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The Power of Tracking Pixels…and How to Ensure Their Accuracy

Katie Sullivan Porter
|
September 6, 2022

As most performance marketers will tell you, knowing your audience and how they interact with your brand is crucial to help you measure and optimize your campaigns. While advertisers used to rely on guesswork in devising strategies to reach more prospects, they can now confidently make informed decisions based on real-time data, thanks to tracking pixels.

Tracking pixels are crucial when you’re thinking about campaign planning, targeting, and optimization. Although pixels are simply small snippets of code on the backend of your website, they have the power to transform your entire marketing strategy. In this article, we’ll break down the basics of pixel tracking, how it works, the different types, and how you can start using pixels properly for any kind of marketing campaign. 

What is a tracking pixel?

Simply put, a tracking pixel is an HTML code snippet embedded in a site or email. Although it’s a nearly invisible component of the site, it contains a tag that tracks user behavior—things like the pages they’ve visited, the actions they’ve taken, and their purchasing history. This is powerful because it can capture important information that reveals consumer interactions with advertising and other marketing efforts. 

How does a tracking pixel work?

  • A pixel code is added to your site’s HTML code or email.
  • A user’s browser processes the HTML code when they visit your website.
  • The browser then follows the link stored in the code and opens the graphic. 
  • The server registers this activity within its log files.
  • The data is then available to analyze.
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What are the different types of tracking pixels?

There are a few different types of tracking pixels: 

  • Conversion pixels focus on what happens once your targeted audience interacts with your ads. They inform you of the products customers added to their cart, which contact forms they completed and submitted, and what they bought, among other things.
  • Impression pixels measure the number of times an ad unit displays on a customer’s screen. The goal of these pixels is to provide you with a precise number of impressions that have been served so you can determine whether an ad is successful.
  • Retargeting pixels track the behavior of your site’s previous visitors so you can tailor ads to suit their particular interests.
  • Click tracking pixels allow you to see the exact number of clicks on your URL, email links, ads, or text links, which helps you understand which sites are generating the most clicks

What’s the difference between a pixel, a cookie, and a tag?

We could spend a great deal of time on the distinction between various types of tracking codes. For those just trying to get a basic understanding, however, here’s a brief overview.

  • Pixels allow you to follow users on all their devices, linking marketing efforts across your mobile ads and website. Because they don’t rely on an individual’s browser, users can’t disable them. Pixels are useful for tracking conversions on your landing pages, partner sites, and even affiliate networks.
  • Cookies, on the other hand, are saved in a user’s browser. Unlike pixels, users can disable, block, or clear cookies as they choose. Cookies are most commonly used to create an easier login experience and also for adding multiple items to a visitor’s cart for a single checkout.
  • Tags are often used interchangeably with pixels. Defined loosely, tags are the keywords that describe elements on a page and all their attributes.

While all three are different, they are all used to capture user information so you can deliver a more customized web experience for your site’s visitors. 

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When I am planning a new campaign, which things should I pixel?

  • Key landing pages: Adding a pixel to key landing pages such as a “contact us” page can make a difference to your conversion lifecycle. 
  • Home page: A pixel here will help you figure out which visitors are coming to your site. 
  • View product: This pixel will help give you insight into who is looking at your products but not actually purchasing them. 
  • Add to cart: Adding a pixel further down the funnel at the “add to cart” phase of the lifecycle is intended to track your high buying potential audience. 
  • Lead forms: Placing a pixel on the start button of your lead form will help you determine the percentage of users who complete the form. You can also add one to the confirmation page. This pixel placement will also help you understand any upper funnel interaction from your campaign or different tactics. 

Helpful tips 

Before getting started, here are some helpful tips to consider.

  • Be intentional. Be selective with your pixel usage. You don’t need to attach a pixel to every single web page. Rather than casting a wide net with your tracking data, work on refining your focus, which will result in more accurate user data. Quality over quantity is key here. 
  • Track pixel frequencies cautiously. They can make your site slower—and slow load times will make users more likely to leave. Keep in mind that users can’t see a tracking pixel, so if it’s the last item to load on a page, that’s quite okay.
  • Don’t lose sight of your targeted campaigns. Stay focused on your target audience. Don’t waste tracking pixels on demographics you’re not aiming for.
  • Respect users’ privacy. While you may not like the idea of users opting out of tracking, respect their choice. Even though you have good intentions, some users prefer that their movements go unwatched. 
  • Monitor ad performance. Identify which ads are resonating best with your audience. Tracking pixels can help determine which ads perform well so you can create content that your audience responds to and optimize your online ad spend. 
  • Use a platform that provides detailed reports. To track your marketing performance and analyze information such as digital ad impressions, email responses, social media conversion rates, and other types of activity related to your campaign, choose a platform that can do it all for you. Eliminating the guesswork from your tracking pixel strategy will enable you to see real-time results and also allows you to make adjustments quickly. 
  • Set up tracking parameters. Implementing tracking parameters can help you discover which channels are producing high conversion rates, which campaigns are successful, which creatives are performing well, and much more. 

Ready to get started with pixel tracking?

MarinOne can help. Our Marin Tracker is a conversion tracking solution with optimization tools built into its platform to give you a better understanding of your buying cycle.

We help you make data-driven marketing decisions by unifying your campaign data with sales outcomes and machine learning. Our tracker makes it easy for you to measure your revenue impact from all of your digital marketing efforts. 

Save time managing tracking codes so you can spend more time on what matters most—driving your campaigns with rich insights.

Tracking pixels can give you the edge you need if you’re ready to take your online advertising or latest campaign to the next level. Get in touch with one of our experts about how we can help you set up, plan, execute, and optimize your campaigns.

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