1st party tracking vs server side tracking

4 months ago   •   2 min read

By Eric Frazier

The idea of server side tracking isn't new and it has always been better than tracking in the browser.


10 years ago we used server side tracking for affiliate pixels. At the time, I worked for a large affiliate program and their largest affiliates had their own tracking pixels that they wanted on the sites/products that they promoted. But the pixels were not always dependable and when an affiliate found they had an order credited to them, but they didn't see it credited in their own dashboard right away, they were not happy.   Even worse if they saw more conversions than we actually had orders.  

So we started sending requests to their pixels from our backend when an order happened that was credited to an affiliate that had their own pixel.   That worked nearly 100%.  

Now we have server side tracking becoming more of a requirement than a nice to have for super attentive affiliates and large enterprises. It is becoming the norm for performance tracking.  

But often server side tracking isn't that easy or practical. Many platforms make that difficult, what happens when a website is in transition between two platforms?  Do they double their work?  A very good compromise is not to actually track server side, but to use server side APIs that are fed from a 1st party domain.  That avoids many/most of the issues related to 3rd party cookies and Apple's ITP changes, but it also is easier to setup and much more portable than a full true server side approach. EQ C & C does this and it has some significant benefits over another tool, the Google Tag Manager server side container, which in spite of its name, is actually also a 1st party tracking approach.  

What EQ C & C does better is the setup is much faster and our customers benefit from a platform we have been building and improving, each customer adds to EQ in some way.  Another key point is that we don't require any changes in thinking or approach to tagging. Your tags stay the same as they are now. When you want to make changes or additions, you won't have to think about doing anything differently. Add your tags, EQ will pick them up, send them to Facebook via CAPI and record the data in Big Query. If you change platforms, you just have to copy EQ over to the new platform, no need to deal with another API or set of rules to get CAPI running.  So EQ is portable, fast to setup, mitigates much of the impact of ITP, and allows you to keep and use your own data.  

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