Server-Side Tagging: The Future of Web Data Collection

Up to 60% more data through first-party collection

Server-side tagging: The future of web data collection

Due to regulatory restrictions and rising user expectations regarding their data handling, server-side tagging marks a turning point in how companies can collect user data. This method shifts data collection from the client (i.e., the user's browser) to a proprietary server. This not only gives companies full control over data collection but also ensures data security and privacy.
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Comparison of client-side and server-side tagging

Insight into data collection methods

There are two approaches to data collection: client-side tagging and server-side tagging. While client-side tagging is widely used due to its ease of implementation and cost efficiency, it exhibits significant weaknesses compared to server-side tagging.

Client-Side-Tagging Process

Feature comparison

Client-side tagging vs. server-side tagging

Client-side tagging Server-side tagging
Implementation with Google Tag Manager
Bypassing browser tracking prevention and ad blockers
Tracking without cookies
Tracking without consent
Tagging-server required
Possible reduction in the number of tags used
Enrichment of event and user data possible
Data transfer to a third country Only if desired
client side tagging vs server side tagging

The challenge: client-side tagging

Up to 60% data loss due to technical barriers and user rejection

Those relying on client-side tagging must be aware that up to 60% of valuable data can be lost. Generally, user data cannot be processed without their consent, as the transmission involves personal information such as IP addresses. Often, however, this personal information is not necessary to analyze user behavior on a website.

Furthermore, modern browsers and installed ad blockers can block the transmission of data to services like Google Analytics. As a result, the data may either arrive at Google Analytics inaccurately or be completely lost.

The outcome is that ultimately, only about 40% of the total data may be available for analysis, depending on the user consent rate.

Server-side tagging - Advantages

Privacy-compliant tracking without consent through anonymization

Tracking without consent

Privacy-compliant tracking without consent through anonymization

For web analytics, personal data is not necessarily required. By using server-side tagging, user data collection can be conducted in a privacy-compliant manner without the need for explicit consent via a cookie banner. This is made possible by removing personal data on the tagging server before forwarding it to third parties. In this way, you can still gain valuable insights into user behavior on your website while anonymizing the data of those who have not given consent.

Your advantages include:

 Server-Control: Complete control over data processing on the server, enabling the anonymization of user data before storage or analysis
  Compliance with Privacy Laws: The Server Tag Manager offers sufficient flexibility to adjust data collection to your specific legal situation
 Security: Enhances data security through server-side processing, reducing risks associated with data leaks or misuse
The key to bypassing ad blockers and browser tracking prevention

Bypassing browser tracking prevention

The key to bypassing ad blockers and browser tracking prevention

Server-side tagging enables the bypassing of both browser tracking prevention measures and ad blockers. This is particularly relevant as more users deploy ad blockers and browsers implement stricter privacy settings to limit tracking of user activities. Since data collection and processing in server-side tagging occur on the provider's server rather than directly in the end user's browser, it circumvents the usual detection mechanisms of ad blockers and the limitations imposed by browser privacy settings.

Your advantages include:

 Ad blocker circumvention: Less susceptible to blocking by ad blockers since data collection occurs server-side
 Tracking prevention circumvention: Can circumvent restrictive browser tracking settings since data collection does not occur directly in the browser
 Improved data collection: Enables more consistent and complete collection of user data, independent of client-side restrictions
Optimizing Core Web Vitals: Less JavaScript for faster loading times and improved SEO

Improved website performance

Optimization of Core Web Vitals: Less JavaScript for faster loading times and improved SEO

Excessive use of JavaScript is negatively evaluated in Google's Core Web Vitals (CWV). By shifting the burden of tag processing from the client (browser) to the server, not only can the speed of your website be enhanced, but the use of JavaScript can also be reduced. Less JavaScript and tags in the browser lead to faster loading times and better Core Web Vitals scores, which improves user experience and can have positive effects on Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Your advantages include:

 Reduced loading times: Fewer client-side scripts speed up webpage loading
 Improved Core Web Vitals: A reduced amount of JavaScript improves the CWVs
  Increased crawling efficiency: Faster pages are preferred by search engines and crawled more efficiently
Enhanced page evaluation: Fast loading times and optimized user experience contribute to better SEO rankings
CNIL confirms: Server-side tagging strengthens data protection and prevents data export

Full control

CNIL confirms: Server-side tagging enhances data protection and prevents data export

The French data protection authority, CNIL, has confirmed the effectiveness of server-side tagging as an effective method to prevent the unwanted transfer of personal data of users abroad. With a dedicated server, you can precisely control which data and how it is transmitted to third-party servers like Google Ads or Google Analytics. You maintain full control and can ensure that only the desired information is shared, thereby protecting the privacy of your users and ensuring compliance with data protection regulations.

Your advantages include:

 Data centralization: Collecting and processing data on the server leads to better control and oversight
 Improved data protection compliance: Easier management of data protection requirements, as personal data can be filtered and protected server-side
 Encryption and security protocols: Implementation of stronger encryption and security measures on the server

Server-Side-Tagging implementation

Server-side-Tagging Implementierung-2
1. Setup 

Setting up a Google Tag Manager server on Google Cloud, AWS, Azure, or a private server.

2. Configuration 

Configuration of the server-side Tag Manager container in the Google Tag Manager interface.

3. Installation

Integration of the server-side Tag Manager into the website infrastructure.

4. Migration 

Migration of various tracking services from the client-side to the server-side Tag Manager container.

How the company increases its Google Analytics data by 40% in compliance with GDPR

Server-side tagging success story

How the company increased its GDPR-compliant Google Analytics data by 40%

Like many companies, Düsseldorf Tourism uses analytics data, always ensuring that it is collected from the web analytics tool Google Analytics in compliance with GDPR to enhance the user experience on their website. DWC assisted in setting up a Google Server Tag Manager, which not only significantly improved the quantity and quality of the collected data but also implemented an effective, privacy-compliant strategy by transitioning to first-party data.

  • Full data control by bypassing all common browser tracking preventions and ad blockers
  • At the same time, first-party tracking ensures the GDPR-compliant use of Google Analytics and the Google Tag Manager (GTM)
  • The end result: A GDPR-compliant increase in data volume by 40% with improved data quality
Ihr Partner für server-side-Tagging

Collaboration with DWC

Your partner for server-side tagging

At DWC, we possess extensive experience in server-side tagging, continuously expanded through numerous successful projects worldwide. As a full-service partner, we handle not only the setup and configuration of your server tag manager but also the setup and maintenance of the infrastructure. Rely on our expertise for a seamless integration of server-side tagging into your digital strategy.

Our services include:

  • Conceptualization & consultation
  • Setup, optimization & maintenance of infrastructure (Google Cloud, AWS, Azure & On-Prem)
  • Migration from client-side to server-side tagging
  • Implementation and/or development of custom tags and clients for your Server Tag Manager
  • Load and performance testing

Your questions, our answers

Frequently asked questions

What tools can I use to use server-side tagging?

We recommend using Google Server Tag Manager for the tagging server and Google Analytics 4 for data transfer from the browser to the server. However, there are also alternative solutions available, such as Tealium, Matomo, Jentis, or custom developments. Feel free to contact us, and we will help you find the right technology stack for your needs!

Is Google Server Tag Manager a replacement for Web Tag Manager?

No! The various Tag Manager products from Google's various tag manager products differ in their basic functions:

Web/Client Tag Manager: Used for deploying "tags" (individual tracking hits) based on defined triggers and rules.

Server Tag Manager: Acts as a data receiver on the tagging server and functions as a proxy, which receives data sent from the Web/Client Tag Manager and forwards it.


What impact does server-side tagging have on the end of third-party cookies?

Google's decision to phase out third-party cookies has significantly impacted many website operators and advertisers. However, server-side tagging can help mitigate data loss. Advertising providers (such as Google Ads or Meta) now offer alternative solutions for measuring ad conversions across websites. A tagging server plays a crucial role here, as conversion data is transmitted via a first-party domain and thus can avoid being captured by browser tracking prevention measures.

Is server-side tagging GDPR compliant?

Of course, a lot depends on the individual configuration. A server tag manager is not a cure-all that allows for the processing of any data or the setting of cookies without consent. However, a correctly configured server tag manager can not only help meet the requirements of the GDPR and other privacy laws but also enable the operator to collect additional data (even without consent) that could not be processed with client-side tagging.

What costs should I anticipate for operating a server tag manager?

The server tag manager offered by Google is accessible for free to all companies, so there are no licensing fees. However, deploying a tagging server requires provisioning your own server, and hosting fees may apply depending on the provider. The cost largely depends on the amount of traffic processed and other factors such as location, redundancy, and scalability. As a benchmark, operating in Google Cloud might cost around 45 euros per month for computing capacity that can handle up to 50 simultaneous requests.

We are happy to assist you in planning your costs and can offer valuable insights into how you can reduce expenses – do not hesitate to contact us!

Do I need to use Google Cloud for hosting?

No. While we recommend Google Cloud Platform (GCP) because it offers three well-integrated options—Cloud Run, App Engine, and Kubernetes Engine—that can be quickly deployed and flexibly adapted to any requirement, the software of Google Server Tag Manager runs in a Docker container and can therefore be operated anywhere Docker is supported. This includes AWS, Azure Cloud, or any other hosting provider that offers Virtual Private Servers (VPS).

How complicated is the setup? Do I really need a service provider for this?

It depends. In general, configuring Google Analytics 4 on the server tag manager is relatively simple. Google also provides good documentation for deploying the server, allowing you to set up a tagging server in no time. However, please note that the success of your web tracking/online marketing and the GDPR compliance of your website depend on the setup of the server tag manager. With incorrect configuration, you could quickly incur fines or create significant gaps in your tracking data due to critical errors. Additionally, operating the server tag manager in the cloud can result in very high bills if you do not know how to properly configure and secure the service.

Our recommendation is therefore to assess whether you have the following resources available within your team:

  • Cloud architect/cloud expert for operating container applications
  • Cloud security expert
  • Expert in the Google Marketing Platform and server tag manager software
  • Expert in Google Analytics 4 and any other tracking/marketing services to be connected to the server tag manager
  • JavaScript developer for creating custom tags and clients within the server tag manager container
  • IT-savvy data protection expert with a good understanding of web tracking and server-side tagging

Our consulting team can support you in all these areas cost-effectively and from a single source if you need help!

Are the solutions from or good alternatives to your own server?

We advise against using SaaS providers for hosting the Google Server Tag Manager for several reasons:

  • The data flow through a third-party can diminish the data protection advantage. Data processing agreements with these providers are required, and there must be trust that they are familiar with and comply with all relevant data protection laws in your region.
  • "Out-of-the-box" solutions are often more expensive and less efficient than operating your own server.
  • The lower flexibility limits the customization options for your tagging server.
  • Often, no "uptime guarantee" is provided, and there can be longer downtimes during which no data can be captured.
  • Especially, operating through a SaaS provider offers no added value compared to running your own server tag manager.


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