What are Tracking Pixels and How To Use Them in Your Marketing

Tracking Pixels

Every internet marketer knows that even the best article, email offer, or advertising campaign is useless if no one sees it. You spend all that time crafting the perfect message, but unless you can get it in front of people – the right people – you are wasting your time. Understanding what converts (and what doesn’t) will save you money on your online marketing campaigns, by eliminating the guess-work and allowing you to concentrate your efforts on what matters most – building your business.

So how do you know if your message is actually getting through? Simple. You track it!

Tracking Pixels

One of the best ways to track your marketing efforts is by using a handy little piece of code called a tracking pixel. This code creates a tiny 1×1 size pixel that can be embedded as an image on a website, email or advertising banner.

A tracking pixel is invisible to the eye, so a user is unaware of its existence. It works by calling back to a network server when a particular action takes place. This might be visiting a specific page on your website, opening your product information email, or viewing a banner ad.

If you’ve ever researched something on Amazon but didn’t buy it, only to see an ad for that same product on other web pages that you’ve visited afterward, you’ve seen tracking pixels in action.

Nowadays every digital marketing platform must provide its advertisers with in-depth user data. This allows internet marketers more options than ever before. The ability to re-target prospective buyers, pinpoint precise demographics, and even confirm whether your email newsletters have been opened are all made possible by the use of tracking pixels.

Let’s take a look at four of the main players in digital media marketing. Each of these companies offers their own ad platform to promote your content.

Facebook Pixel

The Facebook pixel is used to track the effectiveness of your Facebook advertising. Once the code has been copied into the header of your website, it waits for a user to perform a specific action – generally making a purchase. By tracking this data you can then use it to create lookalike audiences of other Facebook users who share similar characteristics with your best customers. There are over 2 billion active monthly Facebook users. It’s simply not possible (or even wise) to try to market to them all, but using pixel data to create lookalike audiences greatly improves your chances of marketing to those most likely to buy your product or service. A lookalike audience is a way to reach new people who are likely to be interested in your business because they share many of the same profile attributews as your existing customers.

Twitter Tag

Twitter calls their tracking code a website tag. Despite the different name, it is essentially the same as a tracking pixel. Using a website tag, Twitter is able to collect user data that incorporates engagement triggered from link clicks, tweet likes and retweets.

LinkedIn Insight Tag

Conversion tracking in LinkedIn works similarly to that of other social advertising networks. After the LinkedIn Insight Tag is added to your website, you define what counts as a trigger action. When a user is brought to your website through a LinkedIn ad and completes one of these actions (example: filling out a form to receive a downloadable freebie) that data will be recorded. You can then run reports on different criteria and measure user engagement.

Google Adwords Conversion Code

Google has been tracking user data longer than any other ad network. Their conversion tracking code allows marketers to better understand the results of their ad campaigns and focus keywords. This leads to retargeting opportunities, where the same ad can be used for the same user at a later time. (Studies have shown that most users require repeated viewing of a marketer’s message before taking action.) Retargeting is only achievable through the use of tracking pixels. If you’re not using them, you’re missing out on a chance to market directly to someone who has already been exposed to your message.

How to Manage Tracking Pixels

With so many different advertising networks available, it can be a real challenge to effectively manage these, especially across multiple websites. To solve this problem, Google has created Google Tag Manager. GTM works with Google Adwords tags, as well as third-party tracking tags/pixels to provide a seamless integration and one central location to administer tag management. Once your tags have been loaded onto your website they can be controlled from within the Google Tag Manager. No need to log into various networks to administer your tracking options.

Best Practices

Although collecting data on your users’ behaviours can be extremely helpful to your marketing efforts, not all users will share your enthusiasm. Tracking pixels should be used to enhance a user’s experience, not diminish it. As such there are a few best practices that you should look to employ when adding tracking pixels to your website.

  1. Be precise. Tracking pixels rarely need to fire for every user or every webpage. Instead of casting a wide net with your tracking data, focus it more tightly. The data will be more accurate, and the user experience more natural.
  2. Smart pixel placement ensures that pixels are never set to fire before the page has finished loading. Do not introduce anything into a webpage that will slow it down while loading. Since a user cannot see a tracking pixel, it should be last to load, allowing the other content to be the priority.
  3. Support HTTPS. If you add an HTTP tracking pixel to an HTTPS website, a user’s web browser will report a security warning on the page. Ensure the code matches the type of website. (For more information about HTTPS, please read our article here.)
  4. Permit users to opt-out. Not everyone likes the idea of their online movements being tracked, even if the intention is good. Respect “Do Not Track” if a user’s web browser has that setting enabled.

Think you’re ready to take your online advertising campaign to the next level? Contact our team to learn how we can help you get the most out of your marketing dollars.

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