How to Audit Your Website When Tracking Pixels Go Awry
Auditing website tracking pixels begins with running a Tag Inspector scan to ensure correct website tag implementation.
Being passionate about helping a business increase their online revenue, we love conversations about how each aspect of your website impacts search. An agile approach to your website includes how your pixel tracking tags affect load performance, security and privacy factors from including 3rd party website tags. One day your website may gain a top technical SEO score for its HTML code and page load speed performance, and then all of a sudden something seems to go awry. Hill Web Creations can help diagnose issues, quickly find solutions, and implement fixes.
Issues can and do come up that are caused by a site’s marketing tags. One aspect of a technical SEO audit is reviewing these tags and possibly setting up a tag management solution (TMS) to protect your business’s eCommerce from a catastrophic website outage. Servers can be strained with overload, monitors go on the blink, and people are human. Errors are less problematic when digital marketing solutions are in place to protect the success of your businesses.
What is a tracking pixel?
First, let’s describe what pixel tracking is. A tracking pixel consists of a line of code inserted into a custom or third-party creative that makes a server call to record user metrics. Tracking pixels are the backbone source of information used by the web analytic crowd to create a user-centered web design. They can track website visits, advertising impressions, email tracking, sales conversions, and how many items people purchased on a third-party site, whether people come to buy from social media channels and other forms of user activity on the web.
Tracking pixels have been around for years and are actively being used in emails to track you. But this article is about using them on your web pages; in particular, how to track retail sales activity.
To begin, let’s get on the same page by answering a few common questions about tracking pixels.
What is a Marketing Pixel?
Marketing pixels, also called tracking pixels, are basically tiny snippets of code that enable you to collect information about visitors on a website. Additionally, digital marketers can learn how they browse, what ad types they commonly click on, etc. This site user behavior data helps your business send consumers the ads that are likely to be most interesting to them.
The data insights gleaned from knowing what your audience wants helps inform and maintain a helpful, people-focused approach during content creation.
How does a Conversion Tracking Pixel Work?
A conversion tracking pixel is a graphic of 1×1 size that tracks web traffic, website conversions, consumer behavior, and more at the site’s server level. This informs eCommerce store owners of how users interact and take action on their ads. With tracking, businesses gain a better understanding of their form fill-outs, email campaigns, and their site as a whole.
Along with Google Analytics tracking code, a conversion tracking pixel is the one most often used. Conversion tracking “with reference to display media and search media, is the measurement of media performance with reference to campaign key performance indicators (KPIs). This measuring process functions via a pixel-based tracking system which instantaneously records quantitative actions. Review sites providing aggregated reviews like to add them too.
How do a Cookie and a Tracking Pixel differ?
A tracking pixel is your means to establish a cookie on your browser. Technically a tracking pixel is simply one tiny image. When someone arrives on a web page containing such a pixel, their browser will request that image. One of the “response headers” is named the “set-cookie” header. This “set-cookie” header is the actual cookie that is contained in it. Now that browser will save that cookie to the computer. In subsequent visits, the image from that tracking website fires, directly surfing to it or by downloading yet another tracking pixel. Next, the browser uploads that cookie back to the server.
What is Pixel Tagging?
Pixel tags are also known as clear GIFs, web beacons, or pixels. They are tiny bits of code on a webpage that permit websites to do read and place cookies. A connection is generated which can include details such as the person’s IP address, the timestamp when the person viewed the pixel, and the type of browser that was used.
How is User Tracking Changing in the 2020s?
Google released an alternative to cookies named Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) in January 2021.
Essentially it clusters “large groups of people with similar interests”, this data is collected in the browser, is not stored anywhere, and it evaluates at the group level.” This data is analyzed and generates a hidden individual “in the crowd,” Google said. This data represents the wider crowd cohort, which consists of thousands of people that are shared.
It is used to target ads to those persons in the crowd. Google stated, “FLoC can provide an effective replacement signal for third-party cookies.” Additionally, we learn that “tests of FLoC to reach in-market and affinity Google Audiences show that advertisers can expect to see at least 95% of the conversions per dollar spent when compared to cookie-based advertising.”Knowing that digital advertising is essential to maintain an open web for everyone, Chetna Bindra, Google Group Product Manager, User Trust and Privacy acknowledged that “the web ecosystem is at risk if privacy practices do not keep up with changing expectations. People want assurances that their identity and information are safe as they browse the web.
Use Pixel Tracking in Moderation
There are a number of metrics that are important to track as an eCommerce store owner. When facing unclear or differing marketing opinions, informed digital decision-making based on reliable data is everyone’s best friend. But when it relies on pixel tracking, moderation is the key. Becoming overwhelmed with data and datasets, or lost in trivial data is certainly not worth slowing your site’s performance to the point of losing site visitors. Revenue that a brand depends on is in the balance.
Every one of your site’s tracking tags causes the site to slow down (even if just a tad) because the browsers must load that pixel from another server in order to render the page. Without a pixel tracking audit, the number of tracking tags can accumulate to a point where it impacts the revenue-generating capability of your business, and then, someone needs to know about it. Obtaining a quick mobile load speed requires tag assessment, execution, and monitoring.
Remember that the amount of code you use on each page matters. And today, you want to prioritize code needed to add each of your essential schema markup types.
Just like over-the-top use of WordPress plugins, tracking user engagement via pixels can quickly end up slowing the pace of a site’s load performance. If tracking pixels are piled on to such an extent that you lose the very site visitors you seek to track, then you are on overload. Common types of tracking code are Google Analytics, Google AdWords, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, Bizible, SeeWhy, Facebook Custom Audience, DoubleClick, Google AdWords, Certona, Marketo, ChannelAdvisor, and MediaMath, etc.
Faster load times equal improved chances for more user engagement Google reports***** finding a correlation between slow mobile sites and high bounce rates. Should your darling tracking pixels be the cause of a slower loading site, even by half a second, users are more likely to not wait and abandon the page. Each time a prospective buyer impatiently leaves your site, you lose traffic to monetize.
Before we audit and possibly eliminate some tracking pixels, let’s review how a business may benefit from having them in the first place.
Benefits Gained from Tracking Pixels
* Determining user intent – By determining user intent via a tracking script, you can learn how to appeal to buyers and sell more products. After adding tracking pixels, maintaining them may include the scale of adding or removing a tag that involves orphan pages. Understanding the scale of a very large site may involve many conversations with your stakeholders and organizers about your site’s users. From there, you know what is important to track. Figure out what are the highest priority action items after building out buyer personas that match your business goals. Once that is established, tracking pixels help to determine user intent.
* Ability to retain current customers – Digital marketing plays an essential part in fetching, converting, relationship-building, and retaining customers. Companies that are quick to embrace a customer-centric mindset are more often rewarded with returning clientele and a thriving online business. Solving technical issues on eCommerce sites can significantly improve sales volume and business revenue.
* A source of reliable data – Digital advertisers managing paid marketing benefit from attributing the number of impressions that have been served. The number is useful to evaluate the performance of a particular AdWords campaign’s conversion rates, audience targeting, banner, e.g. and CTR. A tracking pixel helps to attribute call-to-action buttons and which sales are gained due to a specific ad. You can see how your Google Assistant is used but not other chatbots. In this way, optimizing an AdWords account leads to better performance.
A website tag audit involves auditing the tags on your website to ensure accurate data. Understanding onsite user experiences depend on reliable data.
Not only are your pages’ tracking pixels key for an AdWords retargeting campaign, they are powerful to provide insights for dedicated B2B executives to help achieve explosive growth.
* Ability to make better decisions – Tags are powerful ways to measure outcomes for your website and digital marketing strategies. If these tags are in place, future decisions are drawn from a well-informed basis. Business owners and heads of marketing departments find this is a key way to measure the effectiveness of marketing spends to garner more business.
Tracking Pixels May Provide Answers to the Following Questions:
• Who is coming to your site?
• Are your buyer personas accurate?
• What do site visitors need and how do they interact with your site?
• How can you better provide content that your customers want?
• Are your topics focusing on offering the best solutions?
• Are you providing the best possible answers to get in Google Quick Answer Boxes?
• Can you use the Google Replacement Model to show up in on-the-go moments when users search for you?
• Are visitors arriving on your site after conducting an “information query” or a “transaction query”?
• Does your keyword mapping and UX help users easily find answers?
• Does your whole marketing team understand the process of gaining a conversion?
• Are your pages worthy of winning the SERP click?
• Have you democratized your SEO so that your site really works for folks doing the searches?
• Is your content pleasing mobile users after they conduct the search query?
• Are your tracking pixels helping you optimize your search engine optimization campaign and to determine your ROI?
What’s Covered When Performing Tracking Pixel Audits:
A pixel tracking audit of your website is important to limit tracking pixel bloat.
• Identifying all tags fired on your website or a particular page. Decipher and list which pixels you really need AND use. Amassing huge amounts of data that no one evaluates and gleans user behavior insights from is holding no or little value. Nor are charts of duplicate data if they create analysis paralysis. If there is someone on your marketing team capable of consuming all of that data, analyze it, and implementing useful changes – that is a positive outcome. Know your tipping point when diminishing returns kick in when the data set becomes unmanageable and capsizes revenue growth.
• Determine which pages have the individual tags on. Identify and create a spreadsheet of all pixel ID’s being fired on your site, as well as their additional unique values. Next, we see how they align with the tracking pixels that have been identified as core assets on your list. Developer tools are plentiful if you want to inspect pages on your own. Browsers themselves make this easy.
• Find the pages that are missing necessary tag implementation. For example, conversion tags need to be on specific pages, not on every page. Additionally, other tags may only be necessary for a limited time. Seek to eliminate the long-term use of intensive pixels. As an example, following the launch of a major site redesign or server change, test to know the impact. Some pixels that scrutinize scrolling or generate heat maps have immense value for one-time or short-term testing, but we check that they are removed once certain pages no longer benefit from those extra server calls.
Google maps trackid sp 006 use has been attempted to fix blank Google maps in chrome. It is a known bug and we’ve been told that Google is working on a fix.
• Testing to determine f the tags are correctly implemented. We check to see that tracking pixels load after the page does. Tracking pixels should be in the footer while prioritizing loading page elements that are visible to users above the fold first. It is also important to test and determine that your site’s tagging pixels load all at once so that you can improve site performance. Engage web developers who have the skill set that includes this knowledge. Individuals who follow best practices in web design understand that a website must not only be visually appealing, it must have great load speed and focus on the user experience.
• Locating tags that are problematic. If you have not already done so, both your site and the tags it uses should secure your site’s data via an HTTPS connection to reduce security vulnerabilities. It is easy to load on a tracking pixel without recognizing that they may become a security vulnerability. The news is rampant with how frequently brick and mortar businesses are hacked because they didn’t sufficiently protect their e-commerce sites. The same data that is valuable to your business is also valuable to lurking third parties who can exploit the tracking pixels on your website to harvest data about your customers. Eliminate third-party pixels that unduly generate delays before a transfer of data begins following an instruction for its transfer.
• Test for duplicates. Lots of sources offer a tracking pixel and tout the benefits you’ll gain, however, do your research first in case it only loads duplicate data that your business already has access to via Google Analytics or Omniture. Find out if more analytics trackers are being used than necessary.
* Test for old pixels. Since tags are not a visible attribute of your site, they can easily be forgotten. Evaluate your server requests and remove outdated collection pixels that no longer serve a valid function. People are typically on the fast-track while shopping and demand a speedy site. Old pixels are like old barnacles on a ship; keep it clean and “dumb it down” to gain the trust of a wider audience.
7 Ways to Improve Tracking Pixel Tag Management
After your tag audit is completed, the insights will be used to avoid Pixel tag malfunctions or website tag bloat.
1. Put the Consumer Experience First – A best practice in tag management is to wait until the DOM (Document Object Model: the core building blocks of the web page) is ready. The result is that the web page effectively loads and is viewer-ready before the tag(s) are called and executed. This means that your customer can see the page’s content while the tags continue loading. Should the tracking pixels themselves be slow-loading, you have the chance to retain your visitor who might otherwise choose not to wait.
2. Tag Killing – Watch your site’s tag threshold by monitoring the time the sum of external vendor tags use up when each browser request is made. Any tracking pixel tag that takes excessive time to load can simply be canceled. This ensures a faster load time which users want and protects against browser timeouts.
3. Asynchronous Loading – The bulk of enterprise tag solutions rely on asynchronous loading. Your technical SEO audit will let you know if they do not. Asynchronous means that all tags are loaded in parallel, which improves load speed, avoiding one tag from slowing or hindering the load of other beacons.
Steve Souders, Head Performance Engineer at Google, explains*** that “The problem with document.write for script loading is: Every DOM element below the inserted script is blocked from rendering until the script is done downloading. It blocks other dynamic scripts (example). One exception is if multiple scripts are inserted using document.write within the same SCRIPT block.”
4. Tag Data Validation – Third-party vendor tags can suddenly stop working if something has changed on their end. Sometimes businesses are even collecting the wrong data without detecting the miss-tagging till some time has passed. Check to see that the latest version of each tag is implemented or consider a point-and-click tag management solution to efficiently remap the data.
5. Efficient Use of the Google Tag Manager – Use the Google Tag Manager for installing schema structured data, Google Analytics tracking, your Facebook pixel, and much more. SEO and SEM experts can leverage clever implementations to help improve the SEO of your site. If all indicators imply that it may simply be best to turn off a particular tag, you can know within a short time. Should the vendor tag be down briefly, it can be reinstalled when they are back up and running efficiently.
Schema.org is a special vocabulary of tags (or microdata) that should be added to your site’s HTML to improve the way your web pages are represented in SERPs. Your site tag audit ensures that your Google Tag Manager container, if used, is still able to assist with implementing your Schema tags. Because schema markup is rapidly advancing, plan for consistent monitoring and updating.
I am amazed at how frequently a WordPress theme update or some other adjustment causes this tag and its tracking data to fall off a site. If your product sales are depending on Internet shoppers, a Product Schema Markup Audit should be conducted as well. Actually, there are many types of site audits that each provide unique insights.
6. Check for Clean Code – In our machine learning world fostered by Artificial Intelligence, we still rely on real people. Each of us has the propensity to error. Multiple audit types help us learn what went amiss, quickly make corrections, and move forward. Someone may be writing bad or outdated code; as well, vendor tags often reference code libraries that install at page load. Every line of code needs to be checked to determine if it contains bugs or flaws that create errors or warning messages that may break your page functionality or cause inaccessible pages. Potential buyers who see SSL cautions or security warnings may quickly lose trust. That may quickly mean the loss of your online sales volume.
While the Google Search Console provides many key SEO report, we have to lean on other tools to figure this one out.
7. Check Impact of Tag Vendor Servers – For example, if you use a third party for Call Tracking services. Often how the server impacts the health of a site is out of view and out of mind. It can take just one employee at the web host who unintentionally turns off the server’s power switch to take down all sites in that rack in a matter of seconds. A large DDoS attack can take servers down and may require hours of time to get back up and functioning properly. We may feel accomplished when our own server is well-matched and managed. However, it comes into play if your vendor’s server crashes while your site loads its tag. Your web page may hang in limbo repeatedly attempting a response, leading to dreaded slow load times or worse, browser timeouts.
Monitoring server health ensures that your customers engage your pages rather than go somewhere else.
Knowing what questions customers are asking can help you make decisions as to which pixel images to remove, keep, and or add. This form of a tag conversion will send a browser request and opens. It lets you be better informed about which search results are working or not.
How Pixel-based Tracking Works
Pixel-based tracking, also known as client-side tracking depends on the user’s browser to track conversions or other information by placing a cookie on the click. This, in turn, is called again on conversion to validate the session and attribute the information. If load wasn’t a deferring factor, once on the page, the end-user will typically be unaware of this happening as the entire process of placing a cookie on click and calling that same cookie on to make a record of it takes a fraction of a second, like only 20 – 50 milliseconds.
Pixel-based tracking efficiently stores session values in a cookie, and the way pixels work is by easily extracting this information from the browser. As a result, setting up AdWords conversion tracking or an offer to tracking using pixels is quite a no-brainer and only involves placing the associated pixel on the conversion page. AdWords re-marketing requires notifying page visitors that you are tracking site visitors. It is important to comply with Google’s terms for the use of their various products, particularly when it comes to the inclusion of having a legally adequate privacy notice.
NOTE: You can also add UTM tracking to post to know your Google My Business engagement metrics.
Testing the AMP-Pixel Component Function When Auditing Tracking Pixels
The amp-pixel component functions just like a basic tracking pixel image. Here is an example of the line code needed as provided by the AMP Project:
They are immensely helpful for carrying data like the document referrer, the page title, screen size values, in addition to a client identifier run by AMP. Variables involved use a user action like clicking on a link or filling in form fields. By the time you add a lot of tracking pixels and support links some wonder if it impacts a page’s ability to rank.
Whether or not the
CLIENT_ID is available and has been correctly computed should be part of your pixel tracking audit. Audit to see if your
amp-analytics if added correctly while reviewing the amp-pixel. This CLIENT_ID may be blocked by an
amp-user-notification that is waiting for acceptance. We have also found that sites using multiple AMP related plugins may have this tracking code installed twice. In that case, we remove one.
New: Snapchat allows Businesses to Track How Ads Contributed to Traffic
The Snapchat Pixel currently works only for conversion tracking not for remarketing such as in AdWords. Plans are in the works to add the remarketing function soon. The conversion tracking algorithm’s capabilities are advanced enough to inform Ad professionals when your ad aligns an individual to your site even if the user didn’t directly respond to the ad.
This is a valuable piece of information to help understand user intent and preferences, which helps you improve your business’s knowledge graph. The pixel is a new way to optimize auction bidding around your conversion and try to serve ads to prospective buyers who show intent to buy based on their knowledge of user behavior on other websites. Make sure you are tracking your critical evergreen content pieces.
When the Snap Pixel code is added to pages, you can know which event the conversion corresponds to, for example, “Add to Cart” or “Purchase.” Digital advertisers may select from nine predefined conversion events, with the option to set up custom events coming in the future.
As with adding any tracking pixel; if you add it – use it.
Because while tracking pixels may provide key user insights, if you don’t read and incorporate the wisdom gleaned, too many add a new layer of complexity. The best use case is to hire a marketing professional who can maximize their use so that you can benefit from them. While many social media platforms provide tracking pixels, you will need to log into your Google Business Listing and click the “Insights” tab to see how users are engaging with your Google Posts and other social channels.
How Often is a Tag Audit Needed?
Regular tag audits and automated tag management may save you lost web traffic, and therefore, revenue.
Automated tag management processes are available to digital marketers and data-driven analyzers to lighten manually managing tags. Often, problems caused by rogue tags go unnoticed or require getting on the waitlist for IT hours, which can equal delayed fixed. By having a tag auditing plan scheduled in, business know just how tracking pixels fire and benefit from a protective barrier to slow loading site issues. These can especially impede your mobile advertising efforts as users demand fast page speed.
Like all core aspects of owning a website with a healthy SEO status, it is about excelling at the user experience you offer. Initially auditing your site is a critical step in the right direction. Hey, if your site has 23 tags on it today, all identified and working optimally, is that really enough knowledge for your future? You can benefit from leveraging predictive search.
Consider how many times through a year or month your website might update; 10, 40, or 100 times? Web designers and developers are typically so absorbed in their core tasks of making sure the site works, that it offers an intuitive user experience, and has visible appeal, that just how those tags function may be low on their list of priorities or out of their assigned duties. Web designers have an intense job designing a site’s UX for impatient mobile users; today, businesses need a full team to really succeed online and that includes a professional and supportive SEO person who can manage tag auditing.
There are many ways for your tags to “fall off” your site. By building in a regularly scheduled tag audit of your site, you can gain full data accuracy. For larger, more complex eCommerce websites, a weekly audit provides stronger protection.
Too Many Tracking Pixels Cause a Loss of Annual Revenue
Neil Sniffen’s May 22, 2016 How Tracking Pixels Slow Your Site article shows the heavy losses your business may face if tracking pixels slow down your page load speed even a second.
Due to new privacy concerns, fewer individuals may be willing to allow website data tracking and tracking pixels. It is best to figure out how to reduce them or even go cookie-less. Too much tracking can become harmful. For every tracking tag (AKA tracking pixel) that’s on your site, it has to slow down, because of the loading process that pixel requires from another server so it can do its function.
“For an e-commerce site that generates $1MM of revenue per year, for every second that the site’s tracking pixels cause the site to slow equates to a loss of $75,000 in revenue per year.” – Trusted Conversion Experts at thegood.com
A data science approach to gleaning insights can help you provide what customers want.
“Publishers whose mobile sites load within 5 seconds earn up to 2X greater mobile ad revenue than those whose sites load within 19 seconds. Over time, server requests can accumulate on your site like barnacles on a boat and cause drag.” – Googleapis.com*
“In order to track the success of any campaign, pixels must be added to the website, especially the conversion pages. Since this implementation is so important, it is necessary to conduct a pixel audit to make sure the tags are firing properly before any placements go live.” – Jamie Gungler at 3qdigital.com**
What This Means to You
Digital marketers that keep up with the constant changes in customer behavior should get huge accolades. Marketing is about the customer experience, which is challenging because consumer relationships are complex and ever-changing. Pixel tracking can be a critical source of key data on buyer behavior.
Whether it is to track when the call came from one of your ads, to track shopping cart checkouts, or to learn how effective your Facebook marketing is, pixel tracking can help your business retain and acquire more customers. Be sure that tracking pixels are maintained during a site redesign.
GDPR and transparency user concerns help you understand why disclosing which tracking pixels you use on your site is important.
Once you’ve completed your conversion tracking audit, you may download our free SEO Analysis Checklist to gain more insights.
Hill Web Creations can protect your website from unforeseen issues and your business revenue with a balanced approach to the use of pixel tracking. When auditing tracking pixels for your, request a Comprehensive SEO Audit