this data. Contrastingly, server-side architecture utilizes HTTP cookies, which are more resilient than their JavaScript counterparts. Deposited server-side, these HTTP cookies are also more durable. Leveraging this approved, reliable data allows for more flexible measuring and better understanding of marketing levers efficiency.

The upcoming disappearance of 3rd party cookies is forcing advertisers to rely on their 1st party data to assess activation success – a reliance made easier and more secure with server-side measurement (cf. #1,2).

Attribution window according to cookie type

#4 Improved customer experience

While browsing advertisers' websites, the proliferation of javascript tags and associated requests increases web pages loading times. Server-side tracking streamlines these browser calls as each user action results in a single server-side TMS request, which feeds data collection for all partners. Decreasing the volume of triggered scripts on a website reduces loading times, ultimately improving user experience. As a result, advertisers can directly impact their website conversion rate by optimizing their data collection architecture.  

Website performance optimization

Server-side architecture guarantees agility in uncertain times. Once integrated within cloud infrastructure, server-side tracking brings control, resilience, and flexibility. It allows for advanced measurement and activation use cases and for cookie-less readiness.  

As of today, server-side measuring coexists with its client-side counterpart, but in the near future, it will establish itself as the gold standard for collection by providing:

  • Easy, simple control over what data is sent to media and analytics partners
  • Robust media attribution and better media mix efficiency insights
  • Lighter websites and improved user experience
  • Speedy, agile data collection adjustments
  • Richer collection fed by sensitive or back-end-only data

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