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Tracking Pixels : Why They Matter To Your Next Digital Ad Campaign

Shopify Tracking Pixels

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If you have ever noticed an online banner ad that "follows" you around? Then, you've seen a tracking pixel at work (or lack of power, depending on how often and how well the ad was done) for yourself.

Digital design companies often underestimate the power of these small but mighty things. It can change the following campaign flow, improve the website, and boost sales if done right.

Let's resolve some of the myths around Pixel tracking.

What is Tracking Pixel?

A tracking pixel is a small piece of HTML code that is activated when a user visits a website or opens an email. It can be used to keep track of conversions and how users to act. With the help of a tracking pixel, advertisers can gather information for digital marketing, site research, or email marketing.

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Tracking pixels within the source code might look like this:

The URL for the tracking pixel is where the data is stored on the server. When a user visits a website, this server loads the image with the tag. With the style attribute, you can set things like how visible something is or how small it is. 

Inserting a Tracking Pixel

Depending on the system, a monitoring pixel can be made differently. This can sometimes be done with the help of the content management system, but sometimes the pixel needs to be added directly to the source code of the email or website.

Most web analysis tools that require the pixel, like Facebook or Google Analytics, give detailed instructions on setting it up.

Arguments against tracking pixels

Tracking pixels are often criticized by data protection advocates because they collect comprehensive data about the user, mostly without knowledge of the user.

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Tracking pixels are often critiqued by people who care about privacy because they collect much information about the user, most of the time without the user's knowledge.

Since the tracking pixel can't be seen with the naked eye and the average user doesn't know what the small graphic means even when it can be seen, the tracking pixel is a way to send information without permission. Based on this, critics say that tracking pixels violate a user's privacy by keeping a record of their movements.

Since the IP address is sent along with the information, it is also possible to link it to other data on the internet, like a profile on a social media network or a forum.

Tracking pixels also make it easier for spammers to do their work. Spammers can find out if an email address is legitimate by putting tracking pixels in their spam messages. If the person receiving the email opens it and loads the automated tracking pixel, the spammer knows that the email address is accurate. Because of this, more spam messages are sent.

Data protection and Tracking Pixels

GDPR states that users must be warned if a website collects information about them. Users must also be able to say no to being tracked.

Benefits of Tracking Pixels

Tracking pixels are helpful for the ones who run websites, SEOs, and individuals who send emails. This is because they can use the data to improve their online services, make them easier to use, and ensure they work with the most popular browser types and versions.

Even better, tracking pixels works better than cache in browsers: A page is still counted when it is viewed. If JavaScript is used, it is possible to get more information. This includes size of the screen, plugins that are used, the technologies that the browser supports, and so on.

So, it becomes possible to tell the difference between users and bots and to make profiles for users. A user's IP address, the sites they visit, and the user's properties can all be used to make navigation paths. But for most web analyses, the tracking pixel is just the beginning. Advanced technologies are needed, which can only be done by service providers with the relevant skillset.

Tracking pixels can also help with the analysis of email newsletters that have been sent because they show the user statistics data about how often specific emails or newsletters are opened. Together with A/B tests, this lets you figure out which campaigns work. From the viewpoint of the person getting the newsletter, this means that future newsletters can be made more interesting and relevant.

Countermeasures For The Users

There are a variety of ways for users to stop tracking pixels from getting their information:

  • Set your browser and email configurations to be as limited as possible. For example, external graphics should only be shown if you grant consent, and HTML emails should not be shown. This can also be done with the right settings for a firewall.
  • Tracking pixels can be seen with some browser extensions.
  • To stop tracking pixels from being downloaded, you can use the Tor browser or proxy servers to surf the web anonymously.
  • You can turn off script support in your browser to stop it from collecting more information about you, such as your browser type or operating system. But in some cases, this can make it hard to use the internet for other things.

    Importance of Tracking Pixels For Web Analytics, Advertising, and SEO

    Cookies and tracking pixels are often used for the same things. A file on the user's hard drive keeps track of the user's movements.

    But these days, uncreasing number of people are using browser functions to block cookies. Because of this, cookies often give out incomplete information, and sometimes their use is completely blocked.

    The tracking pixel is used instead of a cookie because a normal browser can't stop it from working. Still, there are a number of browser add-ons, plugins, and programs that can block tracking pixels and stop log file analysis.

    Tracking methods like Canvas Fingerprinting, Event Tracking, or various hybrid methods are also being used more and more. As with all tracking models, websites need to be changed in a lot of ways, such as in data protection, to accommodate these tracking methods. Also, the user must give permission for pixels to be used to track them.

    A pixel tracking code can help you track conversions on your own landing pages, a partner site, or even affiliate networks.

    Pixel tracking is not a hard thing to do. In fact, it's "old" technology, like counting how many times a banner is seen. A server stores an image, and the image's HTML code is added to a post or page.

    The image loads (or "fires," as they say) every time the website loads. Based on how you use it, every time the pixel image is seen, it will be marked as a sale or a lead.

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    LinkTrackr uses 11-pixel code, which you can see in the screenshot above. Basically, this is a picture that is 1 pixel wide and 1 pixel tall. On a standard landing page, it's almost impossible to see with the naked eye.

    Pixel Tracking for Affiliates

    Why should you keep track of affiliate links? And besides, numerous affiliate programs have their very own reports and dashboards that show the clicks and sales.

    If you're new to affiliate marketing and have only been promoting a few products or services, you might think that everything is fine. For now, these dashboards are enough.

    But if you make affiliate marketing critically and start promoting more products, it will be hard to keep track of everything relevant if you have more than one dashboard open. You'd want to have one place where you can compare to see which posts and affiliate links do well.

    Some of the most important reasons why experienced affiliate marketers monitor their affiliate links are listed below.

    Easily compare affiliate link performance

    When you have a link tracking system in place, it's easy to see what posts, affiliate links, and marketing channels bring you the most money.

    Make better decisions

    Link tracking also lets you know which platforms send you the most traffic. If you know this, you can focus on advertising your materials through the most effective channels.

    Increase CTR

    Some platforms for affiliate marketing let you make short links, but others don't. This means you have to use long links with a bunch of alphanumeric characters that people don't understand.

    This changes how many people click on your ads (CTR). People are more likely to click and share links that are short and easy to read than ones that are long and look suspicious.

    Affiliate marketers and people in charge of links use URL shortening to get around this problem. Many tools for managing links also let you brand your links (i.e., give them a custom domain name), which helps build trust in your brand.

    Protect your earnings

    Some affiliates try to steal the money of other affiliates by changing their affiliate IDs, which takes away the commissions of legitimate affiliates.

    You can hide your affiliate ID and stop commission theft by using branded tracking links or URL shorteners.

    How to Track Your Affiliate Links?

    How to Track Your Affiliate Links?

    There are multiple of tools that make it easy for affiliate marketers to make branded or custom links and keep track of them. Here are a few of the best providers of Affiliate Marketing Tracking Pixels:

      Consider a Tag Manager

      If you use an affiliate tracking pixel, you should find out if your company uses a tag management solution. If you are using a tag manager, the next essential question to ponder is whether or not the affiliate tracking pixel is managed by the tag manager.

      Many businesses had an affiliate program already when they started using a tag management solution. During the implementation of the tag management solution, the affiliate pixel was not included, so it was not managed by the tag manager. You need to know this so you can figure out when your affiliate pixel will fire and give credit to an affiliate.

      Most advertisers give credit to an affiliate because they're the last referrer just before the conversion event. If an affiliate is a second-to-last person to send someone to the site, they won't get credit for the sale. For an advertiser to credit or not credit an affiliate, there needs to be a logical rule for when/if the affiliate pixel fires (loads) on the thank you page. A tag management solution is the most simple and clear way to do this.

      When you use a tag manager, the rules for how pixels fire are clear and can be reviewed and tested to make sure they work as expected. If you don't use a tag manager and your development teams have coded the pixel firing logic, it is hard to review, test, and fix their script (and they may be too busy to help you).

      On their thank you page, some brands still have their tracking pixel hardcoded. This means that every time a sale is made, the affiliate pixel will be fired. When this type of integration is used, the affiliate channel will get too much credit. If an affiliate is involved in a conversion, they will get a commission, even if they were the last or thirty-first-to-last person to send someone to the site.

      Some advertisers who incorporate pixels this way will look at the conversions, figure out who should really get credit (for example, the affiliate or AdWords), and later take back commissions that were given to the wrong people. Others want to give credit to affiliates who helped a customer along the way, even if they weren't the last click.

      That’s a wrap!

      You can check out our other pixel-related article & find out all the Pixel tracking tools you need to link to all your marketing campaigns to get the most out of it.

      How does Tracking Pixel work?

      Using a tag placed in the HTML file or email sent to the website, the person who operates the website or sends the email adds the tracking pixel. This code creates a link from the outside world to the server pixel. When a user goes to the destination page, the application normally processes the Html in the user's browser.

      With this method, different pieces of information about the user are also sent. To get information about the computer system or browser type, it is sometimes necessary to use JavaScript.

      Using a tracking pixel, you can collect and analyze the following information:

      • Operating system used (gives information on the use of mobile devices)
      • Type of website or email used, for example on mobile or desktop
      • Type of client used, for example, a browser or mail program.
      • Client’s screen resolution
      • Time the email was read or website was visited
      • Activities on the website during a session (when using multiple tracking pixels)
      • IP address (gives information on the Internet Service Provider and location)

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