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GTM server side tagging

Improving Marketing Analytics with GTM Server-Side Tagging

Server-side tagging from Google Tag Manager (GTM) offers a meaningful solution to the challenges raised by the regulatory environment. With regulatory tightening on personalization and retargeting in advertising, marketers need to be aware of the implications for their business. In this article, we discuss the most effective solutions you can use to adapt as marketing moves forward.

GTM server side tagging

Privacy Regulations and Analytics — What Does It Mean for Personalization?

There are a number of tracking technologies used in data collection and analytics, with third-party cookies being among the most common and controversial.

By using third-party cookies, your website collects a lot of PII (Personally Identifiable Information) about your users. This includes information such as IP addresses, search and browsing history, device details, and more. This data is then sent, traded, and sold to digital advertising companies, which isn’t in line with many consumers’ expectations of privacy as well as regulatory restrictions. 

Google announced in early 2020 that it plans to phase out third-party cookies by the end of 2020, starting with conversion measurement and personalization. Due to industry pushback and debate over their replacement, Google delayed phasing out third-party cookies by two years until 2024.

How do Cookies Affect Analytics and Marketing Campaigns?

There are two types of tracking cookies: first-party cookies and third-party cookies. The difference between first- and third-party cookies is that the former are created and managed by the website owner, whereas the latter are set by other websites.

A first-party cookie stores data on the host domain under the website owner’s control. Website owners also have access to a wide range of information, such as login information, language preferences, cart items, and privacy controls. This information is mainly used to improve user experience.

By contrast, a third-party cookie is one created by and maintained by a third party. This can be something as simple as a chat widget for customer support. This same service can collect user data on multiple websites and create a more detailed understanding of the user. 

What is Server-side Tagging?

The use of GTM server-side tagging allows you to move tracking cookies from your site to the cloud. 

Google Cloud Platform or other environments of your choice will host the servers, and you will have full access to the data until it is sent elsewhere. The choice of how and where data is routed from the server is entirely up to you. You can also build tags using JavaScript, determine their permissions, and limit the scope of a container. 

When a web request is received by a server from a user’s device, it is transformed into an event. Each event is processed by the container using tags, triggers, and variables. This is the same concept used in GTM, where your website fires tags based on predefined conditions.

This transformed data is then sent from the server to your analytics platforms. If you run Google Analytics server-side, the platform will only receive the data you choose to forward, which is much more secure than using client-side tracking.

Benefits of GTM Server-side Tagging

Prolong the Lifetime of Cookies

When setting up a server container in GTM, you’ll be advised to use a custom subdomain tied to your website. This will prevent browsers such as Safari and Firefox from deleting cookies on your site after a short period of time. 

Better Performance

With faster load times, your site’s core vitals are improved, which leads to better conversion rates. Server-side GTM tracks your user activity in the cloud so that your website doesn’t have to load resource-heavy tracking scripts. This makes your website lighter and faster, which is crucial for delivering a smooth user experience and increasing your SEO rankings.

Improved Security & Ensured Compliance

All data is first-party data when you use GTM server-side tagging, which makes it much easier to comply with privacy regulations such as GDPR and CCPA. With client-side tracking, third-party services on your site may be able to collect sensitive PII, which could result in legal issues and hefty fines down the road. 


Tracking continues despite third-party cookies being phased out. While they were critical tools for yesterday’s marketers, new technologies are now emerging.

To transition to the cookieless world, you need to make significant changes to your analytics strategy. This includes thinking about ways to improve your privacy compliance and user experience with novel tracking methods.

Server-side tracking has many advantages. We believe that enhanced tracking accuracy, faster page loading, and more control over your data will be key to running successful campaigns in the future. In light of the expiration of third-party cookies in 2024, you should consider adding server-side tracking to your marketing strategy. 

If you need help with setting up your GTM server-side tracking, let our team at e-CENS help. Get in touch today to future-proof your Digital Analytics. 

Sunil Attri

Sunil Attri

Certified in analytics technologies and methodologies and media stack, Sunil has over 14 years of experience in analytics, customer insights, business intelligence, and conversion rate optimization in web and mobile for a range of industries, such as retail, healthcare, media, finance, transportation, and hospitality.

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