Today, website tracking has become an integral part of many online businesses’ marketing strategies. In a nutshell, web tracking refers to the exercise of collecting an individual’s website activity. Companies or brands can better understand their preferences by understanding the behavior and actions of people visiting their websites. In doing so, they will gain information that will allow them to engage with potential customers more effectively.
Web tracking helps companies make important choices such as selecting the right design, preparing website content, and/or developing marketing strategies.
“The price of light is less than the cost of darkness.”
For a business to be successful, it is essential that it not only collects crucial data but breaks it down properly. In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about website tracking, what and how you can track, the types of website visitor tracking tools available, the role of SEO, and the best practices you can follow.
Types of website tracking
Although there are many different types of website tracking methods, the most common ones include:
Here’s how each of these methods functions:
By now, you will have visited a website or two that’s asked you permission to change your cookies. In internet terms, a cookie isn’t a baked good but a small text file that a website stores on a person’s mobile device or computer when they visit a website. Cookies enable websites to save user login information, preferences, and other relevant info.
Besides this data, cookies also store tracking information, such as the pages a user has visited, how much time they spent on each page, their behavioral data, etc. If the website a person is visiting sets up the cookies, this is known as “first-party cookies.” Similarly, if an ad network or any other third-party service sets up the cookie, this is known as a “third-party cookie.”
Also popularly known as ‘pixel tracking,’ web beacons refer to invisible, tiny images embedded into an email or web page. When the user opens the web page or the email containing the web beacon, the image gets loaded from the server. The server then begins tracking user behavior, such as page views and clicks. Web beacons help to track users from different websites.
What do companies track?
Companies use web tracking to collect data to understand users’ actions and behavior on the website. Here are some of the common types of data that websites collect:
Basic tracking data
Basic tracking data collects data related to metrics such as:
- Time spent on a website
- Bounce rate (percentage of visitors who leave the website after checking only one page)
- Traffic sources (search engine, social media, direct traffic, etc.)
This data is beneficial as it helps marketers understand if the user engagement on a website is up to the mark. It also helps them know if the marketing strategies currently being used by a website are effective.
Advanced tracking data
Advanced tracking data consists of visitors’ behavior and preferences, such as the pages they visit the most and the products they like on a website. It also contains demographic information such as location, gender, and age. Brands or companies use this data to personalize user experience and to improve conversion rates.
GDPR and CCPA – their impact on tracking data collection
The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the US and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU are data privacy regulations, and the aim of these regulatory bodies is to safeguard users’ privacy when they are online.
Their main objective is to ensure, before they collect personal data, that businesses or brands obtain their website visitors’ consent to do so. Through these regulations, companies are also mandated to provide their users the option to opt-out too. By following these rules, websites are more transparent, allowing individuals visiting their web pages to understand what data is being collected from them.
Apart from collecting this data, it is also essential for businesses to safeguard it and protect their users’ anonymity.
Website tracking tools
There are many website visitor tracking tools available that allow businesses to collect and analyze website data. Some of the most popular website tracking tools include:
Google Analytics is a visitor tracking software that’s free to use and enables businesses to track website traffic, user behavior, and conversions. It offers many features, including custom reports, real-time data, and integration alongside other tools Google has developed.
Adobe Analytics is an analytics tool offering advanced tracking and analysis features, including cross-device tracking, predictive analytics, and customer journey analysis. It is only available as a paid service and is commonly used by large enterprises and organizations.
This open-source analytics platform tracks website traffic and monitors user behavior while safeguarding data ownership and user privacy. Piwik/Matomo has many different features, such as real-time data, custom reports, and data visualization.
Best Practices for website tracking
Businesses should adhere to certain principles to ensure that their website tracking practices are transparent, secure, and privacy-focused. These include:
Transparency and consent
Businesses should be transparent about website tracking and obtain explicit user consent before collecting personal data. Users should also be given the option to opt out of data collection.
Secure data storage
Companies should prevent unauthorized access and data breaches by safeguarding all data they have collected via website tracking.
User anonymity and privacy
Companies should protect user anonymity and privacy at all times. Businesses should avoid collecting sensitive personal data, such as financial or health information, and ensure that the data they collect is used for legitimate purposes.
Avoid “creepy” tracking practices
To avoid being perceived as invasive or “creepy,” businesses should avoid overly intrusive tracking methods, such as recording keystrokes or monitoring users’ social media activity.
Website Tracking and SEO
Website tracking can also improve a website’s search engine optimization (SEO). By analyzing website data, businesses can identify areas for improvement, such as optimizing website content for keywords, improving website speed and usability, and identifying and fixing technical issues affecting search engine rankings.
Website tracking is a powerful tool for businesses seeking insights from user behavior and preferences. It’s important to note that companies should do website tracking in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the United States.
These laws aim to protect user privacy and give individuals more control over their data.
Businesses should also regularly review and audit their website tracking practices to ensure they are up-to-date and effective. By keeping up with industry best practices and staying informed about new technologies and trends, brands and companies can use website tracking as a valuable tool for improving user experience and driving business growth.