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Hotel websites

Why Does Server-Side Tracking Matter for Hotels?

14 March 2023


Why does Server-Side Tracking matter for Hotels?

You will have to indulge me in going into some more technical topics today. This is going to build on the assumption that you have a working knowledge of Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager. It will also help if you have a rough knowledge of how a website works; essentially, that a server exchanges information with a user’s browser. The server is probably in a big server warehouse somewhere, the browser is in the palm of someone’s hand.

If you are not comfortable with these topics, then just head over here and check out our posts on these two topics. 

Server-side tagging also features in our ‘tracking trends for 2023 article, which emphasises the importance of first-party data and reducing our reliance on third-parties handling and processing our data.

If there is one lesson you take away from this is that server-side tracking gives us the ability to capture data and information without ever passing user data to a third-party domain. Pretty important given the cookie laws and proposed Protection and Digital Information (DPDI) Bill.

What is the difference between server-side tracking and client-side tracking?

Server-side tagging is a method of implementing tracking tags on a website or application where the tags are processed and executed on the server, rather than in the user’s browser. This means that when a user interacts with a website, the tag is processed on the server before the page is rendered in the user’s browser.

In contrast, client-side tracking, which is the most common method of implementing tracking tags, involves placing the tracking code directly on the website or application so that it is executed in the user’s browser. This means that the tracking tag is processed after the page is rendered in the user’s browser and sends data directly to the tracking service such as Google Analytics or Facebook.

The main difference between server-side tagging and client-side tracking is where the processing takes place. With server-side tagging, the processing takes place on the server, which can result in faster load times and more accurate data collection. Server-side tagging also allows for more control over data privacy and security.

Client-side tracking, on the other hand, maybe more flexible and easier to implement, as it doesn’t require server-side code changes. It also allows for more client-side customization, such as tracking custom events and variables directly from the user journey without having to be sent back to the server again. This might be easier for marketers to quickly deploy tracking instructions via Google Tag Manager, for example.

Overall, server-side tagging and client-side tracking each have their advantages and disadvantages, and the choice between the two will depend on a variety of factors, such as the specific use case, technical capabilities, and data privacy concerns.

Why is server-side tagging important for a hotel website?

Server-side tagging can be important for hotels, especially for larger hotel chains or those with complex websites and digital marketing strategies. Here are some reasons why:

  1. Improved Website Performance – Server-side tagging can reduce the amount of code that needs to be loaded on a website, which can help to improve website performance and speed. This is particularly important for hotels, as slow-loading websites can lead to frustration and decreased bookings.
  2. Enhanced Data Security – Server-side tagging can also help to enhance data security, as it allows for the collection and processing of data to occur on the server rather than on the user’s device. This can help to mitigate the risk of data breaches or unauthorized access to sensitive guest information.
  3. More Flexibility and Control – With server-side tagging, hotels have more flexibility and control over how data is collected and processed. This can allow for more customization and optimization of digital marketing campaigns, resulting in more effective targeting and better ROI. When partnered with a Customer Data Platform this can be very powerful.
  4. Compliance with Privacy Regulations – Server-side tagging can also help hotels to comply with privacy regulations such as GDPR and CCPA, as it can allow for more control over how data is collected and processed and can reduce the amount of data that is stored on user devices.

How can I implement server-side tagging using Google Tag Manager?

So you have established that server-side tagging is a good fit for your hotel. It is certainly not as straightforward as client-side tracking so you will most likely need technical support to achieve it. Much of it can be done via Google Tag Manager but you will also need to set up a server. This isn’t too complex when using the Google Cloud offering, but certainly needs a bit of know-how.

Generally speaking (and in potentially over-simplified terms), implementing server-side tagging using Google Tag Manager (GTM) involves the following steps:

  1. Create a Server Container: Create a server container in GTM to store your server-side tags. Go to the GTM dashboard, select the container where you want to create a server container, and click on the “Admin” tab. Under “Containers,” click on “Create Container” and select “Server Container.”
  2. Install the Server Container: Follow the instructions provided by GTM to install the server container on your server. You’ll need to provide your server container ID and a tracking code snippet to your server administrator.
  3. Create Server-side Tags: Create your server-side tags using the same interface you use for creating client-side tags in GTM. You can use the same types of tags as you would use for client-side trackings, such as Google Analytics, AdWords, or Facebook Pixel.
  4. Configure Triggers and Variables: Configure triggers and variables in GTM to fire your server-side tags. You can use the same types of triggers and variables as you would use for client-side trackings, such as page views, clicks, or custom events.
  5. Publish and Test: Publish your server-side tags and test them to ensure they are firing correctly. You can use the same debugging tools in GTM as you would use for client-side tracking to verify your server-side tags.

By following these steps, you can implement server-side tagging using Google Tag Manager. Keep in mind that server-side tagging requires more technical knowledge and setup than client-side tracking, but it can provide better data accuracy and website performance

What is the cost of server-side tagging for hotels?

The cost of server-side tagging can vary depending on a variety of factors, including the size and complexity of a website, the number of tags that need to be implemented, the amount of data that needs to be processed, and the specific server-side tagging solution that is being used.

Some server-side tagging solutions are available for free, such as Google Tag Manager, which offers a basic server-side tagging option at no cost. However, more advanced server-side tagging solutions may require a subscription or licensing fee, which can range from a few hundred dollars per year to several thousand dollars per month depending on the level of functionality required.

In addition to the direct costs of server-side tagging solutions, there may also be indirect costs associated with implementation and ongoing maintenance, such as hiring IT or web development professionals to assist with setup and troubleshooting.

Overall, the cost of server-side tagging can vary widely depending on a variety of factors, and it is important for hotels to carefully consider their specific needs and budget when evaluating server-side tagging solutions. 

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