Embracing Server-Side Tagging: The Future of Data Tracking for Arts and Culture Venues
April 24, 2024

Embracing Server-Side Tagging: The Future of Data Tracking for Arts and Culture Venues

Discover how server-side tagging is revolutionising data tracking for arts and culture venues. Learn about its benefits, challenges, and real-world applications, including leveraging the Facebook Conversions API.
Jamie Cooper

In the rapidly evolving digital landscape, the shift towards server-side tagging represents a significant transformation in how businesses track user interactions. This is particularly relevant for arts and culture venues looking to engage audiences effectively while adhering to strict data privacy regulations. 

Let’s dive into what server-side tagging is, why it exists, its benefits, and its challenges, with a specific focus on how arts and culture venues can leverage this technology using real-world examples like the Facebook Conversions API.

What is Server-Side Tagging?

Server-side tagging is a method of collecting and processing data where information gathered from user interactions on a website is sent to a server, rather than being processed directly within the user's browser. This approach shifts the workload from the client-side (the user’s device and browser) to the server-side, offering enhanced control over data handling.

Only the data necessary for specific purposes is collected, and it can be anonymised before being stored or processed. Anonymisation involves stripping away personally identifiable information (PII) and replacing it with tokens or identifiers that cannot be traced back to an individual without additional information that is kept separate.

Why Does Server-Side Tagging Exist?

Server-side tagging has emerged as a response to several key developments:

  • Enhanced Privacy Regulations: With the enforcement of GDPR in Europe and similar privacy laws worldwide, there is a pressing need for more secure data handling practices. Server-side tagging addresses this by allowing venues to manage sensitive data in a more controlled environment.
  • Limitations Imposed by Browsers: As browsers clamp down on third-party cookies to protect user privacy, traditional client-side tracking methods are becoming ineffective. Server-side tagging circumvents these browser restrictions, ensuring continuous and reliable data collection.
  • Ad Blockers and Privacy Tools: With the widespread use of ad blockers that can disable tracking scripts, server-side tagging offers a robust alternative that minimises data loss from such interruptions.

Key Benefits of Server-Side Tagging

  • Enhanced User Privacy and Data Security: By processing data on servers, sensitive user information is better protected against vulnerabilities found in browsers. Data processed server-side is less susceptible to interception or misuse, safeguarding user information and helping comply with strict privacy laws.

  • Improved Site Performance: Reduces the load on the user's browser by minimising the number of scripts that need to be executed client-side, thus enhancing the user experience.

  • Increased Data Accuracy and Reliability:  Server-side tagging ensures that data collection is not hindered by external factors such as browser restrictions or ad blockers, leading to more accurate analytics.

  • Compliance with Privacy Regulations: This method provides arts and culture venues with the framework needed to adhere to legal standards concerning user data, thereby avoiding potential legal pitfalls.

Challenges and Considerations

While server-side tagging offers numerous advantages, it also comes with challenges:

  • Technical Complexity: Implementing and maintaining server-side tagging requires advanced technical expertise and potentially significant modifications to existing IT infrastructure.

  • Infrastructure Costs: The cost of developing and running server-side infrastructure can be substantial, necessitating careful financial planning and resource allocation.

  • Integration Efforts: Seamlessly integrating server-side tagging into existing data systems and workflows can be complex, requiring robust strategy and execution.

Using Facebook Conversions API

The Facebook Conversions API is a prime example of how server-side tagging can be effectively used in marketing efforts. This API allows venues to send data about user interactions directly from their servers to Facebook, which can then be used to refine ad targeting and measurement. Here’s why CAPI is particularly advantageous:

  • Navigating Ad Blockers and VPNs: The Facebook Conversion API helps you track information that the Facebook Pixel can’t as a result of ad blockers and VNPs, ensuring that even with privacy tools in use, data accuracy is maintained. However, the Facebook Pixel helps you to see information that the CAPI can’t, such as demographic, psychographic, and other behavioural data from around the web.

  • Compatibility with the iOS 14 Updates: Meets the challenges posed by iOS privacy updates, which restrict data collection on devices.

  • Tracks Lower-Funnel Activity: Important conversions like ticket purchases are tracked more reliably, even if they occur through third-party systems integrated with the venue’s website.

  • Enhanced Tracking to get more out of your budget: By using the Facebook Pixel with the Conversion API, you can understand exactly who is interacting with your ads, the customer journey, build strong audiences and generate leads, make data-driven optimisations and allocate budget accordingly.

Real-World Example

Arts and culture venues, such as museums, theatres, and concert halls, can utilise server-side tagging to better understand visitor behaviour without compromising privacy. 

For example, a museum could use server-side tagging to track ticket purchases, membership renewals, donations, and newsletter sign-ups without compromising the privacy of its visitors.

This data can be captured via server-side tagging and used to enhance user engagement through personalised marketing and improved customer service.

If you just want to set up the Facebook Conversation API, the easiest and cheapest way is to use Stape.io. This set-up is easy to do and costs just $10/month. When you look at adding in GA4 tracking or other advert and social media platforms, the cost and complexity skyrockets, and should be carried out by an experienced agency, such as One Further. 

The Future of Tracking

As we look to the future, server-side tagging is set to become an essential component of digital strategy for arts and culture venues. Early adopters of this technology will be well-positioned to navigate the shifting sands of digital privacy and data management, ensuring they can continue to engage their audiences effectively without breaching trust or compliance.

For arts and culture venues, server-side tagging is not just a technological upgrade; it's a strategic shift towards more secure, private, and effective data handling. By understanding and implementing tools like the Facebook Conversions API alongside traditional methods, venues can ensure they remain competitive and compliant in a digital age defined by rapid changes in user privacy and data security. Server-side tagging offers a pathway to not only survive but thrive by leveraging data responsibly and effectively.

Training and Support

Implementing server-side tagging can be technically challenging. It is advisable for marketing teams to receive training on the tools and technologies involved.

Additionally, partnering with experienced IT professionals and data analysts during the initial setup and transition period can help mitigate potential issues.

By taking these steps, arts and culture venues can successfully set up server-side tagging, leading to improved data management, enhanced privacy compliance, and better audience engagement in their digital marketing efforts.

If you want more information about implementing Server Side Tagging reach out to us and we’ll connect you with a suitable partner.

Next steps

No matter what stage you're at in your search for the perfect web platform or digital marketing tool for your venue, we'll help you get the information you need to make the right decision.

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