Join Brad Batesole for an in-depth discussion in this video How online analytics work, part of Online Marketing Foundations.
- I find interpreting your data becomes easier and more meaningful if you understand the pieces that make data collection possible. Every action you take on the web is tracked, one way or another. The pages you view, the files you download, and even demographic and interest data can be recorded. And this data is captured through the use of what are called cookies and pixels. A cookie is a small file that a website stores on your computer. This file might contain the pages you visited and when, a unique identifier, and even if you're authorized to view certain logged in content.
As you continue to browse the web and load advertisements from the same publisher, they'll see a list of the type of sites you visit and how you interact with these ads. This information can then be used to sell ads that you're likely to engage with. So, beyond cookies, we have the tracking pixel, and a tracking pixel stores information on your web server, not your computer. A pixel is really just a one by one transparent image, and they're often used to see if users convert after visiting a particular ad. Here's how they work. The server stores a small file. Call it pixel.gif.
And every time the server asks for the file, it's going to log that request. Now, instead of just asking for pixel.gif, we'll instead add custom variables to the request, say, pixel.gif? ID=123, and so on and so forth. The server will be successful in delivering the image, because all that extra text is irrelevant, so the user won't see any issues, but it does keep a log of that unique URL, and it can use those variables to then match that transaction back to a particular user or advertising event. To put this another way, let's say you click on an ad to buy movie tickets.
As soon as you click, you're going to receive a cookie. The cookie will include information on the time, where you clicked, what banner was clicked, and so on. Now, at this point, the advertising platform knows that the ad received an impression and a click, but it has no record of the sale. So, now let's say you continue on and buy those tickets. On the confirmation page, the website is going to read the cookie on your computer, pull the information from it, and send it back to the server through the conversion pixel, and now the advertising platform will connect the dots and indicate a sale for that ad.
We'll talk more about how these sales are attributed later. There are some other factors, such as how long it's been since the click, if the click came directly from the last click, or maybe if a user saw an advertisement and purchased without actually clicking, but again, more on that later. I could go deeper and deeper into the technical aspects of how cookies and pixels work, but the truth of the matter is, you really don't need to know all the nuances. With this high-level overview, you'll be able to make sure yours are set up properly and tracking the right information.
This course is part of a Learning Path approved by the American Marketing Association.
Gain the skills you need to become an AMA Professional Certified Marketer (PCM) in Digital Marketing by using the industry-leading courses and resources in the Learning Path. Take the AMA certification exam to show that you have what it takes to lead the digital transformation.
- What is online marketing?
- What makes a website effective?
- Working with a designer or developer
- Creating engaging web copy
- Understanding online analytics
- Using goal and event tracking
- Exploring the conversion funnel
- Defining key performance indicators (KPIs)
- Understanding SEO techniques
- Conducting keyword research
- Creating a content strategy
- Leveraging local SEO
- Understanding who's on social media
- Marketing with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest
- Creating compelling video marketing campaigns
- Building an email marketing plan
- Measuring the success of your marketing efforts
- Setting up a blog
- Running A/B marketing tests
Skill Level Beginner
Q: This course was updated on 03/08/2016. What changed?
A: We updated six movies to keep current with the latest interfaces in Google Tag Manager, Google Keyword Planner, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Brad also added one new tutorial on setting up a blog.
Q. This course was updated 03/21/2017. What changed?
A. The following topics were updated: installing Google Tag Manager, using goal tracking, looking at a conversion funnel, looking at attribution models, leveraging local SEO, introduction to search and display, launching display search ads, and deciding to use remarketing.