what is the digital marketing strategy that tracks users across the web?

Web Tracking

what is the digital marketing strategy that tracks users across the web?

What is Web Tracking and Why Do Marketers Use It?

Web tracking refers to the methods digital marketers use to monitor and record information about users’ online activities, behaviors, interests and preferences across the internet. This allows marketers to gain insights into their target audience and customers. There are several reasons web tracking is widely used in digital marketing:

Understand the customer journey: By tracking users across sites and devices, marketers can analyze the path people take before making a purchase or converting on a website. This reveals important insights into the stages of the customer journey.

Personalize experiences: The data collected through tracking allows marketers to segment users and customize content, offers and experiences to their interests and preferences. This helps improve conversion rates.

Retargeting: Trackers like cookies enable marketers to target ads and offers to people who have previously visited or shown interest in their website. This reminds users about the brand and drives them back to make a purchase.

Attribution: Tracking tools make it possible to see which marketing efforts are driving conversions and sales. Marketers can optimize spending based on the channels, campaigns and ads that generate the highest ROI.

Improve product: Analytics gathered from tracking website visitors provides useful feedback into how people are actually using a product or service. This allows for data-driven improvements.

So in summary, web tracking enables digital marketers to gain valuable insights about customers and target them with personalized experiences across devices and platforms. Despite some privacy concerns, it remains an essential part of digital marketing.


Cookies are small text files that websites place on a user’s computer or mobile device. They are used to remember information about the user, like login details or site preferences. 

Cookies can also be used for tracking purposes. When a user visits a website, it can place a cookie with a unique identifier on the user’s device. The next time the user visits that site, it will recognize the cookie and can link the user’s different browsing sessions together. 

The website can then build a profile of the user’s interests and behavior over time. For example, it might know the user frequently visits the sports and technology sections of the site. The site can use this data to serve targeted ads on sports or tech products the user might be interested in.

Third-party companies like analytics services or advertising networks can also place cookies on websites to track users across multiple sites. For instance, an ad company might place a tracker cookie whenever a user sees one of its ads on a website. It can then build an extensive profile of the user’s browsing habits and demographics.

Pixel Tracking

Pixel tracking, also known as web beacons or tracking pixels, is another common method used for cross-site tracking in digital marketing. It involves embedding a small, transparent image (usually 1×1 pixels) into the code of a webpage or email. 

When a user visits a page or opens an email containing the tracking pixel, it triggers a GET request to the server hosting the tracking pixel image. This registers a ‘page view’ for that user’s device and allows their activity to be logged. The tracking pixel will pull some information from the user’s device, like IP address, browser type, timestamp and referring site.

Pixel tracking complements browser cookies in cross-site tracking. Cookies can only track activity within one domain, whereas pixels allow you to track across multiple sites. For example, an advertising platform could embed tracking pixels into ads they serve on various websites. When a user views an ad, the pixel fires and allows the platform to track that user’s exposure to ads across multiple sites for attribution and retargeting.

The advantage of pixel tracking over cookies is it doesn’t rely on anything being stored locally on the user’s device. Pixels work as long as the image is loaded, while users can block or delete cookies. However, pixels may be considered more intrusive as they track unconditionally versus cookies which require consent in some jurisdictions.

Device Fingerprinting

Device fingerprinting works by collecting specific information about a device’s software and hardware to generate a unique identifier. This allows websites and advertisers to identify users across sessions without the use of cookies.  

Some of the attributes used for device fingerprinting include:

Screen size and resolution

Operating system version 

Browser type and version

Installed fonts

IP address

Plugins and extensions


Hardware identifiers

When a user visits a website, a script can access many of these attributes and send them to a server to generate a fingerprint. Even small differences in things like screen resolution or fonts can make a fingerprint unique. 

While not as precise as cookies, device fingerprinting provides another means to track users across sites without their knowledge or consent. It works independently of cookies, so can’t be blocked by simply clearing cookies.

Some ways users can avoid device fingerprinting include using privacy-focused browsers like Tor or Brave, installing anti-tracking extensions, limiting plugin usage, and spoofing or changing some device attributes. But fingerprinting scripts are constantly evolving to identify users through new attributes.

Overall, device fingerprinting demonstrates how far websites will go to identify and track users for ad targeting and other purposes. While users have limited ability to prevent fingerprinting, being aware of the practice can lead to more informed choices about privacy.

Read Related Article6 Best Ways How To Earn Money Online For Students

A Step-by-Step Guide to Mastering Instagram Reels

IP Addresses 

Every device connected to the internet is assigned a unique IP (internet protocol) address. This address allows devices to communicate with each other online. 

When you visit a website, your IP address is logged by the site’s server. This allows websites to identify your device and approximate location. While not as precise as GPS coordinates, IP addresses provide the city or general region you are accessing the internet from.

Marketers use IP addresses for several tracking and targeting purposes:

To determine a user’s physical location and deliver localized content or ads. Many companies restrict certain content based on IP location.

To detect when multiple devices are being used by the same person. Matching IP addresses can link devices like mobile, laptop, desktop to a single user identity. 

To identify return visitors to a website. Services like Google Analytics store and analyze IP addresses to track unique and repeat visitors.

To limit fraudulent activities like duplicate voting or spam posts from a single IP. Sites often limit how many actions a single IP can take.

To personalize content through geo-targeting. Displaying relevant offers and information based on a user’s country, city or neighborhood.

To ban abusers and malicious actors. IPs associated with hacking attempts or abusive behaviors can be blacklisted.

While IP addresses are not necessarily permanently tied to one person, they do allow online tracking and profiling of users to a degree. But proxies, VPNs, and dynamic IPs can limit the effectiveness of relying solely on IP addresses for digital tracking.

Browser Fingerprinting

Browser fingerprinting is another unique tracking technique that doesn’t require cookies or logins. 

It works by collecting data on the browser’s settings and configurations to create a unique fingerprint that identifies the device. Things like screen resolution, browser version, plugins installed, language preferences and time zone are all collected. 

When the browser accesses a website, this fingerprint data gets shared and allows sites to identify return visitors by associating the fingerprint with past activity and sessions. Unlike cookies, users cannot clear or block browser fingerprints easily.

Even if you use private browsing or delete cookies, your browser fingerprint remains the same. This makes it a persistent tracking method even when other techniques are blocked. Some browsers like Tor aim to make all users look the same by having identical configurations, which helps combat fingerprint-based tracking.

Overall, browser fingerprinting demonstrates how seemingly innocuous browser settings can be gathered for tracking purposes, often without the user’s knowledge or consent. While not as common as cookies, fingerprinting provides another avenue to follow users across sites.

Cross-Device Tracking

With the proliferation of mobile devices and multiple devices per person, cross-device tracking has become an important part of digital marketing strategies. The goal of cross-device tracking is to connect a user’s behavior across multiple devices to create a unified profile that can be used for targeted advertising and analytics. 

Some methods used for cross-device tracking include:

Device Graphs: Data companies maintain device graphs that connect devices to individuals based on statistical methods of pattern matching such as linking devices that frequently appear on the same IP address or network. They can then sell access to these device graphs.

Browser/Cookie Synching: Users’ identities can be matched across devices by partnering with other companies and matching up browser cookie IDs or advertising IDs. For example, a user’s activity on their laptop can be matched to their smartphone activity through shared login IDs.

Fingerprinting: As mentioned above, fingerprinting techniques like canvas fingerprinting can be used to identify users across multiple devices by looking at the unique characteristics and settings of their browsers/devices. 

Location Data: If GPS or other location data indicates two devices frequently travel together, like a user’s phone and laptop, companies can infer they belong to the same user.

User Identity Graphs: Companies like Facebook have a unique advantage in cross-device tracking due to their ability to build a user identity graph based on accounts that people log into across devices.

Cross-device tracking, while powerful for digital marketing efforts, raises significant privacy concerns since users are often unaware their behavior is being tracked across all their devices. Some ways users can limit cross-device tracking include using tracker blocking tools, limiting account linking across devices, and using privacy-focused web browsers.

Privacy Concerns

Web tracking technologies raise several privacy concerns for internet users. Here are some of the main issues:

Extensive tracking across multiple sites and devices can allow companies to build very detailed profiles of users’ behaviors, interests, identities, and more. This data collection happens largely without users’ knowledge or consent.

The data collected through tracking is often aggregated, analyzed, shared and sold between various companies and data brokers. Users have little visibility or control over how their data is used once collected.

Targeted advertising based on user profiles can feel invasive or discriminatory. For example, seeing different product prices based on one’s browsing history.

There are concerns that user data could be insecure or exposed through data breaches. Sensitive tracking data in the wrong hands represents a major privacy risk.

Lack of transparency around how user data is collected, retained, shared and secured. Many users are unaware of the extent of tracking that happens routinely as they browse.

In some cases, the detailed data trails collected on users’ activities could be obtained by government agencies or lawsuits and used against individuals’ interests.

Web tracking supports an overall ecosystem of mass surveillance capitalism, which many view as fundamentally unethical. Users’ data, behaviors and attention are extracted as free raw material.

Technologies like browser fingerprinting undermine users’ ability to protect their privacy, since users cannot easily clear or disable fingerprinting data the way they can delete cookies.

Overall, while web tracking facilitates personalized, targeted experiences, the extensive monitoring of users’ behaviors, identities and interests raises troubling privacy questions that merit more discussion and debate. Users deserve more transparency, choice and control over their personal data.

User Control

There are ways for users to limit or control tracking of their online activities and protect their privacy. 

Enable private or incognito browsing mode in your web browser. This prevents cookies and browsing history from being stored on your device. Each session starts fresh.

Use the DuckDuckGo search engine, which does not store user information or IP addresses. 

Install browser extensions like Privacy Badger, which blocks hidden trackers.

Opt out of personalized or interest-based ads by adjusting your settings on sites like Facebook and Google. This prevents your activity from being used for targeted advertising.

Disable location services on your device and in apps you don’t want accessing that data. 

Avoid logging into accounts like Google or Facebook when browsing other sites. This prevents linking your identity across sites.

Use a VPN (virtual private network) to mask your IP address and location.

Adjust cookie settings in your browser to clear cookies automatically or block third-party cookies.

Use the browser Tor to prevent tracking of your traffic and browsing.

So in summary, while tracking is pervasive, users are not powerless. Taking steps like enabling private browsing, installing privacy extensions, and revoking permissions from sitesLimits what data can be collected and used for profiling.


Web tracking allows digital marketers to gather data on users as they browse the internet in order to understand behavior and target advertising. While many of the commonly used tracking techniques like cookies, pixels, and fingerprinting raise privacy concerns, they enable marketers to personalize messaging and optimize campaigns. 

Key points covered in this article:

Cookies are small text files that record information like logins, items viewed, and more as users visit websites. They help marketers identify returning visitors.

Pixels or web beacons allow marketers to track user actions across sites by embedding small, transparent images that relay info back to the marketing platform. 

Fingerprinting captures device specifications like screen size, software versions, etc to build profiles. Users can be identified even if they clear cookies.

IP addresses pinpoint users’ geographic locations and internet providers. Marketers can target local audiences or block risky IPs.

Browser fingerprints compile many attributes like fonts, plugins, and time zone to form unique IDs. Users are then trackable across sites.

Cross-device tracking stitches together data from multiple devices to associate them with individuals. This allows for persistent tracking even as users switch devices.

While web tracking raises privacy issues, it is a core component of digital marketing. Marketers must balance personalization and performance with transparency and user control. Ongoing improvements to privacy laws and browser settings are giving users more say over how their data is collected and used.

Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *