Website Tracking For Beginners: How Websites Track You And Why You Should Do It Too!

by | Aug 24, 2020 | Reporting / Notifications, Your Audience | 0 comments

Reading Time: 10 Minutes

In the World Wide Web, every single step you take leaves a mark: From page visit to visit duration. Having a proper Website Tracking set up provides essential information about behavior flow and target audience, making it nearly critical for every business who wants to be successful.

 

So now, let’s get back to you! Are you currently tracking the proper way so that you can make the right business decisions and pick the right marketing methods? No offense, but unless you’re a huge data-driven corporate, we are pretty sure the answer is no!

 

That is why in the following paragraphs we will be introducing you to the world of Website Tracking, including all its possibilities, plus some quick fixes!

 

What is Website Tracking?

Before we hop straight into it, let us first clear up any uncertainties about what Website Tracking actually is.

 

In a nutshell, Website Tracking refers to the tracing of every action a visitor takes on a website. This could be anything: Websites this person is looking at, which backlinks redirected this person to your site, the pages this person visits and even how long a visitor remains on a certain website and page are all trackable. 

 

So, for example, a proper Website Tracking can help you identify where your highest paying customers start their journey to your website, which products are favored by which age groups or even at which point a visitor decides to leave a page and eventually why they do it, if you understand how to interpret the data.

 

In other words, Website Tracking allows you to collect information about the way people use your website and what they’re generally after. This, in turn, is absolutely crucial in order to make business and marketing decisions that will resonate with your exact target audience. The more you know about the people you are looking for, the better you can engage with them.

 

Analytics of Website Tracking

All in all, having a proper Website Tracking set up can help you to identify inconsistencies and bottlenecks that keep potential customers from converting. This could be anything, however, here are some good examples:

  • Edit your website to be more customer friendly
  • Create more easily understandable paths (also called customer journeys)
  • Adjust product or service pages to the likings of your exact target audience
  • Use the information for targeted retargeting ads and remarketing campaigns
  • Decide on the right Social Media channels

Essentially, it is quite the same thing as meeting your mother-in-law for the first time: You would never propose a certain topic at the dinner table if you had not researched beforehand. Especially if she is very passionate about the topic!

 

Still not quite sure what exactly Website Tracking does for you and where its Pros and Cons are?

In this short video, Bettina Wittmann tends to all questions about Website Tracking!

 

How does Website Tracking work?

But how do website owners begin tracking the behavior that is being carried out on their website? Is it as simple as using a tally sheet to record the statistics? Unfortunately, this is a no.

 

By now, there are numerous possibilities to conduct Website Tracking, ranging from the infamous Cookies to CRM systems. In the following paragraphs, we are going to list and explain the most important ones.

 

Cookies

If you have visited any website over the past few minutes, it is likely there was a so-called Cookie installed. Despite sharing the name with a delicious, baked dessert, Website Cookies do not fill up your stomach, but rather your knowledge base. 

 

Instead, once you visit a website, a Cookie – put simply, a small text file – is stored on your device for some time after the visit. Usually, it contains an identification number so that the website will recognize you on a return visit so that you can access it without always adding in your log-in data or having to adjust the settings. All in all, Cookies can, therefore, help to improve the user experience

 

However, that is not all. Cookies can also be used for more effective Website Tracking. Besides log-in information, a Cookie can also record other types of browsing activities like clicking on buttons, pages visited in the past or information you voluntarily shared, such as names, addresses or even payment card numbers.

 

There are 2 main types of Cookies:

  • Session Cookies: These are not actually tracking you in any sense. Much more, they only keep your information for the duration of their session, meaning you do not have to log-in every time you switch from one page to another on the same website
  • Persistent Cookies: These are the ones that stick with us, maybe even staying on your device for weeks after visiting a website and are, therefore, used for Website Tracking

So you might be surprised about this information. While a lot of people are concerned about their data, rest assured that the website owner cannot actually read every detail of your data. Much rather, you become part of a pool of data information that is collected and shown as a collective group information.

 

Here is a little example to clarify this further: If Peter Schmidt visits the site bestrameninnyc.com, which has a good Website Tracking system in place, the website owner will collect all sorts of data. However, he does not know that Peter Schmidt from 1090 Vienna, born in 1967 visited his page on the 13th of August 2020 at 3:46 Pm. 

Instead, the information will look much more like this: The website owner will know that there are X% male visitors on his site, X% are coming from Vienna or Austria and that his best customers are in their 50s.

 

Google Analytics

One of the most famous and user-friendly ways to access the information collected by Website Tracking is Google Analytics. Google Analytics works with First-Party Cookies: You set up a tracking code, which tells Google Analytics to track your website visitors, plus any of their actions taken on your website. This works just like I have explained a few sentences ago.

 

The great thing is that Google Analytics only works with First-Party Cookies named _ga to store the Client ID,  which means the data it collects is only accessible via the domain that created it. This means that the data collected can only be accessed by authorized people.

 

Google Analytics Overview of Website Tracking

For us, Google Analytics is the friend we turn to for all website-related questions. How long do visitors stay on our website? At which point do they decide to leave it? Where do converting visitors come from? 

 

Google Analytics tells us all this, which is why it is absolutely crucial for our own purposes, as well as your marketing decisions! In this article, Google explains a little bit more about the Cookie Usage of Google Analytics.

 

Facebook Pixel

Quite similar to Google Analytics, the Facebook Pixel also tracks website visitors plus Facebook Ad interactors by triggering Cookies. All the while, it’s collecting data all around your Facebook and Instagram Ads and target audience, meaning it combines Website Tracking and Ad Tracking

 

Besides customer data on best performing target groups – also called audiences – the Facebook Pixel tracks the following events:

  • Page Views
  • Add To Cart
  • Purchase
  • Complete Registration
  • Start Purchasing Process
  • Many, many more events … 

 

In doing so, it helps you to track conversions from your ads and optimize these accordingly. The information collected can be used to better target audiences for future ads or set up remarketing campaigns for people that have already shown an interest.

 

In a nutshell, the Facebook Pixel aids you to understand the effect your ads have on their viewers by tracing the path people take or the actions people settle on after being confronted with your ads. In future, this will teach you how to tend to those people better and make them take a desirable action, e.g. booking a service.

It is also a great tool to test your offer and pricing before launching with a big bang and wasting a lot of money. No clicks? You might want to adjust something.

 

CRM Systems

Maybe you wouldn’t have put CRM Systems in a list with ways to track website visitors and potential clients. What could HubSpot, Salesforce or Active Campaign possibly have to do with Website Tracking? But think again, is Website Tracking really the only tracking relevant to your business? We care to disagree!

 

A CRM system enables you to oversee and survey the relationships your business has with potential and existing clients. Thus, it tracks every touchpoint, every interaction of a customer with your business. Over the course of the time, it collects all sorts of information about this person for you: How you first got into touch, which emails this person was particularly interested in and even voluntarily given information like job titles, fields of interest and more.

 

In short, it creates a database around this client, which enables a personalized approach in your marketing activities as segmentation and personalization is crucial in modern marketing and if you want to succeed. In turn, this increases customer loyalty as well as the chance of a conversion, because everyone is different and needs a unique approach.

 

Is Website Tracking Dead? – DSGVO and Cookie Issues

For many years, Cookies have been making the lives of website owners significantly easier, helping them to find out how to improve user experience and ad targeting. However, with Google’s announcement to phase out the third-party cookie by 2022 in order to “build a more private web”, the tables have turned.

 

Essentially, Google’s intent is to create a more private web, which will grant a more secure and trustworthy online experience. This came to be after several scandals and outcrys about users feeling constantly watched – Do you know this feeling of getting an ad for a certain brand after having visited their Instagram Profile? 

 

Now, users are demanding greater control, or at least knowledge about how their data is used and Google, as well as several other browsers, are tending to this wish for a positive web ecosystem.

 

Doorsign reading "Private"

So, what’s next? How can you still acquire the information you need through Website Tracking, without breaking into the private lives of your website visitors?

 

Rely on First-Party Data

While it is true that third-party Cookies are an important contributor to your data and knowledge base, you do not need to worry just yet. Providing you have not just recently discovered the beauty of collecting and organizing data, you should still have plenty of information on your target audience to get a good understanding about them, even without third-party Website Tracking.

 

Much rather, there are several other options where information about your website visitors and clients can be collected. Here are the most important ones:

 

Your website’s first-party data

You should never rely on only one data source, so hopefully, you also have your website’s CMS track your first-party analytics. This will usually tell you the simple demographics of your website visitors, visits and other settings that will give you a good insight on your target audience, even without third-party Website Tracking.

 

Email Marketing data

In case you have at least a semi-regular email newsletter going for you, this is a great database you can use already. Not only is this a great indicator of the demographics of your target audience, but your CRM analytics will also show you how many people are clicking on which links from your email. This shows you, which content is most popular and what information is seemingly not clickable at all.

 

Social Media insights

Using the included analytics of your Social Media platforms will give you a very good understanding about who you are actually talking to. Usually, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc. tell you a lot about the age, gender, location and other valuable demographic information about your target audience that you can use to your likings.

 

Universal IDs

One of the most promising solutions to the forthcoming predicament in Website Tracking seems to be Universal IDs. Digiday summarized their characteristics the following: 

 

Universal IDs provide a shared, persistent identifier to trace the user across the supply chain without the clunkiness of cookie syncing or the platform risk of operating system IDs.” (Source: Digiday)

 

But because that statement still is quite vague, here is how it works:

 

  1. When visiting a site, the key identifiers of the user, e.g. email address, are collected together with the source domain
  2. These identifiers are then attached and stored together to the central identity graph. Essentially, this is a table used to organize the data by the provider of the Universal ID.
  3. Then, the website owner receives a stamped version of the Universal ID which can be used to identify a user for first-party management.

 

Essentially, it boils down to the point that every user has a unified name tag, that everyone can read, instead of receiving singular IDs for Facebook, Instagram and Amazon. For users, this is great because it reduces annoyance and clutter, while advertisers will be pleased to have a unified, universal language they can operate in.

 

Contextual Advertising

Currently, ads are displayed to users based on the  search queries they have made in the past. However, as the demolition of the third-party Cookie draws nearer, such Website Tracking will not be allowed any longer. As a result, we are likely to once again go back to keyword or contextual-based advertising. Pretty much as you might know it from Search Engine Advertising like Google. 

 

Imagine it like this: You open up an online shopping website to look for a new skirt and type in the exact keyword “skirt”. Now, instead of ads for the table set you searched for yesterday, the ads displayed on this website and beyond are much likely going to be all around skirts or products in relation to skirts.

 

All in all, contextual advertising is perceived as far less creepy than cookie-based retargeting and not as privacy-invading. Much rather than a “We know what you did last summer”-approach, it will be all about “Go where your customers are”.

 

Targeted Social Media Ads

Luckily, in the year of 2020, there are loads of alternatives to ad targeting based on third-party Cookie Website Tracking, one of them being launching targeted Social Media Ads. Although they already are one of the big players in the online world. Especially hyper-targeted Ads on Social Media allow for businesses and advertisers to pinpoint target audiences and display the right ad for seemingly any demographic to the right people.

 

Depending on the industry you are operating in, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram can be extremely valuable, in particular for B2C brands. On the other hand, B2B businesses are likely to get their money’s worth from LinkedIns relatively new targeted Ad system. The options here are endless.

 

The Wrap-Up

So now that we have settled the importance and benefits of a proper Website Tracking, let us get back to you and your business. In simple words, if you have no Website Tracking set up at all, you are throwing money and potential clients down the drain with every single visitor of your website. You’re not sure if you have it done properly or at all, there are ways to find out.

 

Luckily, the solution is easy: Hit the Schedule Call Now button in the top right corner or simply follow this link to our appointment scheduling page and schedule a free Discovery Call with one of the experts from our team!

 

Together, we will talk about your aims, goals and past experiences to work out the personalized, right package that is perfect for your business.

 

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