Tracking pixels (or web beacons) are a simple fact of life on the modern web. They’re on the sites you see , they are from the programs you use and, most likely, you’ve placed a few of yourself. But knowing about tracking pixels is different than understanding how they work and, like lots of different programs, it’s simple to get together without really understanding how they operate.
That having been said, there are as many tracking pixels out there as there are grains of sand on all the planets in the world (or there about), and I can on no account provide a comprehensive explanation of how they work. What I can do, however, will provide you with the fundamentals of how monitoring pixels get the job done.
What are tracking pixels?
I find when I am trying to learn something it is always best to start with the easiest definition potential. I attempt to find one that covers every thing, without being too technical. So, with this in mind:
A tracking pixel is a piece of client based technologies that records particular visitor information
I’m going to break down each bit of the sentence to provide you the best idea of tracking pixels get the job done. But first, a fast explanation of this title.
You may have understood the’pixel’ part of’monitoring pixel’ does not make much sense. Pixels are a unit of measurement in the computer world, and usually used in reference to settlements or images. Tracking pixels really have nothing related to images (see the definition above), just they actually do, kinda. They get their name because they started out as images put on a web page. These images were 1 pixel size (1×1), making them effectively invisible to individuals visiting the site. Although nowadays tracking pixels are not usually pictures, we still use this title because their purpose is exactly the same: to record particular visitor information
Tracking pixels are client based
Our first bit of the definition is client based. Client centered means the pixel runs in the application that the user is using (usually a browser) as opposed to server established. Tracking pixels are made to collect information about your visitors, and it does so by accessing your visitor’s personal computer. By operating in the browser, the pixel is allowed limited access to information, like what kind of browser the visitor is using, their cookies, their IP, etc. Most of this info is sent while the browser loads the tracking pixel. This is why some pixels can only be graphics: the data comes in the loading of the picture, and nothing else.
If the consumer is in another type of customer (say, a program on their phone), implementation of a monitoring pixel can be somewhat different. Websites are a bit easier, as you generally need to paste some code to the header or footer of this web page.
Because pixels are client-based, they use the resources of the user’s computers that may slow it down if there are too many pixels. It’s very important to periodically review your pixels and make certain they’re all serving a purpose, and do the exact same anytime you put in a pixel. If you don’t, it’s easy to go overboard and bloat up your site.
Although tracking pixels started out as graphics, it has become common for them to be script snippets. Using scripts, tracking pixels are able to manipulate and communicate more info than an image-based one can. Although the two styles have the identical goal (they’re both tracking pixels), script-based ones are more advanced.
There is a caveat to script-based pixels, however. They’re usually harder to incorporate, and nearly always need a fundamental knowledge of programming to get the most from these.
Specific User Information
The last part of the definition is most likely the trickiest, and in which many men and women start to get confused. To recap, we have learned that:
A tracking pixel is a slice of client-based technology that records specific visitor details.
Tracking pixels operate on the user’s computer, which provides them access to this info.
You can utilize either script or image-based pixels.
Two of those three points are all about communicating and accessing information, while among them is our overall definition. So, with that said, what information are we accessing and communicating? Well, that is based on the pixel.
Let’s take Google Analytics. By default, Google Analytics will record information about your user (browser, IP, referrer, etc.), the way they browse your site (time per page, bounce rate, which pages they started ), and set it all to a nice dashboard that you see.
However, you can also personalize Google Analytics, so now it’s tracking how much money people invested, or perhaps how many times they hovered over the buy now button, or perhaps how long they left the tab open. Each of these choices requires different development and different integrations which all depend on how your site is setup. If you want a conversion ID or dollar amount, you’ll need to know how your site stores that info and how to send it into Google Analytics.
Google Analytics’ pixel is similar to Facebook’s pixel, which not just collects some similar information, but also lets you construct audiences of people who resemble users visiting your site.
Still more different, you could find a pixel out of a retargeting service, which shows your ads to the user after they leave the website.
Or maybe you have pixels which capture people’s activities on your website so you can see a recording of what they did.
The list goes on and on, but it comes down to each monitoring pixel recording specific user info . All pixels track some kind of user information, and while there’s overlap between most pixels, there should be at least one unique thing it will. When there isn’t, you probably shouldn’t be using that pixel.
Comment below if you feel I missed anything about monitoring pixels, or if you’ve got a question which you can’t find an answer for. I’m hoping to create this out as a fantastic reference, so I am always looking to add more stuff to it!