What is tracking?

In the context of online marketing, tracking refers to tracking the movement of users on the Internet, which is why the term web tracking or user tracking is often used. Tracking is an important prerequisite for success control in online marketing, e.g. to check the performance of advertising campaigns or the usability of a website.

What is the significance of tracking?

With the help of tracking you can find out, for example, which websites or backlinks a visitor came to your site from. Especially for online shops, user tracking is of enormous importance. This allows orders and buyer behaviour to be recorded and products with the highest and lowest sales to be identified. You can also see which product groups are preferred by which age group or which pages are preferred by men or women.

Tracking in online shops is also important with regard to affiliate marketing. Because only with the help of tracking can each referred visitor and his actions (order, newsletter registrations, etc.) be assigned to the respective affiliate, the advertising partner, who in turn receives a commission.

Tracking enables you to collect the following information:

  • from which location a user accesses the site
  • which pages are clicked most frequently
  • how long do the visitors spend on a page
  • the user registers for a newsletter
  • on which page the visitors get off again

From this, in turn, measures can be derived to improve the website or to adapt advertising campaigns in order, for example, to achieve the following goals:

  • Make websites more customer friendly
  • Reduce visitor abandonment
  • better align product page or service page with the target group
  • better adapt advertising measures to the personal interests of the user

How does tracking work?

There are numerous free and paid tools available for tracking. Depending on the scope, the user tracking tools provide a lot of relevant information about your visitors and their behaviour on your website. There are different ways to track the paths of a user or to read typical characteristics of this user, e.g. via JavaScript, cookies and HTTP headers. The data can be transmitted in real time or after recording.

Most tools use a first-party cookie for tracking. First party means that the information is only read between the website owner and the user. When someone visits a page, they automatically receive a number that is stored in the background on the computer in the form of a cookie. If he visits the page again, he is recognized by the cookie.

However, tracking is not only possible via a single website, but also via several pages that cooperate with each other. This is possible, for example, through cookie synchronization or the insertion of advertising banners. Access to the cookies is then also possible via the banner.

Tracking methods depending on the analysis goal

Which tracking method is used depends on what is to be investigated. If, for example, it is a question of improving the usability of a page, then methods such as eye tracking or mouse tracking make sense. With mouse tracking, the user’s mouse movements are tracked. For example, you can see how far a user scrolls, how long he stays on certain areas of a single page and what he enters with the keyboard. For example, you can see if many users are trying to click on elements that are not clickable. Eye tracking tracks the user’s eye movements on a website, making it possible, for example, to measure which areas of a page are not “visible” or which are particularly relevant.

When it comes to evaluating a marketing campaign, event tracking makes sense. This allows you to measure or record specific events that are important for the campaign, e.g. how often users clicked on a particular link or filled out a particular form and submitted it.

Cross-device tracking makes it possible to analyze user behavior across different devices. This allows you to see more accurately which stations your users are going through before conversion.

Alternatives to Cookie Tracking

In addition to mouse tracking and eye tracking, there are many other alternatives to cookie tracking. Cookie tracking is problematic, for example, when using apps and browsers on mobile devices. The alternative methods for cookie tracking include app-specific solutions on the one hand and solutions for web browsers on the other.

Browser-based are e.g:

Fingerprint tracking: Instead of a cookie, the user is recognized by certain software and hardware features. These are provided by the browser itself – when a page is loaded, data is automatically transferred to the user’s system. Fingerprinting works even if cookies are deleted or suppressed, because the information is stored on the server and not on the user’s computer.

Common IDs: This procedure only works for web content that requires registration and can then only be accessed via login. Registration gives the user a unique identification number. This is used, for example, for Google services (mail, drive, etc.). Of course, the user can only be tracked here as long as he or she is logged on to a website that uses Common IDs.

App-based tracking:

Advertising IDs are required in order to use tracking not only to use the information within an app, but also beyond other apps. This technology works on both Android and iOS devices.

Among the most widely used free tracking tools are Google Analytics and Piwik. Paid tools include Site Catalyst, Etracker and Stuffed Tracker. Usually there are different program sizes with the chargeable variants, which cost accordingly differently much. To collect the data, website owners must include the tracking code of the respective tool in the source code. However, the integration of the tracking code involves certain data protection procedures that must be clearly communicated on the website.

Tracking – Privacy Policy

Tracking tools enable very detailed recording of user behavior. A website operator must therefore inform users about the scope, purpose and type of data collection. Users must also be clearly informed of their right to object.

Further reading