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How to move past cookies with server-to-server tracking

server-to-server tracking

Cookie-based advertising has changed dramatically, with the use of third-party cookies being phased out in the name of privacy and data protection. This change has forced businesses to re-think the way they target their customers.  

In the past, Mark Zuckerberg has stated that “the future is private,” and that statement remains to ring true today. 

With the enforcing of European ePrivacy regulationsya, communication platforms becoming much more privacy-focused, improving privacy and security on the web and major market players, such as Apple and Mozilla, developing Intelligent Tracking Prevention systems, the protection of personal data has never been more pertinent. 

Throughout this article, you will discover a detailed understanding of server-to-server tracking, how this works and the ways in which businesses can benefit from adopting S2S tracking. 

A data resiliency solution

As businesses can no longer track people’s behavior across websites by using pixels, their ad serving and formation of retargeting campaigns, which are typically based on users’ browser history and behavior, is limited. 

The absence of this tracking hinders reliance on the following aspects; 

  • Website analytics
  • Conversions tracking
  • Marketing personalization for returning visitors
  • A/B-testing to improve performances

However, it is possible for businesses to leverage web cookies by transforming them into first-party data or server cookies. In other words, you can collect information about your website visitors, leads and customers by storing them as first-party data and pushing them directly to different publishing platforms.

This is a data resiliency solution that enables companies to maintain a full-funnel tracking system that encompasses online, offline and off-site events. 

The practice of leveraging first-party data can afford you to the opportunity to achieve omnichannel excellence through the optimization of campaigns based on offline conversions attribution, retargeting high-intent audiences, and surfacing better visibility into ROAS (return on ad spend) with closed-loop reporting

This data leveraging has become the norm, with businesses sharing information with publishers using server-to-server tracking in place of browser-based.  

What is server-to-server tracking?

Server-to-server tracking takes place when a unique ID is assigned to a web visitor who interacts on a webpage by clicking on a specific link, filling a form, or visiting a page. The unique ID is stored on a private server and it can be matched later on if the user linked to the same ID interacts again on the same website with a trackable action. 

The information stored in the server is private and can be pushed to publishers’ servers for marketing purposes.

In other words, a server-to-server tracking solution allows advertisers to send marketing signals to publishers like Facebook, Google, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, directly from a private server. As the pixel snippets tracking purchases, items in the cart, and new leads will disappear, server-to-server conversion tracking helps companies to store important information about their potential customers in a private server. 

The information can then be processed as if they were browser pixel events and they can be leveraged in order to measure and optimize advertising campaigns.

It is important to note that conversion tracking does not rely on the use of cookies, instead sharing data directly from a server rather than a browser, as seen with Facebook CAPI, or using machine learning and historical data, as seen with Google Ads

server to server tracking

The difference between pixels and server-to-server tracking

Additionally known as client-side, in-browser tracking, pixels rely on the browser to track any conversions that occur. This is achieved by attaching a cookie to each click, which is then called upon to authenticate a user’s session called client-side, cookie-based, in-browser tracking. 

This method relies on the user’s browser to track conversions by placing a cookie on the click that is called again upon conversion to authenticate the session and attribute the conversion to the appropriate action. 

In contrast, server-to-server tracking is reliant on the advertiser’s servers to track any sessions that are generated and attribute clicks to particular conversions. 

The primary difference between pixels and postbacks is their reliance on cookies.

Pixels are fast and simple to implement, due to the fact they are a set of HTML codes that are placed on a landing page. However, postbacks are passed through the URL. This makes the passing of the correcting parameters imperative. 

How server-to-server tracking works

Server-to-server postback tracking works by forming and storing a unique identifier any time a lead clicks on a tracking link or creates an impression on an ad. Once the lead completes a specified action that requires tracking or makes a conversion, this unique ID is matched with the user by posting it back to the tracking server. 

There are two different variations of these identifiers, which are as follows;

Partner ID

This type of postback tracking involves using the partner ID (or publisher’s ID) and the number of networks assigned to as a means to tracking potential conversions. The unique identifier is distributed to the advertisers, as well as the parameters that are related to that offer, such as the offer ID. 

Partner ID tracking is primarily used to manage offers with conversions that occur on a regular basis. You can view certain attributions associated with a click using a partner ID, such as sub ID’s and mobile parameters. However, there is no singular value that aids the server in determining which click the conversion is associated with when using this type of server-to-server tracking. 

Transaction ID

This variation of postback tracking is more commonly used for the tracking of clicks and conversions on an individual basis. A transaction ID is a unique identification code that is created when a lead clicks on a particular offer. 

When an offer is clicked, the code is distributed to the advertisers, as well as the click parameter that is associated with it, including the offer ID. The advertiser has a dedicated server that is responsible for storing the offer ID, transaction ID and any other relevant information that is sent. 

When a lead creates a conversion, the advertisers’ site indicates this event to the platform by registering the postback URL of the offer, as well as the offer ID, transaction ID and other relevant conversion parameters. 

Once this has occurred, the transaction ID is verified for duplication, and is recorded when validated. In the event of a duplication, the ID will be rejected from the server.

Pros and cons of server-to-server tracking

As with any operations facet of business, there are a host of positives and negatives associated with an action, and S2S conversion tracking is no exception. 


  • Server-to-server tracking has increased reliability as all tracking is completed on the server-side.
  • This practice is less prone to encountering fraud and offers a number of ways to mitigate this, including the addition of an offer whitelist and security tokens or hashing postback URLs. 
  • Postback tracking can be carried out on mobile devices.
  • There are a greater number of conversion firing options available, such as having the advertisers re-distribute the conversion URL. 


  • S2S conversion tracking can be more challenging to implement as there needs to be direct communication between the network and the advertiser, with more technical implementation being required as values will need to be stored and passed back, as well as requests needing to be coded. 
  • The time it takes to implement this tracking can vary, depending on how long it takes to code the database in order to successfully store the ID’s.

The benefits of Server-to-Server Conversion Tracking

There are many benefits that come with changing the process of sending information to advertising publishers through a centralized server-to-server conversion tracking solution. 

These are the four that are most noteworthy;

1. Data control

Businesses can have greater control over the data they want to send to the publishing platforms by selecting and streamlining only the most relevant information to target an audience will positively impact campaign results.

2. Privacy compliance

 By adopting a server-to-server conversion tracking solution, businesses can future proof themselves in a market that is moving away from cookies, after relying on them for 25 years. 

Not only can businesses be a step ahead and keep their marketing strategies in place, but also remain privacy compliant with the most recent regulations of the industry.

3. Cross channel resilience

In order to be data resilient in the changing market, advertisers should diversify their marketing strategy across several publishing platforms. With a centralized server-to-server tracking solution, they can send events/signals to many advertising platforms, without developing a single solution for each of them.

4. Accurate mobile tracking

Tracking people’s behavior from mobile devices with the use of cookies has always been challenging for advertisers. This is due to the fragmentation of user’s activity between native apps and mobile web browsing. 

Server-to-server conversion tracking helps to increase the accuracy of signals coming from mobile navigation (which accounts for 59.16 of web navigation worldwide).

Server-to-server integration

It will be up to each business to push their server-to-server tracking data with each and every one of the most important advertising platforms (such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, etc.), both from desktop and mobile activities. 

Businesses can develop their server-to-server tracking solutions in-house or with an external IT team, but for most businesses, this process is too complex and costly, not to mention that it would take several months to be up and running.

However, companies also have the option to rely on middleware software to develop their S2S conversion tracking integration with the publishing platforms and cut the time and the cost of the integration by a large margin.

LeadsBridge is a cloud-based integration platform that allows the user to connect their favorite marketing tools for data resiliency. We also offer custom integrations to help you streamline your server-to-server tracking processes.

Relying on such server-to-server tracking solutions will give companies both the trust to work with a partner which deeply understands the process, and safe and reliable technology to preserve the efficiency of their marketing performances.

s2s tracking

How to utilize cookieless tracking

In light of all of these new laws, regulations, and rules, it is important to understand how to track and advertise without relying on cookies. Cookieless advertising is a newer concept, but it’s definitely possible, and as time goes on, it’ll get easier.

So, how is cookieless tracking done? By using first-party data instead. Think about it: you already have this information stored in your CRM, email marketing tools, and other tools in your marketing stack. Instead of just letting it sit there, you can utilize it to create a custom audience based on real customer data.

In a way, this data is far more accurate than any third-party data. This means that by using this data, you are attracting people with similar traits to those who are already using your product.

As someone who may be used to third-party tracking, the shift to using first-party data might seem a little strange and overwhelming, but there are solutions out there to help this transition and make it much easier to continue as normal and still remain GDPR and CCPA compliant.

What are SameSite cookies? 

A SameSite cookie is used by browsers to identify how both first and third-party cookies are handled. A browser can decide to allow or block these cookies depending on the attribute.

How does Chrome use SameSite cookies?

In 2020, Google introduced Chrome 80, which saw SameSite cookie classification being defaulted. The purpose of this is to increase the protection of a user’s privacy and prevent the transfer of cookies through cross-origin. 

The implementation of SameSite cookies is designed to restrict cookies to default first-party access, asking businesses to specifically mark cookies for third-party contexts.

The Developer Tools console provides a warning when a page contains any cross-site cookies that are missing the required settings. If you notice these warnings whilst viewing your site in Developer Tools, that may mean cookies which support features on your site are not properly configured.

How does Mozilla use SameSite cookies?

Mozilla has changed the default value of attributions for SameSite cookies from None (which send cookies with cross-site and same-site requests) to Lax (meaning cookies will be withheld on cross-site requests). 

If there is no SameSite attribute specified, Firefox default sets cookies as Lax. With this change, developers have the option to opt-in to unrestricted use by explicitly setting their SameSite to None, which implies that cookies will be attached to any request for an origin, in spite of who initiated it. 

Facebook CAPI solution

Cookieless advertising is the way forward, and there are a range of tools available to make this transition easier. Facebook Conversions API (CAPI) is one of the best cookieless tracking solutions out there.

Facebook CAPI server to server tracking

Facebook has worked hard to make sure that their tool abides by all regulations while allowing for cookieless tracking. Essentially, CAPI lets you send the data that you’ve collected in your various tools straight to Facebook Ads Manager, allowing for a more streamlined server-side attribution.

You may be familiar with Facebook Pixel, but this is much different. Pixel collects data from events and conversion data, whereas CAPI collects your own data (customer IDs and purchase events) and then sends them to Facebook. When combined with the power of LeadsBridge, both tools can be utilized to their full potential. Here’s a good visual of how our solution works to make this process easier.

There are a few ways to set up Facebook CAPI for your campaigns, and we’ve gone over them in our comprehensive guide on how to set up Facebook Conversions API. If you’d like more information on how it’s done, be sure to check out that article.

Or, if you’d like more information on all the Facebook CAPI integrations that we offer, then be sure to check out our CAPI integrations page. 

Key takeaways

The way companies carry out advertising is constantly changing. New regulations regarding data protection and ITP systems developed by browsers to block or partially limit the use of cookies are forcing marketers and advertisers to change their strategies.

In order to avoid cookie-based advertising campaigns, companies should leverage first-party data collected with server-to-server conversion tracking technology. This will enable you to stay ahead of the competition by keeping their marketing strategies up and running, whilst having more control in the data streamlined to publishing platforms.

Using Facebook CAPI makes it easy to get your work done while remaining fully data compliant. With LeadsBridge, you can combine the capabilities of Facebook CAPI with your other marketing tools to gain ultimate control. Discover our full range of Facebook Conversions API integrations.

Dario Villi

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