Tracking Pixels and the Future of Advertising

At this point in time, chances are good that you’re already familiar with pixel tracking. The process uses one or more marketing pixels for event tracking across your website, giving you more information about your audience.

As you refine your digital marketing strategies, you’ll quickly find that these tiny pixels can offer outsized opportunities, given their unassuming status and ease of implementation. With prepared tracking pixels through products like Google Analytics and Facebook ads, even novices can easily take advantage of the data and insight they provide. 

Read on to learn more about tracking pixels, their place in our current landscape, and how they can help you lay the groundwork to ensure marketing performance well into the future. 

How Tracking Pixels Work

Tracking pixels are short lines of code that got their name because they are essentially 1-by-1 graphics representing a single pixel. Typically, these pixels are transparent, hidden in background color, or otherwise completely unnoticeable by your website’s audience. 

These invisible pixels lie dormant until they’re loaded. Once a user loads the webpage, email, or banner ad containing the pixel, the user’s browser processes the pixel code. This follows an external link to the pixel server’s IP address and registers the action in the server’s log files. Marketers and business owners can then review the data from these logs to learn more about their target audiences. 

Tracking pixels can even be taken a few steps further. For example:

  • Multiple Tracking Pixels: When you use tracking pixels, you’re not limited to just one. Because they load extremely quickly, you can use multiple pixels to track several different types of events on a single page without jeopardizing the user experience with slow load times.
  • Parameterized Pixels: You can also expand the type of data your pixels generate by using parameterized pixels. A parameterized pixel doesn’t just tell you a user made a purchase: It can also tell you what the user purchased and how much money they paid for their order. 
  • Retargeting: Pixels are widely used to produce data for retargeting purposes, though they have multiple other uses. 

What They’re Used For

As mentioned above, tracking pixels are a common tool for retargeting campaigns. They give ad service providers the ability to track the websites individual IP addresses have visited and actions they’ve taken (like link clicks) in the past, making it possible to use algorithms to decide the products they’ll most likely visit in the future. 

That being said, retargeting isn’t the only use for tracking pixels. Tracking pixels are also commonly used for:

  • Email Marketing Analytics: Tracking pixels can tell you when a user opens an email, clicks a link in that email, or takes any other action you want to track. 
  • Banner Ads: You can use tracking pixels to confirm the number of impressions or clicks you get on an ad alongside other data that can help you improve your marketing efforts. 
  • Purchase Tracking: Tracking pixels can also be used to track purchase information, making it possible to use this data to curate high-conversion product lineups. 

The use of pixels is often called website pixel tracking, but as a marketer, it’s important to note that they’re useful across the web, not just on your website. 

Why Tracking Pixels Are Criticized For User Privacy

This is the digital age. As times change and everything becomes digitized, privacy in the digital realm has become one of the hottest topics of conversation. Unfortunately, tracking pixels are often criticized due to privacy concerns like:

  • Spam Emails: Some unsavory actors use tracking pixels in spam emails to learn about audiences they shouldn’t be emailing in the first place. 
  • Blocking: Pixels can be more difficult to block than cookies. Some argue that this means less tech-savvy users are unable to protect their online privacy when pixels are involved. 
  • Legal Concerns: Tracking pixels can track user data surreptitiously, which can be a privacy concern in regions with stricter regulations. 

Of course, any technology can be used improperly, and there’s always a bad apple or two who will do so. When tracking pixels are implemented properly, they should not infringe on user privacy in any way. 

How Do Tracking Pixels Relate to the Future of Advertising?

When new technologies emerge in just about any industry, that technology is often viewed as the “way of the future” within its industry. In many cases, however, numerous new technologies emerge constantly and some will inevitably fall flat. However, when it comes to tracking pixels, there can be a strong argument made that they do tie into the future of the advertising and marketing industry for several reasons. 

These pixels are easier to set up and harder to block than traditional means of data collection. They help businesses and marketers track user behaviors, giving you more information about the audience you’re targeting. They also clearly define areas for improvement, resulting in a better user experience. All of that data can be leveraged today to refine your approach to your user experience, your marketing strategy, your audience targeting, and more – and as we move into the increasingly privacy-focused future, the data you gather today will inform tomorrow’s tools.

They’re Harder to Block Than Cookies

As a marketer or business owner, you want to get as much data as possible. Unfortunately, users can easily block cookies. Moreover, cookies have come under fire from a regulatory perspective and third-party cookies are facing deprecation by Google. Presently, all users need to do is disable cookies in their browsers, and your data collection tool then becomes ineffective. 

However, while it’s possible to block pixels, the process is typically a bit more difficult, leading to fewer users doing so. Many methods for blocking pixels will also impact the user’s experience, meaning the vast majority of people will opt to allow tracking through pixels. 

They’re Easier to Set Up Than Other Methods

As mentioned above, pixels are typically created using very short lines of code. That means they’re quite simple to set up. 

You don’t have to be able to read or write extensive code to take advantage of these pixels. All you typically need to be able to do is copy the code from the pixel provider and place it on the website where you want to track an event. 

Cookies, on the other hand, can be far more difficult to set up on your website, and they’re also highly limited. For example, cookies can only be used on your website, whereas you can easily add pixels to your website, email messages, marketing assets, and more.  

They Help Marketers Easily Track Conversion and User Behaviors

For a business owner or marketer, it’s important to track not only conversions on your website but the actions that lead up to those conversions. When you track this information, you’re able to determine what actions have a higher probability of producing conversions and work to make these particular actions easier for your users to take. 

After all, the more data you have about your target audience, the better equipped you are to create marketing materials that appeal to them and a sales funnel they’re more likely to follow. 

They Combine With AI To Make Data Analysis Easier

Artificial intelligence has been gaining ground and gathering attention in advertising and marketing circles, and it’s for good reason. The use of artificial intelligence in marketing has proven to reduce cost and increase conversions, producing a significant improvement in ROI related to advertising spending. So, it’s not surprising that AI is even now being coupled with tracking pixels to make your life easier. 

When you mix artificial intelligence tools with tracking pixels, you end up with a pixel that provides you with all the data you need and an automatic system for curating that data. As a result, the goldmine of data you’ve collected becomes easier to analyze. In fact, when you use artificial intelligence to process your pixel data, you’ll likely find opportunities to improve parts of your marketing strategy you thought were running like a well-oiled machine.

You’ll be able to fully visualize your customers’ pathways to conversion, develop a more complete picture of who your audience is, and leverage artificial intelligence to build out custom audiences based on that data, making it simpler and more efficient to find and scale your consumer base. Most importantly, many AI tools take a privacy-first approach by ensuring all data is fully anonymized, making them ideal for use well into the future. Naturally, the more data you have today to build out these tools, the better they will perform tomorrow.

They Help Businesses Understand Their Consumer Base to Improve User Experience

As a marketer, you’re not just selling a product or service. You’re selling a brand, its views, and its personality. When you interact with your customer base, you’re not just interacting with faceless customers: You’re interacting with people. 

In order to market most effectively, it’s important to make a conscious effort to learn more about the people you want to sell your products and services to. Although everyone is unique, those who use similar products and services typically have similar interests. When you make an effort to learn about those interests, you’ll find it easier to create marketing materials and campaigns that produce high conversion rates. 

That’s exactly what tracking pixels provide. They give you information about how your audience is digesting the information you have to provide, whether that information comes via a webpage, email, or other means. You can use this information to give your target audience more of what they want and less of what they don’t, improving your conversion rates. 

They Allow Businesses to Know Where to Improve

No business or marketing strategy is perfect. Even the highest-performing marketing strategies likely have room for improvement. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to determine where these opportunities for improvement lie. 

Tracking pixels can help. 

When you use tracking pixels, you’re not just looking for positive information about the things that are working. You’re also looking for information about the aspects of your marketing strategy that aren’t performing as you hoped. Although it may be unpleasant to dig through this information, doing so makes it easier for you to determine where you can improve your strategy to produce better outcomes. 

They Can Help Marketers Experiment with New Solutions

When you deploy tracking pixels alongside new, identity-free targeting solutions, you can leverage this specific combination of new tools and existing data gathering technology to measure the efficacy of these new approaches. At this moment in time, marketers are in a perfect position to experiment with emergent tactics and tools while implementing pixels to evaluate their impact on performance.

This can help inform the strategies that you develop and solutions you leverage as we continue to move into an increasingly fragmented, privacy-focused future with higher consumer expectations and savvier audiences.

What Are the Advantages of Using Tracking Pixels?

There are several advantages to using tracking pixels.

  • Tracking Pixels vs Cookies: Although cookies are a more traditional means of procuring user data, tracking pixels are more versatile, easier to implement, and more difficult to block. 
  • Versatility: You can use pixels on your website, in emails, in advertising banners, and more. You can also use pixels to track a wide range of event types, producing more well-rounded data.
  • Analysis: The data from tracking pixels is typically easy to analyze, and with the help of AI, it may point to places where you can improve areas of your strategy that you rarely think about. 

Is Tracking Pixel Code Secure?

If you own a website that collects and stores data, you’re considered a data controller, which comes with responsibilities. After all, damages from a data breach could fall on your shoulders, so it’s important that the tools you use to track and manage data are secure. 

When it comes to tracking pixels, you can rest assured that this code is typically secure. However, as a website owner, you’ll also want to deploy other security measures, like encryption with an SSL certificate, to ensure that you protect your users’ data. 

Get More Leads That Convert With the Right Marketing Strategy

While some tracking pixels may find themselves undermined as privacy regulations continue to evolve, many pixel solutions are already adjusting to ensure a privacy-safe approach that will carry this valuable resource well into the future. Today, pixels are still a tool that should be leveraged wherever possible to provide the invaluable data that will help you build a foundation to better leverage solutions into the future. By pairing this standby technology with advanced new AI-enabled tools and data science, you can get a better understanding of who your audience is and scale for effective growth.

No matter what the future brings, AUDIENCEX is designed to be a digital advertising partner to help guide our clients through this ever-shifting landscape. With changing privacy regulations, emergent technology, and rapidly advancing AI tools and tactics, our team of experts is here to ensure that you stay ahead of the curve and adopt the correct solutions for your specific needs.

With seamless media access, advanced data science, holistic tech solutions, and strategic expertise from planning to creative to optimization, we work every day to ensure that you reach and engage the right audience, getting the most out of every ad spend. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you achieve real results, reach out today for your free consultation. We’d love to talk about how we can help you navigate the constantly evolving digital ecosystem.