What Is a Tracking Pixel? 7 Types and Best Practices

Updated June 24, 2022

Many websites use advertising to generate revenue. One way that websites can create advertisements that are specific to a target audience is by using tracking pixels. Knowing what the different types of tracking pixels do and how they behave can help you create them for a website or email and know what they are tracking. In this article, we discuss what a tracking pixel is, what types there are and best practices you can use to optimize their use.

Related: 12 Marketing Tips for Your Marketing Campaign

What is a tracking pixel?

A tracking pixel, also known as a marketing pixel, is a short line of HTML code you can use to track and gather data about visitors to a website. They can help you track online metrics, such as conversion and churn rates and campaign performance, and slowly build a larger audience. You can also use tracking pixels to send targeted advertisements to website users, making it more likely that you can convert them from a lead into a customer and keep them returning to the website. Typically, you can only see tracking pixels in the HTML code of the website.

A tracking pixel works by attaching it to a link within a website or email. Normally, a client's web browser opens the link and also activates the pixel, which opens a small graphic on the website that is nearly invisible to users. The tracking pixel also transmits some information about the user based on the link they follow and works with other programs to collect more information. There are several sets of information that the tracking pixel collects when you activate it by following a link on a website. The information that pixels can track and transmit include:

  • The IP address you used to access the email or website

  • The actions you take on the website during tracking

  • The access time for the email or website

  • The screen resolution of your device

  • The email client or web browser you used

  • The type of device used such as mobile or desktop

  • The operating system your device uses, such as the one your smartphone uses

Related: Types of Display Ads for Online Marketing

Tracking pixel types

There are seven types of tracking pixels, each of which has a specific set of functions that it can perform. Below are descriptions of each type of tracking pixel:

1. Universal tracking pixels

You can universal tracking pixels to track users of a website that has multiple pages. It tracks the page URL, revenue data, order ID and product ID and transmits them by saving them within a computer server's log files. For example, universal tracking pixels can follow a user's journey across multiple pages of a website and can help you gain insights into the ways people navigate the webpage, which you can use to optimize website traffic without using a different pixel for each page on the website.

2. Landing page tracking pixels

You can use landing page tracking pixels to track users when they enter the landing or home page of a website. This can allow you to gain insights on campaign performance and optimizations to the website based on how people access the home page of the website. For example, providing specific advertisements on the home page of the website based on the location a user comes from within the same website.

3. Conversion tracking pixels

You can use conversion tracking pixels to collect information about the number of leads to customer conversions the website makes. You can use the data collected with these pixels to optimize the website for your cost per action, CPA, goal. For example, you can set a goal of increasing the number of registrations that people make through the webpage set targets to accomplish this by using the data you collect from the conversion tracking pixels.

4. Time delay tracking pixels

You can use these pixels to track the time that users spend on a particular page of a website, giving you insights about what pages get the most visits and how long those visits are. You can use this information to optimize the time that people spend on a page and a website. For example, you can create a pixel that activates advertisements only for users that have spent a specific amount of time, such as10 minutes, on the website.

5. Revenue and order tracking pixels

You can use these tracking pixels to track the revenue within a website and the order IDs that the website generates. This information can help you meet and exceed return on investment and return on advertising spending goals. For example, you can use revenue and order tracking pixels to minimize the cost of advertisements while maximizing the number of sales that those advertisements create.

Related: What Is ROI in Marketing?

6. Postback tracking pixels

You can use postback tracking pixels to track the number of app downloads mobile users make. Having this information can help you optimize the number of app downloads users make and set app campaign goals that generate more revenue for the mobile application. For example, you can optimize toward creating the highest number of mobile app downloads or creating the highest revenue possible by meeting a sales goal for the app.

7. Retargeting tracking pixels

You can use retargeting pixels solely to keep track of user behavior across websites. These pixels are often used to send user-specific advertisements to people who are browsing the internet. For example, if a user is looking for potting soil and then navigates to a website that has advertisements, several of them may be about potting soil. You can design retargeting pixels to draw more attention to the website, which increases the average number of users and the average time they spend on a webpage.

Related: What Is Native Advertising? Types, Benefits and the User Experience

Best practices for tracking pixels

There are four best practices for using tracking pixels which are detailed below:

  • Be selective and intentional: When you create pixels, keeping the quality of the pixels can help you gain more valuable insight than having a pixel on each page because you targeted the pixel instead of making it general.

  • Limit frequency: Keeping the number of pixels on a website low can help the website load faster, which helps keep the number of users who access the site higher.

  • Track target demographics: Designing a pixel comes with costs and challenges, many of which you can overcome by keeping the pixels specific toward the campaign or website's target demographic.

  • Respect user privacy: Allow users to opt out of being tracked on the website and follow through on that promise.

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