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Server Side Tagging explained simply

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Reading time 4 minutes
By Guido Sombroek

You read it everywhere. Google Chrome has started phasing out "Third Party Cookies. 'Third Party Cookies' are text files, in the form of a script, that Google places in your browser. This is how they monitor what you do online and communicate this to Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest, for example. The "accidental" ads you see when you have been searching for shoes are not "accidental. Instagram knows, through third party cookies, that you have been searching for shoes and lets their advertisers use this information.

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Google Chrome stops allowing "third party cookies.

As of Jan. 1, Google stopped allowing certain types of these text files (third-party cookies) in Chrome. They are starting first with a small group of users and want to do it for everyone by Q3 of the year. A company with a lot of ads on Instagram, based on interests, will be able to target less specifically in the future. This is because those interests are no longer allowed to be stored due to changes in laws and regulations about them.

Two ways of collecting information

There are two ways commonly used to collect data. The terms for these are "Client Side" and "Server Side. In practice, 'Client Side' means someone else is storing your data. Server Side means that you store your data yourself.

Client side tagging

Currently, most people use the Client Side way. Take Google Analytics and the schurq website as an example. Google places a "third party cookie" at www.schurq.nl that allows them to see how long a user reads a blog and then what page it clicks to. Data about a user's behavior (1) on schurq's website. (2) is sent to a Google server (3). On that server, it is anonymized and then visualized in Google Analytics 4. Google is the third party that participates after which it is only anonymized. This is no longer allowed under the amended laws and regulations.

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Server Side tagging

And then Server Side. A technical story using Google Tag Manager and its own server. In this case, schurq. places a cookie. That cookie is from schurq. itself and is therefore 'first party'. The data about a user's behavior (1) on schurq.'s website. (2) is shot to its own server (2). So there is no 'third party'. From that own server it is encrypted. Fully anonymized data is forwarded to Google Analytics 4 in accordance with laws and regulations. By adding our own server in the process we ensure that data is stored first party. And there are advantages to that.

The Benefits of Server Side Tagging

  • You are the boss of your own data. Stored on your server that you control. The information is cleaner and more complete, and you can filter the data before you share it. And because it's on your own server, not someone else's, you get to keep it longer.
  • Faster website. This is because "third party cookies" are loaded via a script. That loading takes time. The more scripts, the longer it takes for the website to load.
  • Less to no trouble from adblockers. This is because they block scripts that forward data to another domain. You can think of a domain as an address. To give an example: Google's script forwards data to a Google server. That server is located on a domain. The domain of that server could be, for example, www.analytics.google.a7ie9ahv02kf or something similar. Google's script is located on schurq's website. (https://www.schurq.nl). Because www.analytics.google.a7ie9ahv02kf is a different domain than www.schurq.nl, it is blocked by adblockers.
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What happens if I do nothing?

Your data is clouding. This means that in the future you can no longer blindly trust what Google Analytics 4 shows. In practice, you will see that more and more visitors have entered the website through 'direct traffic.' Where you used to see a clear division into 'organic visitors via google', 'direct traffic' or 'LinkedIn advertising' this will all be categorized under 'direct traffic'. If you pay €300 to LinkedIn so that your ads are displayed, then you want to know how many requests come in. If you don't switch, then tracking these requests becomes much more difficult.

Need help with server side tagging?

We help you store your data properly. Please contact us for a free consultation.

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Guido Sombroek
Guido Sombroek

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