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How do you track users' behavior without tracking pixels? Server-side tracking

Apple has released an operating system update for the iPhone, iPad and other devices, which includes an updated Safari browser. In parallel with this, Apple has also released a Safari update for macOS.

What is the problem?

The new version of the Safari browser focuses on the privacy of user data, including a built-in functionality for blocking the tracking of pixels on websites. All popular pixels for web analytics and remarketing are blocked on all sites, including pixels from:

  • Google Analytics
  • Google Tag Manager
  • Facebook
  • Doubleclick (Floodlight)

It looks like this:

Planfix screenshot


In Safari, you can see general statistics on blocked pixels. We still have the Google Tag Manager pixel in the lead:

Screenshot from Safari browser
Screenshot from Safari iOS


As a result, having a user visiting our site through the new version of Safari creates the following issues:

  • You don't see their actions in any popular analytics system.
  • The user is not included in remarketing audiences.
  • Google Tag Manager tags stop functioning on the site.

More and more browsers will eventually implement similar solutions, so you will need to prepare for this in advance. Currently, only 18% of users are accessing the web through Safari. 

How do you solve the problem?

The easiest way is to transfer tags, triggers, and variables from GTM web containers to the GTM server container. By doing this, you transfer all the logic of the trackers from the site code to the container on the server.

The Advantages of Server-side Tagging

Site loading speed.

  • When transferring the logic of creating and processing events to the server side, we are able to remove a huge amount of third-party vendor JS code from the site code, which significantly increases the page loading speed in the user's browser.


All data is stored in one place.

  • You have full control and own all the data on the Google Cloud server.
  • Google Cloud servers process only the data that it is allowed to process.
  • You own all the data. Google does not use the data for advertising purposes.
  • You always know and control which region and where the data is stored.
  • Data storage is managed with all modern security standards.


Bypass the blocking of tracking trackers. There are usually two ways to block trackers and pixels:

  • Blocking JS code from trackers (pixels on the site).
  • Blocking the tracker domain to prevent it from receiving data.

With server tracking, you get around both of these issues.

Transfer the logic from pixels to the server environment without placing the JS code on the site, preventing it from being blocked by the site browser. By binding the domain to the server container, you avoid any blocks on the domain that may be in place. 


Useful links:

Article by Simo Agawa https://www.simoahava.com/analytics/server-side-tagging-google-tag-manager/#what-is-server-side-tagging

Support from Google “Server-side tagging” https://developers.google.com/tag-manager/serverside

Support from Google “Create a Google Cloud Platform (GCP) server”.


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