Web-Tracking: What is it?

 Web-Tracking: What is it?


 

In the internet economy, time spent browsing any website is a commodity – a commodity that has become increasingly valuable to companies. Companies are able to collect swathes of data, which can be used to understand their visitors to ultimately improve visitor experience through visitor-tailored content and features. Constructing accurate profiles from this web-tracked data, however, has been problematic. We’re going to look at some of these different data types and the specific challenges associated with them.

 

Web-tracking is the process of collecting and maintaining visitor data as they interact with a website. This can be done through mechanisms such as cookies and tags. It’s imperative to make sure that the data is as accurate as possible though, as this directly impacts the effectiveness of the insights gathered and the actions taken off the back of this data.

A cookie is a text file which your device may download when you visit a site. This file is then read by the website when the visitor returns, updating any relevant information about the visitor’s journey and subsequently informing the site which content to present the visitor going forward…

However, there are many limitations to cookies. As an example, privacy-conscious users may decide to delete their saved cookies, browse incognito or use tracking prevention features that are present in certain browsers, like Brave. These behaviors will prevent the website from  tracking cookies and so it will not recognize visitor behavior and the number of times visitors return correctly, which will then skew the tracking data. In addition, a cookie is specific to that visitor on a particular device and browser. They cannot work or communicate between multiple devices and browsers, and so will be ineffective if visitors jump from device to device or switch browsers. The biggest gap is on mobile devices, as cookies don’t work on mobile. All of this will undermine the effectiveness of cookies in a web-tracking system.

Websites can interact with cookies in many ways, but the most common mechanism is through the use of tags. When the visitor/browser accepts the use of cookies on the website, the tag relays the information collected through the cookie back to the website server. The server can then act on this data by customizing the content shown according to the user’s previous interactions on the site, or by saving this data for future use.

A pixel tag is an image-based mechanism embedded within the website’s HTML code that will allow data to be transmitted to a server when it is loaded by the visitor’s browser; however, the purpose and intention of tags/cookies are similar.

We can also collect IP addresses and user agent strings. The string contains information pertaining to the browser that is used, the browser version, and the device operating system. This data can be stored either on the client-side (e.g. the visitor’s browser) via JavaScript or transmitted via the pixel to track this relevant data. This can all hugely improve the accuracy of any visitor profile that a company is trying to develop.

 

Whilst all this data is useful, it’s limited in its raw form. For our next article in the series, we’re going to look at how we use a process called ‘stitching’ to combine all this information to create a more complete and accurate customer profile.

 

 

About Fospha

Fospha provides its clients with an accessible, centralised, and actionable data platform. Our solution can seamlessly integrate disparate performance data siloes and present clients with a comprehensive – and most importantly – accurate picture of their marketing performance. By combining MTA with an extensive list of different datasets, Fospha provides a single interface where clients can understand how buyers are interacting with their brand, understand where they’re getting the best return on investment, and optimise their marketing strategy accordingly.

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