Navigating the Future: A Migration Plan from Tracking Cookies to Server-Side Tagging

In the ever-evolving landscape of digital marketing, professionals are gearing up for a seismic shift as major analytics and marketing platforms, including giants like Google Analytics and Facebook, move towards deprecating tracking cookies. This shift necessitates a strategic migration plan to ensure that marketers continue to glean valuable insights and effectively target their audience. In this article, we delve into the world of server-side tagging, exploring its potential benefits and outlining a top-level migration plan for digital marketing professionals.


Google Chrome and Market Share

Google Chrome, holding 65% desktop and 64% mobile market share, is phasing out third-party cookies by 2022. This compels marketers to adopt server-side tagging for more reliable analytics in the face of evolving user privacy and data governance for the simple reason that browser (client side) cookies will no longer be able to hold this information.

Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP)

With Apple’s Safari imposing restrictions on third-party cookies through ITP, advertisers face numerous challenges using conventional tracking methods. Server-side tagging proves crucial by executing tracking operations away from browser constraints, ensuring more dependable data collection amidst ITP restrictions.

Understanding the Shift

As concerns surrounding user privacy have intensified over the last decade, the impending deprecation of tracking cookies marks a pivotal moment for marketers. The gradual phasing out of these cookies by major platforms like Google and Facebook signals a paradigm shift in how digital marketing data is collected. In response to these changes, server-side tagging emerges as a promising alternative, offering more robust, accurate, and privacy-conscious methods of tracking user interactions.

Server-side tagging

Benefits of Server-Side Tagging

Server-side tagging provides a panacea to the challenges posed by the cookie deprecation wave. Unlike cookies, which are vulnerable to ad-blockers and browser restrictions, server-side tagging occurs on the backend, ensuring more reliable data collection. This approach minimises the impact of browser variations, enhances data accuracy and sidesteps common pitfalls associated with client-side tracking.

Server-side tagging

Top-Level Migration Plan

In the cookieless future, customer-centric approaches guided by meticulous data collection are the key to effective media planning and measurement. Embracing server-side tagging with a structured migration plan not only adapts to the evolving landscape but can enhance customer insight because marketers can enhance tracking tags with 1st party data. There is definitely greater complexity with running a server side setup but the rewards are numerous.

Assessment and Audit

Begin the migration process by conducting a comprehensive assessment of your current tracking infrastructure. Identify all instances where tracking cookies are employed and evaluate their impact on analytics and marketing efforts. Audit existing tags, pixels, and scripts, including but not limited to:

  • Google Analytics tags
  • Facebook Pixel
  • AdWords Conversion Tracking
  • LinkedIn Insight Tag
  • Twitter Pixel

Understand the extent of your reliance on client-side tracking to inform the subsequent steps in your migration plan.

Educate Your Team

Ensure that your marketing team is well-versed in the nuances of server-side tagging. Educate them on the advantages of this approach and provide training on the implementation process. Familiarise your team with the tools required for server-side tagging, such as Google Tag Manager’s server-side tagging capabilities. We highly recommend you read Google’s own literature on the topic – https://developers.google.com/tag-platform/learn/sst-fundamentals

Choose a Server-Side Tagging Solution

Select a server-side tagging solution that aligns with your business needs. Google Tag Manager’s server-side tagging functionality is a robust option, offering a seamless transition for those already leveraging GTM because a GTM web container is instrumental in logging events which can be passed on to your tracking tags. Alternatively, explore other solutions compatible with your tech stack and requirements.

Update Tracking Implementations

Begin migrating your tracking implementations from client-side to server-side. Update tags and pixels to function on the server, ensuring a smooth transition. Coordinate with your development team to integrate server-side tagging into your website or application infrastructure.

Test and Validate

Rigorously test the new server-side tagging setup to validate its accuracy and performance. Verify that data collection aligns with your expectations and that key metrics remain consistent. Address any issues or discrepancies that arise during the testing phase. And finally note the date changes go live so you can keep track of changes in measurements.

Update Documentation and Protocols

Revise your documentation and protocols to reflect the changes introduced by server-side tagging. Update your privacy policy to transparently communicate the shift to users. Ensure that your team is aware of any altered procedures related to data collection and analytics reporting.

Monitor and Iterate

Post-migration, continuously monitor the performance of your server-side tagging setup. Stay abreast of updates from analytics and marketing platforms to adapt your strategy accordingly. Iterate on your implementation based on insights gathered from ongoing monitoring.