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Improve Privacy, Speed, and Security with Server-side Tracking

Last week I converted my site’s tracking from the standard client-side script to a server-side tracking setup that sends Google Analytics all its data server-side using Google Tag Manager.

My Page Speed score improved dramatically (still room to improve). That’s one of the benefits Google touts, as well as more privacy and security control.

GTM still loads its JavaScript client-side and a single Google Analytics file, but it eliminates calls to URLs like https://www.google-analytics.com/collect that fire at page load and other events. Instead, that URL request happens server-side so the user’s experience isn’t impacted at all.

I wouldn’t say there are security or privacy benefits by default, but it certainly enables some. Namely, you can process data server-side before sending it to Google or anywhere else. For example, dropping third-party scripts on a site creates a lot of risk that can be mitigated by deciding, server-side, what data to actually make available to the third party.

I recently wrote about the growing privacy challenges. Server-side tracking helps, but certainly isn’t a silver bullet. Implementing server-side tracking adds a lot of complexity and requires more hands-on maintenance. The vanilla Google Analytics implementation can be configured via their UI to meet privacy requirements, but server-side settings are a bit more raw.

This video was the most helpful resource I found in setting up Tag Manager and Analytics. Thank you Julius Fedorovicius.

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