Switch to Adobe Analytics Server-Side to Improve Data Quality and Site Performance
Deploying Adobe Analytics via a client-side method is the most common approach, but it might not be the right approach for your organization.
From potential security risks to performance concerns, more organizations are beginning to look at deploying analytics and marketing technologies on their website/apps via server-side methods.
A New Way to Deploy Adobe Analytics: Server-Side
Before we continue, I’ll provide a quick explanation of the difference between Adobe Analytics server-side implementation and client-side implementation.
What Is Client-Side Implementation?
With a client-side Adobe Analytics implementation you can see the server calls going out to Adobe by monitoring your own computer’s network traffic. You can see all the code that is making everything work too.
What Is Server-Side Implementation?
Server-side Adobe Analytics implementations work similarly but in a different part of your website. Each website has a back-end set-up that basically feeds information from databases to your website telling it what to load and when to load it. This information also includes e-commerce and user information.
Long story short, Segment and Tealium EventStream send data from their servers to Adobe Analytics via the Data Insertion API. You might be asking yourself why you would use Segment or Tealium EventStream vs just using the Data Insertion API directly. Because, if you did it that way, you wouldn’t have to load anything on your site, right?
The primary reason you wouldn’t want to do this is that a Data Insertion API set up for your site is very difficult to maintain. You need a lot of engineer support to get it up and running and it is very difficult to debug.
Now that we have gone over how tools like Segment and Tealium EventStream work, we are going to focus on the pros and cons of implementing this approach from an Adobe Analytics standpoint.
Pros of a Server-Side Implementation
Why implement Adobe Analytics server-side when client-side works just fine? Well there are a lot of benefits to going server-side that client-side can’t provide.
Increased Data Integrity Throughout
You can use your same, well thought out, amazing Adobe Analytics implementation for any vendor that these tools support, and they support a lot! You can check out Tealium EventStream’s APIs for example. Imagine, all platforms using the same data value format.
By using this method, gone are the days of comparing your Adobe Analytics data against another vendor because they’ll be using the exact same implementation. Also, heaven forbid, if you ever switched to a different analytics platform like Google Analytics or Mixpanel you can. Easily! All you have to do is flip a couple of switches and fill out a few text fields and you are up and running.
Gone are the days of comparing your Adobe Analytics data against another vendor because they are using the exact same implementation. Click & Tweet!
Something that is great about both Segment and Tealium EventStream is that they make it very easy to not only send your data to multiple vendors, but you can also send it to your own database. Anybody who has tried to move clickstream data from Adobe Analytics to their database knows that being able to easily own your data is something special.
Easier Upkeep and QA
Managing a Tag Management System (TMS) that contains a large number of tags can burdensome. Every time you publish something you should be checking every tag that you have within your TMS to makes sure that what you published didn’t unintentionally break something.
Faster Page Load Speeds
Instead of having your tag manager load several tags on every single page you only have to load one tag. This means faster page loads, and a happier site visitor.
Yes, you are reading that correctly. The single thing that most major browsers have had a personal vendetta against will become less of an issue, because you will have fewer cookies to worry about being blocked. (Recommend reading this article on Safari ITP 2.1 from Adobe if you aren’t familiar with how Safari and other browsers are starting to change how they handle 3rd and 1st party cookies, and thus why fewer cookies is highly desirable.)
Increased Security and Privacy
With less code and cookies involved with your Adobe Analytics implementation there are fewer chances of errors occurring or having someone’s privacy compromised. The chances of data being compromised after it is sent from your site remain the same, but at least you will end up being more secure.
With less code and cookies involved with your Adobe Analytics implementation there are fewer chances of errors occurring or having someone’s privacy compromised. Click & Tweet!
Both companies had their 3rd party scripts compromised which resulted in data breaches for a large number of their customers.
Mobile App Implementations
There is no such thing as a good mobile app tag manager. You have to add an SDK to your app for every vendor you want to track with. The Adobe Analytics SDK is beefy by itself and takes a lot of work to implement.
I still have nightmares from every single mobile app analytics implementation that I have done. I can’t imagine doing that for every vendor. With Segment or Tealium EventStream, you only have to manage the implementation of one SDK. Which is probably the closest thing we will have to a mobile app based tag manager.
Cons of a Server-Side Implementation
This all sounds great right? So what is the catch why isn’t everybody going this route. Well when it comes to Adobe Analytics specifically there are some caveats you have to keep in mind.
Experience Cloud ID Service
Segment has its own visitor ID’ing service that you can use in lieu of the Adobe Experience Cloud ID service. However, if you have been using Adobe’s ID service for years, or you are using multiple Adobe Experience Cloud products services and want to keep everything between them unified, that might not be an option.
Video Heartbeat Tracking
Since video Heartbeat relies on the Adobe Experience Cloud ID, and doesn’t have a server-side API, it will be more difficult to track any videos with Heartbeat. To make matters worse, Adobe Analytics recently announced that you have to use Heartbeat in the future to track all videos.
No Data Manipulation Tools
A tag management system allows you to manipulate data to fit your needs. Segment doesn’t have anyway to do this, but with Tealium EventStream you can still do this in Tealium iQ before it is sent to the EventStream.
Engineer Support Is A Must
Client-Side Implementation vs Server-Side Implementation Comparison
|Feature||Device (Client-Side)||Cloud (Server-Side)|
|Send basic data such as page name, site section, and page URL||Y||Y|
|Send custom data via eVar, props, events, and contextData||Y||Y|
|Send e-commerce data such as product and order information||Y||Y|
|Specify whether a hit should be a page view or link call||Y||Y|
|Heartbeat Video tracking||Y||Through a lot of blood, sweat, and tears it can be possible (contact us if you need help doing this).|
|Automatically grabs and sends the Experience Cloud ID||Y||You have to have the visitor API load on your site, grab the ID it produces and then send it via the cloud deployment platform of your choice|
|Less server calls across various analytics and marketing tools||N||Y|
|Better consistency of data across various analytics and marketing tools||N||Y|
|Easier Mobile App Implementation||N||Y|
|A tag management system that allows you to manipulate data to fit the needs on a per tag basis.||Y||Y (Tealium web only)|
Client-Side or Server-Side, That Is the Question
So what should you do?
Should you take a leap and go with a server-side implementation for Adobe Analytics? My advice is that if you are just starting out, or have a pretty straightforward implementation where none of the above negatives concern you, you should go for the server-side approach.
One of the benefits I mentioned earlier was easier upkeep. This benefit is completely reliant on your relationship with your engineers. If your engineers are hard to work with and slow to move on tracking tasks, then upkeep will be very difficult because they have to do all of the heavy lifting.
The good news, from what I have seen with my various clients, is that relationships between the engineering teams and the marketing teams have greatly improved in the last 5 or so years. Also, these tools and the API’s they use including Adobe’s own Data Insertion API are improving.
…I have no doubt that tools like Segment and Tealium EventStream will pop up and server-side tools that are already around will only get better. Click & Tweet!
As the importance of site speed and data integrity continue to increase, I have no doubt that more tools like Segment and Tealium EventStream will pop up, and server-side tools that are already around will only get better. If you know of any other tools that can help with setting up an Adobe Analytics server-side implementation, or if you would like to share your own experience with server-side tracking for Adobe Analytics, leave a comment and let us know how it went for you.