What is the difference between Piwik PRO client-side tracking, Piwik PRO first-party collector (server-side) and Google Tag Manager (server-side)?

Piwik PRO offers both client-side and server-side tracking, and the latter is an interesting alternative to a server-side GTM solution (and other similar tag managers). Each method has its pros and cons, so we’ll try to describe them to help you pick the best fit for your website or web app.

Let’s begin with explaining the difference between client-side and server-side tracking.

Client-side tracking

Client-side tracking is a popular method to send data from a visitor’s browser to your Piwik PRO account. Most users choose it because it’s easy to implement and maintain. However, it is a third-party solution and not all businesses are keen on that.

Let’s look at a graph that shows client-side communication in Piwik PRO.

Client-side tracking in Piwik PRO

Server-side tracking (first-party collector)

Enterprise plan Available for +16.0.0

Server-side tracking is an alternative method where data is sent from a visitor’s browser to your own server and then to your Piwik PRO account. Some users prefer this approach over the other one because they feel better with first-party solutions. However, this method is quite demanding to implement and upkeep.

In Piwik PRO, server-side tracking is possible thanks to a first-party collector. Let’s see how it works in practice.

First-party collector (server-side) in Piwik PRO

Piwik PRO first-party collector (server-side) vs. Google Tag Manager (server-side)

Now as you know the difference between client-side and server-side tracking, we can talk about the difference between our solution and Google’s. The table below will help us do that.

Feature Piwik PRO first-party collector (server-side) Google Tag Manager (server-side)

*and other server-side tag managers
Use the tracked site’s subdomain as the tracking endpoint
Use the tracked site’s domain as the tracking endpoint
Send data to multiple marketing tools by using one server-side endpoint
Set cookies using a server-side endpoint to keep the desired cookie lifetime

Note: GTM (server-side) allows to set cookies through a server-side endpoint, but their lifespan may be shortened if the endpoint is detected to be using CNAME cloaking or has a different IP address. Read more

In the end, the choice between client-side and server-side tracking depends on factors like maintenance and control over your data. With Piwik PRO, you can pick the best method that fits your needs. 

If you decide to use the server-side tracking, read our installation guide.

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