Google Tag Manager (GTM) Launches a new feature “Server-Side Tagging” into public beta
Since Google Tag Manager’s launch in 2012, the platform has quickly become the industry standard for managing tracking scripts. GTM allows web developers and agencies to quickly and easily add, update, debug, and deploy measurement code to your site or app with the main purpose of tracking user interaction and website performance all in one place.
Google Tag Manager will trigger code to load when key events take place, as the code will be executed in the user’s browser. This does have a few drawbacks, however. One of which is that by having more tracking scripts, the site will likely take longer to load a web page. Additionally, some users may have specific browser plugins or settings that prevent all of your tracking scripts from working properly. We can now address these issues by moving code used for tracking purposes to cloud servers instead running them “client-side”.
What are the benefits of using Server-Side Tagging?
Google Tag Manager’s Server-Side Tagging allows you to run the tracking scripts on cloud servers instead of client side inside the end user’s web browser. For example, if you are using Google Analytics without server-side tagging, when a user visits your website they will also connect (analytics.google.com) to load a Google Analytics script. With the use of server-side tagging, the end user will not make a direct connection to (analytics.google.com), instead the Google Analytics script will load and run on the cloud server. When tracking events take place on the website, the code is sent to a cloud server where they are processed and routed.
The cloud servers are setup under subdomain on your site e.g. (gtm.yoursite.com). By setting up the servers under your domain you keep all data transfers between your site and the servers as first party data.
Tracking scripts are less likely to be blocked by ad blockers and third-party plugins as those tools are typically designed to block scripts by the URL e.g. (google-analytics.com). With Server-Side Tagging implemented they will now be hidden on the Cloud server.
Faster Load times
By moving third party code from website to a cloud server, the end user will no longer need to load the third-party code which will result in faster page time loads for the websites.
By running tracking scripts server side, tracking IDs and API keys will be hidden from the end user. This can also help prevent spam and keep API keys secret for increased security.
Data Collection Control
With server-side tracking, third party vendors will only have access to the data you provide them and will not be able to collect any additional information data on users who visit your site. By collecting and distributing data in a server-side environment data is sent through your cloud server before it is processed and routed by 3rd party tags.
Google Tag Manager Server-Side tagging currently offers built-in integrations with Google Analytics Universal (classic) and Google Analytics 4. In some cases, you will need to use APIs to connect to tracking platforms such as Facebook. More integration is expected to come; however, this is still early in the beta stage.
Drawbacks to Server-Side Tagging
Google Tag Manager Server-side tracking does have some drawbacks to also consider prior to implementation.
Unlike the standard version of Google Tag Manager, there are costs associated with GTM server-side tagging. You will need to set up virtual machines on the Google Cloud Service in order to run the integration.
Server-Side Tagging is still early in the beta and there is not a wealth of resources currently available.
Traditional Tracking Still Required
GTM Server Side Tagging does not completely replace the need for traditional tracking setup. Your website will need trigger events to send the GTM Server.
Some Tracking Features Not Available
It is unlikely that tracking that uses features such as heatmaps, mouse tracking, scroll tracking, and session recording will ever be made compatible.