What is a Tracking Pixel?
Last Updated: February 11, 2021
A tracking pixel, also known as a marketing pixel, is a 1×1 pixel graphic used to track user behavior, site conversions, web traffic, and other metrics similar to a cookie. The tiny pixel-sided image is usually hidden and embedded in everything from banner ads to emails.
When implemented properly, these tiny bits of code can optimize your digital ads campaign and overall website. They will also increase your online conversion rate and help build an audience base.
The best example of a tracking pixel is one used by Google Analytics and similar services, which gathers data from websites. They can then tell those website owners the number of visitors and users that have seen their digital ads.
How Do Tracking Pixels Work?
If you have ever visited a website only to have ads from that business follow you to other sites and social media platforms, you are not alone. This common experience is possible through the use of tracking pixels.
You can add pixels by embedding them in your site’s HTML code or email, which contains an external link to the pixel server. When a user visits your website, the HTML code is processed by their browser, follows the external link, and opens the hidden graphic.
Essentially, when a user visits a website, opens an email, views your digital ad, or any similar action, they’re actually requesting the server to download the tracking pixel connected to the content. Despite the awareness by most users, the data obtained can help website owners deliver a better website user experience and deliver relevant ads.
Types of Pixels
There are several different types of pixels in addition to a tracking pixel. Others include a conversion pixel or retargeting pixel. All help websites increase says by tracking marketing efforts. The information collected can help manage budgets and identify unnecessary costs in marketing campaigns.
Retargeting pixels are concerned mainly with the behavior of your website users. This type is of great use to digital marketers. Similar to our previous example, this is when a business’s ad follows you to different sites and social media platforms.
Since these pixels depend on users that have already visited your site, they don’t consistently produce high-volume campaigns. However, they do produce a better user experience by suggesting targeted and relevant content that can impact higher sales and encourage repeat customers.
Conversion pixels are active once a purchase has actually been made. Specifically, they’re responsible for tracking sales resulting from an ad campaign. When collecting data. Conversion pixels need to be placed within the code of the order confirmation page or email.
Most importantly, conversion pixels give digital marketers clarity into the source of their conversions and measure the success or failure of their marketing campaigns.
A Facebook pixel is a tool for organizations using Facebook ads. The code is placed on your website and ensures that cookies track the users who interact with your Facebook ads and website.
This type of pixel is a unique code that collects data and allows websites to:
- Track Facebook ad conversions
- Build a target audience
- Optimize your ads
- Remarket to your website visitors
Differences Between a Pixel and Cookie
Tracking pixels and cookies are very similar and are often used simultaneously. They both serve similar marketing purposes by tracking user activity and behavior. However, the differences are in how the information is delivered and where it’s kept.
Cookies are dropped on a user’s browser and can not follow them across devices. Additionally, users can block or clear cookies if they want. Most times, they’re used to store user information for an easier login experience as well as adding multiple items to your cart for a single checkout experience.
Tracking pixels do not rely on the user’s browser but will send information directly to servers. They can follow users across all of their devices which allow marketing efforts to be linked across website and mobile ads. A key difference is pixels cannot be disabled like cookies can.
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