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The In’s & Out’s of Online Tracking

The In’s & Out’s of Online Tracking

And How Your Business Can Benefit

There’s been a lot in the news this year about online privacy—Big Brother and the National Security Administration (NSA) following you around on the Internet. By now you’re aware that a lot of what you do while surfing the net is being tracked. In fact, unless you’ve made modifications to your web browser (or you use Google Chrome’s Incognito mode), pretty much everything you are doing online is tracked. To most, that probably seems creepy, but there’s value in it for you. And, there are many ways your company can benefit from it too!

How does online tracking worTracking occurs when a website places “cookies” on your web browser (like Google Chrome, FireFox or Internet Explorer) or profile (like your Google account through Gmail, YouTube, etc.). These cookies are little chunks of online code that run in the background and collect information that’s sent back to the tracking service.

What information can be tracked while I’m online?

  • Websites you’ve visited

  • Searches that you’ve done

  • Specific webpages you landed on

What things are off limits with online tracking?

It may feel like everything you’re doing is being recorded, but in reality, it’s not that bad. Basic online tracking that’s done for marketing purposes (i.e. through Google Analytics or a similar type analytics/marketing software) isn’t collecting anything personally identifiable, such as:

  • Name

  • Social security number

  • Email address

  • IP address

  • Financial information

How can online tracking benefit me?

On the personal side, online tracking can improve your Internet experience. Many websites you visit are free to access because of the digital ads. Since the ads are going to be there, you might as well have ads and messaging that interests you, right?

How can online tracking benefit my business?

A common form of tracking is website analytics software, like Google’s Universal Analytics. (It’s free and widely used.) With analytics software you can get a good picture of the people visiting your website and make some insights.

  • How many people are visiting? Knowing how many people visit (or don’t visit) your site allows you to set a benchmark for improvement and determine the right amount of time/money to invest in it. If your site receives a lot of traffic, you need to make sure maintenance and updates are high priorities. If it’s not getting much traffic, you should consider ways to improve your search listings and drive more traffic there.

  • How long are visitors on your site, and where are they within the site when they choose to leave? Knowing the length of a visitor’s experience and the content they were looking at when they left helps you identify weak spots on your website. Maybe you need more content? Maybe the content you have isn’t resonating with them? If your visitors aren’t completing the calls-to-action on your site, this is a great place to investigate to figure out why visitors leave early.

  • What content did visitors interact with the most? This helps you find the content people consume most and focus on making it great and producing more of it. If they like your blog, post more regularly. If they spend a lot of time reading about your products, consider adding demonstration videos. If they like your project galleries, add more photos.

  • What drove visitors to your site? If you’re spending money on digital ads, knowing which ones drive good visitors to your site helps you know where to invest your advertising dollars. Test various messages to see which version of your ad is most successful. Continue to refine your messaging until you’re satisfied with the results.

  • How were visitors viewing your site? Were they looking at your website on their desktop during the day while at work? Or was it on their smartphone in the evening? Knowing when people are looking and what device they used will help ensure your site is best suited to their experience. Mobile browsing isn’t always ideal for long-form video or photo-heavy websites.

How can online tracking improve my digital ad placements?

If you buy digital advertising, you can use cookies and online tracking to better target your ad buy. This allows you to make the most efficient use of your advertising budget because you won’t waste ad impressions on people who aren’t in your target audience. In a typical ad buy, you can designate geographically where you want your ads to appear. When you incorporate data collected by a third party tracking service, you can also layer on targeting that limits your ad exposures to Internet users who fit a certain demographic (men, age 25 - 34) or who exhibit certain online behaviors (searching for used cars and looking at car reviews).

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