How Server-side tracking can help you improve your data collection and ad campaign results

How Server-side tracking can help you improve your data collection and ad campaign results
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To help with their marketing campaigns, every website owner would like to have as much information as possible about the people visiting that website. In this regard, you have mainly two options: client-side tracking and server-side tracking. To understand why server-side tracking is becoming increasingly popular, we need to understand the differences between these two methods and why server-side tracking is now more popular than it used to be.

Client-side Tracking And Why Its Popularity Is Waning 

For many years client-side tracking has been the default way of gathering data about website visitors. This method transfers data directly from the visitor’s browser (often referred to as the client) to an external server like Facebook or Google Analytics, where somebody can study it. What enables this data collection technique is small chunks of Javascript code referred to as ‘tags’, ‘pixels’, or ‘cookies’ that form part of the website code.

There are two main reasons why the popularity of client-side tracking is warning rapidly. In the first place, it is increasingly being targeted by government regulators across the globe. Many of them have issued strict privacy guidelines that have to be followed if website owners want to continue tracking website visitors. Disclaimers and the option to either wholly or partly opt out of data tracking have become standard requirements in many countries.

Another development that is eroding the popularity of client-side tracking is that many browsers have started to block tracking cookies, including Safari and Firefox. And recently, Google announced that its Chrome browser would soon follow suit – and it doesn’t plan to introduce any alternatives to take the place of third-party cookies.

What Is Server-Side Tracking? 

The online marketing industry had to devise a solution to address the decline of client-side tracking. It did so in the form of server-side tracking. As the name indicates, this refers to tracking website visitor data directly from the web server.

When a visitor’s computer or smartphone loads information from a website that employs server-side tracking, no tracking pixels, cookies, or similar privacy-invading techniques are used. The web server tracks information related to the request collected by default and stores it for future reference.

The following types of data can be collected with server-side tracking:

  • Website visitor numbers
  • The date and time of every visit
  • What pages the visitor accessed
  • Their approximate location (based on their IP number)
  • The domains that referred the visitor to your website
  • What browsers and operating systems the visitor used
  • The HTTP response codes they received after every request
  • The amount of data that was transferred to and from their device

The data collected this way is anonymous for all practical purposes.

How Can Server Side Tracking Improve Data Collection And Ad Campaign Results? 

The benefits of server-side tracking include the following:

  • It is not affected by the browser version or type of browser used by the website visitor.
  • Data quality is improved because it is unaffected by ITP (intelligent tracking protection) and ad blockers. One option is, e.g. to send this data to a subdomain such as, process it, and then upload it to Google Analytics.
  • You will no longer have to make decisions based on incomplete data, of which ad blockers have removed half. This means you will be able to target ads more accurately, which could also help to reduce the cost of advertising campaigns.
  • Security levels are improved because third-party tags are now on a secure server. You can decide whom this data is shared with. Therefore, the visitor’s browser data remains inaccessible to anyone with whom you share the information collected via server-side tracking.
  • You have complete control over data because it wasn’t collected from someone else’s computer, i.e. you own it, and you are free to do with it what you want.
  • Website loading times will be improved because of the lower processing requirements. This could lead to visitors spending more time on your website. And faster loading times will nearly always lead to SEO gains.
  • Server-side tracking creates the possibility to add, e.g. CRM data to incoming information to make it more relevant.

Server Side Tracking Is The Future Of Online Marketing 

From the above, with the regulatory environment getting stricter every year and ad blockers increasingly preventing web marketers from using client-side tracking, the future lies with server-side tracking.

Not only does it give website owners access to more reliable data, but it also helps to improve the effectiveness of targeted advertising campaigns. And with improved effectiveness often comes a reduction in costs.

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Written by
Founder & CEO | Quentin Weber is the dynamic force behind Unbound, a leading digital marketing agency in New Zealand. With over a decade of experience in the industry, Quentin's expertise spans strategic planning, innovative digital solutions, and client-centric approaches. Passionate about driving results and fostering growth, he leads a talented team committed to transforming digital landscapes and achieving exceptional outcomes for clients. Quentin's unique blend of professionalism and approachability sets the tone for Unbound's distinctive, no-nonsense approach to digital marketing.

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