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The boring definition of a tracking pixel is that it’s a piece of code website owners add to their site for marketing purposes.
A better definition of a tracking pixel is it’s a small-but-mighty tool that has the power to boost ROI, turn more visitors into repeat customers, and facilitate unprecedented revenue.
Now it sounds like magic, doesn’t it? It’s no wonder the use of tracking pixels is so popular.
If you’ve ever visited an online shop and then seen items from that shop as you browse other sites, you’ve seen tracking pixels at work. The pixel recognizes your device and shows you relevant products. Without you making a purchase or subscribing to an email list, the site is able to keep you in its orbit and encourage you back to the store to buy something.
Tracking pixels can lead to higher conversions because they can show you identical or related products to what you’ve expressed interest in. This way, you see tailored ads that appeal to you, and you’re more likely to click.
We’ve all had that pang of regret of leaving a shop and kicking ourselves later for not buying the item that caught our eye. The use of tracking pixels allows us to make the purchase later—benefitting both the customer and the store.
How Does Pixel Tracking Work?
It used to be said that half of marketing spend is wasted, but there was no way to know which half. The analytics just weren’t there—after all, there’s no tool to track how many people saw a billboard, who then heard the same company’s radio advert, and then went to buy their product.
This is no longer the case, largely thanks to tracking pixels. Many companies know exactly how much each penny of marketing spend adds to the bottom line.
So how does a pixel work?
“Pixel” is short for “picture element” and you may be familiar with the word referring to how crisp a computer’s display is. A single pixel is a small dot on the screen, and collectively they render the images on the screen.
A tracking pixel is a single invisible dot inserted into a piece of digital real estate. It can see certain information about a visitor, and the actions that visitors take on a website, including:
- Their IP address
- The type of device and operating system they use
- Which site pages they visited
- Which ads they clicked on
- What time they visited
Already, we can see how powerful this information can be. If you wanted to run an ad to people who use an iPhone, tracking pixels make that possible. Similarly, by knowing what time those people are active, an ad campaign can display the ads when each individual person is most likely to see it—in direct contrast to a radio or TV commercial.
Pixel tracking sounds similar to cookies, and they are like two sides of the same coin. The primary difference is that cookies are stored on your browser, whereas information from the pixel code is sent directly to the server. This allows users to be identified across different devices and, unlike cookies, pixels cannot be disabled.
Here are five places you could use a tracking pixel to monitor user behavior:
1. Social Media
Tracking pixels and social media go together like cookies and cream. When used on social ads, you can see exactly how many people were sent to your site from social channels. Alternatively, you can add the Facebook pixel to your site and supercharge your Facebook ads in return.
When you send an email campaign and the platform tells you how many people opened it, that’s because an email tracking pixel is added to the email body and when a recipient opens the email, the pixel receives a view.
3. Banner Ads
When running ads, you want to know how effective they are—and specifically how many people have seen them. Adding a pixel to a banner ad tells you precisely this, and by also monitoring how many people visited the site from that banner, you can calculate the click-through rate (CTR) as well.
Learn what actions people are taking on your website: what titles are most persuasive, which links are clicked the most, how long people spend on your site, and what devices they typically use. This is all invaluable information that allows you to optimize your site content to your visitors’ actions.
5. Online Store
Track conversions, visitor behavior, and best-performing campaigns with a pixel. Over time, you can use this information to optimize your store’s interface and focus on the sources that send the highest-quality traffic most likely to make a purchase. And by combining this with social media and an email marketing platform, the pixel will also enable you to create far more effective ads.
The Benefits Of Using A Tracking Pixel
As we’ve seen, a pixel is a clever thing. A conversion pixel enables you to track completed purchases and see which product pages or ads drove the sale.
A retargeting pixel allows you to send tailored messages and offers to specific audiences based on what pages they have and haven’t visited, when they visited them, and even what device they use. For instance, if someone visits a product page but doesn’t purchase, they can receive a discount code in an advert. If they visit the page with all the summer dresses, they may respond well to seeing similar items.
A Facebook pixel can be added to your site to open up a world of retargeting possibilities. You can show specific adverts to people depending on their behavior—for example, if someone visited specific pages within the past 30 days, they can see a different ad than a person who landed on the homepage six months ago.
It’s also possible to show ads to people who have visited your site a certain number of times. This can be a good idea because someone who has visited only once may respond differently to a particular message than someone who has visited multiple times in the space of a week.
Retargeting with Facebook ads allows you to get extremely granular. One option is to send adverts to people who have spent a particular amount of time on your site, or are in a specific percentile of visitors—it’s a reasonable assumption that the top 5% or 10% are likely to be closer to making a purchase.
You can even combine the options, such as showing an ad to the top 5% of visitors who viewed specific product pages in the last week. Your audience will be narrower, but very clearly defined and highly likely to convert.
How To Use A Tracking Pixel
Setting up a tracking pixel is simple. In fact, some tools take care of it for you. Email marketing software, such as Omnisend, will embed an email tracking pixel that automatically collects information like open rates and deliverability.
If you plan to run Facebook ads, you’ll want to install the Facebook tracking pixel. This is a piece of code that Facebook generates, and you add to your website. Then you can target Facebook ads to specific audiences and track the resulting conversions.
Pixel placement couldn’t be much easier. In the past, it was usually necessary for a web developer to install the tracking pixel code in the site code, but that’s no longer the case. Due to its popularity, many platforms have plugins to install the Facebook pixel directly to the site in a matter of seconds. And if you need a way to monitor multiple pixels, consider using Google Tag Manager.
Once set up, you can track almost anything: visits, clicks, how many people watch a video and for how long, even on-page behaviors like scrolling up and down. And with the option to create custom events, the sky’s the limit for what Google Tag Manager lets you track.
Once set up, Google Tag Manager sends the relevant information to Google Analytics. From here, you can see your conversions and changes to on-site behaviors, such as bounce rate and how many pages a visitor typically looks at in a session.
Tracking Pixels: Why You Need Them
All store owners share a common goal: make more sales and increase revenue. By identifying which of your pages, products, and ads are driving the most conversions, tracking pixels make this goal more achievable.
And for when a visitor doesn’t make an immediate purchase, the tracking pixels can be used in a retargeting campaign instead. This way, visitors are reminded of your items as they browse the web—even if they didn’t join your mailing list.
Both Google and Facebook ads can display your products, and you can use the pixel data to send specific items, messages, and coupons to improve the likelihood of a conversion.
Over time, the information can help you target the right people and turn more visitors into buyers, increasing both sales and profitability.