Achieve Marketing Attribution with Server-side tag manager

Magic Pixel
9 min readMar 30, 2021


You got excited about smashing the marketing ROI with well-crafted tags. You now fire tags on every single campaign and every channel where your money is invested in ads. After the first round of media blast, you want to know which of your campaigns are truly paying back, and which channels you should stick with. The underlying insight that you are waiting for is where should you be spending more, but then, you hit the stop sign.

Browsers stop you from tracking customer data from stored quarters. Your existing tags were meant to provide information about customers, but have lost their way. In 24 hours, third-party cookies expire. Remarketing requires user consent. Affiliates claim their share.

So, what does all this mean to your marketing attribution and measurement?

What is marketing attribution?

By definition, Marketing attribution is the way in which a marketer assesses the value or ROI of the channels that connect them to prospects. Marketing attribution is a concerted mechanism that tells you which of your marketing efforts are paying you back and which campaign you attribute the credit to. It tells you which of those campaigns and channels are worthy enough to re-invest. Attribution provides data, eliminating the guesswork out of your decision-making. It leads you directly to the top conversion paths and top-assisted conversions.

There are multiple Attribution models marketers adopt that fit their needs and give maximum ROAS.

If you are using a first-touch or a last-touch attribution, it is fairly simple to know what is attributing to your revenues. Attribution patterns can get as complex as the user journeys and behaviors are.

Then, what’s Multi-touch Attribution?

User and customer discovery paths get complex with the multiplicity of channels available. These complex trails of brand discovery lead to a conversion. Evaluating all channels and measuring the weight of contribution of each channel and campaign would help a marketer determine where further money should be invested.

Attributing efforts to multiple touchpoints is only possible with clear data. This is the most common attribution practice preferred by marketers. The fundamental reason marketers are moving away from last-click attribution models towards multi-touch attribution (MTA) is to measure the impact of marketing efforts that take place across the entire customer journey.

Without any insights into marketing attribution, marketers are stifled despite the best tags and user flows.

No insights about marketing attribution

This is what marketers end up facing.

  • You seem to be getting enough conversions, but you have no further visibility into what is contributing to your success.
  • You cannot attribute measures and KPIs to those sources that are doing well for you.
  • You no longer know where to invest your available marketing dollars. This gets even worse when you have direct media and ad spend involved.
  • Users are removed from remarketing audiences faster than before. So you will treat returning users as new users and end up adding more ad spend on those customer IDs. This also leads to a skewed increase in the number of visitors.
  • Paid media with a lack of attribution would appear less effective in reports.
  • A/B tests would provide misleading results.
  • Even worse, you could end up crediting the wrong campaign and lose significant spending on commissions if its affiliate claims all the credit.

Why do you need server-side tagging for marketing attribution?

Tags fired in the traditional sense of client-side tagging have served the marketer’s attribution needs until now. With the growing importance of data privacy and security, client-side tagging is not enough.

So, let’s take a first look at what factors are challenging marketing attribution from the lens of tagging analytics.

Browser restrictions

But Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention 2.3 version, GDPR, CCPA, and other privacy regulations have reformed the design of attribution. These discourage client-side tagging which deals with cookie-based targeting and tracking users.

User journeys are typically longer than 24 hours. But data privacy norms by browsers and legislation have discouraged tracking and storing customer information. This means after 24 hours, your cookies cannot identify old users as returning users. Rather, they are treated as new users. This is misleading while measuring attribution. You will see a drop in business value attributed to display advertising and retargeting due to missing information.

Data sharing with User Consent

In the days before data privacy, marketers and publishers were not penalized for free data sharing between data collectors and third-party vendors. Private data could also be monetized. Marketers could use this data for granular analytics which would feed more intelligent ad interaction and media placements.

Such use of user data is now declared intrusive and illegal.

ID resolution and morphed data

Assigning user profiles to user IDs is a way to build up first-party data and the profiles. Deterministic mapping was possible as third-party data could be tracked in the pre-cookieless era. But now, the window provided to store and track users using IDs is too little. Server-side media pixels help in tracking users until the end of the campaign. With consent, you can also extend the life of the cookie.

While there have been workarounds to tackle these developments, they were temporary.

Server-side tagging is the only promising tracking method that can allow marketing attribution with utmost accuracy, as you move into the First party context of everything you do. It cannot interfere with browsers, device operating systems, privacy, and ad-blocking extensions.

The simple logic behind this is that the personal data of your users will not be stored by a third party. There will be no use of cookies. An advertiser is deliberated to send leads, sales, or any form of conversion data to the tracking provider. And this is done using the API.

Magic Pixel’s IDLink service allows you to assign a Unique ID and track their behavior in a first-party context. This includes tracking conversions and their attribution all through the campaign duration. Our server-side tag management system allows you to integrate your existing tag manager and analytics tools to stream bidding and other ad conversion information from your Demand-side platform.

With server-side tagging, you do have to depend on any new data that needs to be collected by the advertiser. The attribution measured from such data will not be vulnerable to browser updates. It can seamlessly comply with data privacy regulations.

Server-side tag management uses the data that is already collected by advertisers. You will not require any new cookies to be saved in a user’s browser. Such data cannot be purged by the browsers since they are captured and handled from your server.

Better attribution-driven marketing mix with Server-side tagging

Server-side tag management can help you solve this stark problem of lack of marketing attribution. Literally, the following optimization tactics cannot be used if you don’t have access to marketing attribution. They involve direct ad and media spend. Knowing how your money is being spent is a necessity. Let’s explore how you can regain control over them.

Remarketing or retargeting

Some ads perform well which attracts users to your website. You know they are high potential customers and track them back. Remarketing ads and retargeting specific cohorts are a great way to persuade users to return to your site. It provides an additional window for you to convert them into paying customers. But with the existing privacy norms and browser restrictions, remarketing tags, will be considered a third party. Magic Pixel’s server-side tag manager provides the first-party context to the tags as they are fired from the server-side. Also, with user consent, for the third-party data collected by the ad server, remarketing can be implemented.

Cookie expiration in 24 hours to 7 days takes aways that window from you. And this ought to happen if you are depending on client-side tagging for storing and accessing data. With server-side tagging, the data you collected will remain on the server being treated as first-party data. So, you can set the duration of the campaign to retarget and follow them during such time for conversion.

A/B testing

While running ads or launching landing pages you would adopt A/B testing. The tags used to track these media assets are placed in the server-side tag manager. Magic Pixel can be integrated into your web application or mobile application’s technology stack. The analytics dashboard within the tool allows you to identify affiliate-driven conversions that are specific to a campaign and attribute sales or conversions to them.

You can continue to implement A/B testing with your ads and any kind of programmatic advertising. Your beta and alpha launches will remain intact. Testing ahead on the server-side allows you to mitigate risk to roll out features in stages. The qualification criteria can be set to a segmented audience where you can continue to experiment with or make a particular feature available only to a portion of them.


The production and publish environments are a part of Magic Pixel’s server-side tag management. Personalization can be done before the page is rendered, so there is no effect on the served page. With server-side tagging, personalization can be accomplished on any device since our platform can make an API call. Personalization with the client-side is limited to web browsers.

Affiliate or influencer marketing

Affiliates and influencers are treated as third-party. With affiliate marketing, you need to deal with two interconnected areas:

  1. Treating user behavior, events, and collected data as third-party data. And,
  2. Lack of attribution possibilities beyond a certain time of who is initiating the conversion or how much influence your affiliate has over a conversion during a campaign. It circles back to the lack of insights with the implementation of any type of multi-touch attribution.

Server-side tagging provides the first-party context to track such marketing optimization exercises. With server-side tag management, an advertiser or affiliate simply passes conversion data which could be a sale or a lead back to a tracking provider via API or FTP. No cookies are involved.

Such data is treated as first-party data which can then be validated against the in-built analytics and the advanced analytics that you have integrated into the platform. When an affiliate or influencer confirms the attributed sale with the network, you can validate it with the data you received on the platform.

What do marketers get with marketing attribution supported by server-side tagging?

Magic Pixel’s server-side tag manager provides more than attribution control. While last touch attribution could be left for third-party tracking, you can still validate the efficacy of external influence, retaining the multi-touch attribution models.

Deep insight with multi-touch attribution

Multi-touch attribution allows you to:

  • Evaluate other channels that have supported the sale
  • Allows your brand to ascribe value to the other phases of the sales funnel
  • Adds clarity about partners who provide value at the top of the funnel is not rewarded as much as those at the bottom of the funnel. The latter end up getting credit for a sale that they may not have added much value to.
  • Minimizes dependency on last-touch attribution which can often encourage dishonest behavior and disincentivize true value creation.

Purchasing and Negotiation power

Server-side tagging enables spend alignment. While using a server-side solution, you pay commissions only on incremental sales that align with your attribution model. You no longer have to be locked into last-touch attribution models prescribed by a third party. You can decide what to value and what to pay partners for.


The ability to track and deep dive with accurate analytics provides you more autonomy and confidence in operating their affiliate programs. Third-party tags can go down, you may lose sales data for the network and publishers which impacts the true payouts. Server-side eliminates the threats of unpredictable loss of tag.


You can future proof your data despite the dynamic data privacy law landscape. Since server-side tagging provides the first-party context, your privacy compliance standards will stay intact. In fact, Magic Pixel allows you to blacklist any of the third-party vendors that do not adhere to user preferences.

With server-side tagging, your marketing attribution analytics stay where they are. Attribution can no longer be diluted by the browser restrictions, third-party context and cookie expire.

Originally published at on March 30, 2021.



Magic Pixel

Next Generation Server-Side Tagging platform for web and mobile apps. Improve site performance, tag monitoring, CCPA/GDPR compliance & ROI!