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Server-side tagging is the future. Nonprofits that value privacy and performance should start now.

You’re monitoring and obsessing over page load times. Optimizing images for the web. Adhering to Google’s guidelines for page and user experience. Following best practices.

What might be missing from your radar?

How about this: Do you know how many tags and pixels are loading on your website right now?

I’m not referring to just the tags/pixels in your tag manager. How many tags load in total, and who are the owners of those tags? Do you know all the vendors and organizations that are firing tags on your web pages right now?

It can be a challenge to answer those questions with confidence—especially as average page weights, the number of third parties and the number of requests per page continue to grow. This growth has made web pages more complicated, more fragile and less secure.

Today’s websites contain so many pixels and tags from other companies that are monitoring your visitors and tracking their behavior. It’s a mess—and that’s not even counting the moral and legal issues of data privacy.

But there is a new solution to this problem for organizations that want to limit third-party access, and it’s called server-side tagging.

As we move toward a cookieless world, server-side tagging is the future for all marketers and fundraisers. Nonprofits should take advantage soon because this is truly going to separate the haves from the have-nots.

How does server-side tagging work?

Right now, when someone loads a page on your website, dozens of tags are listening and watching. They deliver behavioral and demographic data from the user’s browser to companies like Google, Facebook, Apple and many, many more.

All of this happens in an instant in real time. And the number of tags/pixels that load at any given time constantly changes.

Once you have added a third-party tag to your web pages, you give that third party access to deploy additional parties. Vendor or third-party JavaScript can sideload other tags and JavaScript. Then, even more tag managers (not controlled by your organization) can be sideloaded through third-party JavaScript or tags.

Picture a Russian nesting doll that can split infinitely and remain the same size. Every sideloaded tag/pixel has the same level of access to your visitor and donor data as the vendor that you currently work with and trust. But does your vendor’s vendor’s vendor honor your data privacy policies? If you don’t work with them directly, how can they?

Server-side tagging moves this big jumble of tags from the visitor’s browser onto a tag manager and pipeline on a server. They are no longer loaded directly on your web pages. Therefore, these server-side tags/pixels cannot sideload additional vendors or code on your pages.

With server-side, your vendors and third-party partners only receive data when you send it to them. For example, your server gives their server a call when something notable, like a monthly donation or email sign-up, happens.

You also can determine how much data gets sent out to those third parties. This gives you more control over your own website—and over the personal data of those who visit it. We recommend that you include language in your partner contracts that requires your written permission before they can share your data with other parties.

What are the advantages of server-side tagging?

Full control of your data (because you care about data privacy)

As you might have guessed, the ability to control your data is a huge advantage. With server-side tagging, you can manage what information you send out to Google, Facebook, Apple, etc.

Don’t want to give them your donor’s phone number or email? You don’t have to.

This isn’t a workaround for data privacy, but it does help limit access to all these third-party pixels and tags. Plus, when Google gets rid of cookies in 2023, you’ll be in good shape.

Additional data to your CRM

With server-side tagging, someone may enter their contact info into a donation form, and that data sits in that server-side container for a bit (could be a second, minute or up to an hour). Before the data gets pushed to your CRM or CDP, you can add to or enrich the information. Let’s see how that plays out.

Taking the example of a donation form again, let’s say someone makes a $100 gift. This info can sit on the server side briefly and get sent to a wealth identifier API. Then, it pushes that info to your CRM, where you get an alert that flags this person as a potential major donor.

For now, this is a bit of a Marty McFly moment—“Guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet … but your kids are gonna love it”—but this is the future.

More secure browsing

Digital decay happens quickly.

With so many scripts and tags operating simultaneously and an infinite number of variables in play (browser type, device, internet security, etc.), errors happen. A lot. A single update to one script can cause a downstream failure to another.

Server-side tagging moves all of this junk onto the server. Your website then becomes a lean, mean machine.

Faster browsing

Likewise, with all of these scripts moving to the server, the website will be faster. The user is not loading as much garbage onto the page, and they’re not paying the “tax” of that loading.

This leads to a more pleasant user experience, and it helps with SEO as well. After all, we know Google is focusing heavily on website performance these days. Content is still king. However, the page that is loading the content needs to do so quickly.

Think of it like this: Your website is like a professional athlete who must juggle so many things outside of their sport. Server-side tagging acts like a personal assistant—taking care of those pesky tasks like communicating with the CRM and third-party tags—so the website can focus all its attention on doing its website things.

 

In Conclusion

You might be asking yourself, “OK, so what’s the downside? Here’s one more thing my team has to manage ...” Honestly, the benefits outweigh the additional complexity. This is where the industry is heading, because it’s just a much better setup for modern websites.

Sever-side tagging is the future. Nonprofits should act now to set this up for their websites. Don’t wait until 2023 or later—if you do, you’re going to be playing catchup to your competition.

Charles Lehosit

Charles Lehosit has been described as an entrepreneur, solutions architect, strategist, technologist and futurist. As Vice President, Technology, at RKD Group, Charles excels at developing solutions that answer clients’ business needs. Charles understands what it takes to deliver successful projects, and he has done so for clients like Coca-Cola, U.S. Army and General Motors.

Charles brings deep digital experience to RKD’s clients, having performed virtually every job an IT professional can hold. Charles is a leading expert in application development, API integration, CMS, CRM/eCRM, email marketing, lead generation, mobile development, SDLC and website development.

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