Browser technologies and data protection laws are permanently changing the framework conditions in online marketing. This forces us to break new ground in collecting user data.
We decide the distribution of the advertising budget on the basis of previous campaign services, but for this we need a solid database.
If we process the visitor data on the server, we can regain control over this data. In this way, we enable better privacy protection and circumvent browser restrictions.
By overcoming these hurdles, we can take on more responsibility and at the same time achieve a competitive advantage.
Table of Contents
» Our goal: Record 100% of all sessions, interactions and conversions in Google Analytics - and THAT based on existing tracking setups. «
Wolfram Bartke - Founder of DLYX.io
#1 The loss of data
Client-side tracking, the way Google Analytics and many other web tracking technologies collect user data, is an already subpar solution with steadily declining data quality.
Many of today's browsers, such as Safari (and all browsers on iOS), Firefox, Brave and more, depending on the browser settings, hamstring communication between the browser and the data collector. This is an ever-increasing trend, as privacy protection has recently become a popular selling point amongst browser vendors. Additionally, privacy protection plug-ins have been widely spread for quite some years now, so from the get-go – even without excessive privacy restrictions and cookie banners in place – a fair amount of data is already lost.
Comparing actual shop transactions to Google Analytics data, there usually is a discrepancy of 10% to 20% on the Google Analytics side of things — and that's without any consent mechanisms.
Adding in consent management / cookie banners, another 10% will be safely lost due to users deciding for a privacy shield, at which point channel performance analysis for marketers starts to become a guessing game.
On another page, extensive tracking scripts drag down page speed, and they communicate way more data than needed for sufficient marketing performance analysis.
It seems obvious that client-side tracking as it's been widely practiced for the past decade, is becoming outdated.
#2 The way out
With server-side tracking, all data is collected on the server and sent on directly to the data silo (Google Analytics), without any involvement of the browser. Hence, tracking prevention mechanisms of the browser will not be effective, as there is no direct connection between the browser and a third party.
This can give you the ability to record 100% of your visitors and transactions and it results in shorter loading times for the web pages.
Furthermore, it is possible to strip down and completely anonymize the data sent on to the data collector. Third party systems will never have access to users' ip addresses with server-side tracking. Only the cookie information including anonymized browser chracteristics will be disclosed.
Dealing with the GDP regulations, die ePrivacy regulation as well as the already invalidated Privacy Shield, all of the above are vital aspects.
However, pure server-side tracking can only record data that is already known at the point of downloading a web page – but important user interactions often take place after the page has been downloaded, e. g., clicks or interactions with on-page elements.
But realization of such a server-side tracking system can also by quite challenging, as it needs to be built from scratch up.
A hybrid tracking method combines the advantages of server- and client-side tracking. Dynamic interactions can be recorded in the browser and sent on to the server. With this approach, it is best practice to keep the involved client scripts as small as possible, and to have the tracking server to operate within the same domain as the website.
This way, the tracking setup remains in a first-party context, and communication with third parties takes place in the background, seperated from the user client. Chances of tracking being prevented by the browser are extremely small with this solution.
For the DLYX DataLayer Proxy, we had two main objectives:
- We finally wanted to be able to track 100% of our website visitors in Google Analytics.
- The integration process of our solution had to be quick and easy.
- DataLayer had to remain functional as a tracking basis.
- The tracking configuration should stay in Google Tag Manager.
- DLYX had to process and forward dataLayer events to Google Analytics in accordance with the individual configuration, as earlier set up in Google Tag Manager.
- A consent-free tracking in compliance with privacy regulations was another high objective of our solution.
- Campaign click IDs for conversion tracking needed to remain available.
Our current DLYX draft as on-premise solution provides:
- A server-side dataLayer processor.
- Support of all vital GTM Tags, Triggers and Variables for functional web analysis.
- Reduced tracking entities for measurement of anonymized sessions.
- Retroactive data completion in case of delayed opt-ins / consent.
- Tracking of up to 100% of all sessions and transactions.
- One-of-a-kind temporary memory for all GTM variables in the server session.
With DLYX, we provide the necessary means to improve Google Analytics Tracking, and will continue to reflect future technological and legislative changes in our product.
#3 Further tracking concepts
Every web server in standrd configuration generates logfiles. And using this data, page visits, and visitor sources can be analyzed. User interactions with a page and shop transactions, however, are rather unlikely to be found in server logfiles.
Logfile analysis can be an interesting data source, as it theoratically can provide data in hindsight. But for ecommerce, it does not suffice.
Since mid 2020, Google Tag Manager alternatively offers a "server-side" Container in addition to its standard client-side solution. But there is no possible direct connection between the dataLayer and the server-side Container, hence, it has to established with a usual client-Container.
Unfortunately and for most websites, the dataLayer forms the absolute basis of all performance tracking.
So the plethora of tracking scripts stays within the client, page loading times suffer, and the browser stays in cotnrol of tracking. As an example, the Brave browser suppresses script loading for the GTM Container, and in very effective manner renders the whole tracking setup useless.
At this point, Google's server-side tagging does not provide the improvement necessary to meet the changing tracking requirements.