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Server-Side Tagging

Comparing Server-Side and Client-Side Tagging

May 29, 2023
Google Analytics 4 Migration Via Tagmate

All of us know that data is the cornerstone of successful campaigns but increasing awareness regarding online privacy and seemingly unruly third-party cookies have pushed for massive changes in advertising technologies. Right from shifting to privacy-focused browsers and search engines like Vivaldi and DuckDuckGo to ad blockers, internet users have disrupted the market. So much so, governments across the world are tabling pro-privacy legislations, leaving the digital marketing and advertising industry in a state of shambles.

There are tough times ahead for all of us but adopting solutions like server-side tagging will put your business and its customers at the safer side. Unlike client-side tagging, it puts you in a better position to tackle these concerns.

The shift can be complicated, costly, and exhausting so it's essential to understand the differences between server-side and client-side tagging, along with their advantages and potential risks. 

In this article, we'll take a deep dive into these two tagging methodologies, explaining their basics, technical aspects, and comparing their safety.

Let’s begin

Understanding the Basics: Server-Side and Client-Side Tagging

Before we delve into the technicalities, let's first define server-side and client-side tagging.

What is Server-Side Tagging?

Server-side tagging involves collecting and processing data on the server, rather than on the user's device (client). This method sends data from the user's device to your server, where it is processed and forwarded to third-party tools such as analytics platforms, CRMs, and marketing services.

What is Client-Side Tagging?

Client-side tagging, on the other hand, involves processing and sending data directly from the user's device (client) to third-party tools. This is typically done through JavaScript code embedded in your website or mobile app, which captures user interactions and sends them directly to third-party services.

Comparing Server-Side and Client-Side Tagging

Now that we have a basic understanding of the two methodologies, let's go through their differences in terms of data accuracy, security, flexibility, and development-maintenance.

1. Data Accuracy

In terms of data accuracy, server-side tagging has an edge over client-side tagging. Client-side tagging is susceptible to inaccuracies due to ad-blockers, browser limitations, and other factors that may prevent the data from being collected or sent. Server-side tagging bypasses these issues by processing data on the server, ensuring more accurate data for analytics and advertising purposes.

Example: A user visits your website with an ad-blocker enabled. With client-side tagging, the ad-blocker might prevent data collection. In contrast, server-side tagging would still capture the user's interactions, as it doesn't rely on the client's environment.

2. Security and Privacy

When it comes to security and privacy, server-side tagging outperforms client-side tagging. Client-side code can be intercepted by malicious third-party scripts, putting sensitive user data at risk. With server-side tagging, the data is processed and stored on your server, which can be secured with encryption and robust access controls.

Example: Your website uses a third-party JavaScript library that has been compromised. If you were using client-side tagging, the attacker could intercept user data. In contrast, server-side tagging would not be affected, as it doesn't rely on client-side code.

3. Flexibility and Customization

Server-side tagging provides more flexibility and customization options compared to client-side tagging. Since you have full control over your server, you can tailor the logic and data collection process to your specific needs. This allows for a more refined and efficient data collection process.

Example: You want to collect custom data points or modify how data is formatted before sending it to third-party tools. With server-side tagging, you have more control and can easily implement these customizations.

4. Development And Maintenance

Despite its advantages, server-side tagging can be more complex to develop and maintain compared to client-side tagging. Implementing server-side tagging requires additional infrastructure, development resources, and potentially increased maintenance costs. On the other hand, client-side tagging can be simpler to implement, as it relies on pre-built scripts and libraries.

Example: To implement server-side tagging, you'll need to set up and maintain a server or use a serverless platform, whereas client-side tagging can be integrated by simply adding a few lines of JavaScript code to your website.

Choosing The Right Tagging Method For Your Business

There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to choosing between server-side and client-side tagging. Both methodologies have their pros and cons, and the right choice depends on your specific needs and goals.

Consider the following factors when making your decision:

  1. Data accuracy: If accurate data is crucial for your analytics or advertising efforts, server-side tagging may be the better option.
  2. Security and privacy: If your website or app collects sensitive user data, server-side tagging offers a more secure and private solution.
  3. Flexibility and customization: If you require a high level of control over your data collection process, server-side tagging allows for greater customization.
  4. Development and maintenance: If simplicity and lower maintenance costs are important, client-side tagging may be more suitable.

Wrap Up

Indeed, server-side tagging can provide more accurate, secure, and customizable tracking compared to client-side tagging. However, it may also require additional development and maintenance resources, and may not be necessary for all websites or mobile apps. 

Remember, you must always keep your target audience's privacy and security in mind, and stay informed about the latest developments in data collection best practices regardless of the approach you choose.

Tagmate is a SaaS web tagging tool that helps you automate both client-side and server-side tagging. It replaces days worth of work with a few clicks while ensuring superior accuracy. Using Tagmate doesn't require any technical knowledge and it saves you tons of time and money. 

Too good to believe? Try Tagmate for free now!

Top questions people ask about Server Side Tagging
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