Website Tracking Software has been around for years, in many forms. But here’s what the immediate future holds, and how you can prepare.
Website Tracking Software: The future, present and past of visitor intelligence (And how to future-proof your digital assets!)
As most ambitious digital marketers and business owners will tell you, getting more quality prospects to visit a website doesn’t always happen easily. Like anything worthwhile, it can take a lot of time, money and effort.
Sometimes it leads to more customers. Often, it doesn’t.
Which is why ever since the internet hit the big time in the 90’s, marketers and business owners have been striving to understand more about their clicks and how best to turn them into money.
Over the years, the information that can be associated with a website visit has sky-rocketed, both in terms of complexity and usefulness.
Whatever data is being tracked and however it’s being done, the objectives are invariably geared around understanding who the visitors are, where they’re coming from, what they’re most interested in, and how they can be better served.
This kind of deep, actionable insight is what every marketer wants, and is critical inside knowledge for any business who wants to build relationships and engage their audience better. This is pretty much the reason why website analytics have become so popular and are playing a pivotal role in the evolution of web user experience.
So, where did Visitor Analytics begin? And perhaps more crucially, where is it going?
Well, it all started with a simple hit counter
You’ll no doubt remember hit counters as a popular fad in the early 90’s. Every website had them sitting at the foot of their pages, counting the crowds as they rolled in (seems silly now!).
If more visitors came to your site, you could assume you were doing something right - an important (and at the time, the only) metric for businesses to measure their popularity and impact online. The fact there was such an appetite for such a simple concept, highlights just how thirsty the world was from the very start to understand more about their digital audiences.
By 1996, web counters were everywhere thanks to the development of a hosted hit counter service called ‘Web-Counter’, that just about anyone could implement. Information gathered by the counter was collected and displayed on a separate page and, over the years, the information got gradually more sophisticated. Results could be broken down by page, organised by time and eventually evolved into Web Server Logs which could help differentiate between real human visitors and bots. Suddenly, tracking data became an exciting new feature of marketing online.
Then there was IP Tracking
Each terminal that accesses the internet has an IP number, which is public facing. An IP address will allow you to detect where in the world that click has come from and if you have the right tools, knowledge or software, you can perform what’s called an ‘IP look-up’ and cross reference the IP number with a registry database. If that IP address has been registered by a business, their business information can be retrieved.
Today, IP tracking is primarily used to create geo-targeted user content. For example, you may want to surface different content on your website for users based in either London or Paris. It can also be helpful to generate user relevant calls to action, such as a ‘find your nearest store’. Even just a few years back, this was considered highly advanced but it has now become more the norm, and has obvious benefits for all kinds of businesses.
And then there was Cookies
Cookie based analytics arrived in the mid-nineties and changed the game for good.
Google Analytics was possibly the first and undoubtedly most popular cookie based analytics software, pushing the digital world’s awareness of the capabilities behind cookie use in developing powerful visitor insights.
Cookie tracking involves tracing a particular machine (or more specifically, a particular browser), and storing data about their visit session, revealing everything that IP tracking does, but also including more detailed information such as how the individual interacted with the site, what they clicked on and how long they were there.
Cookie tracking helps businesses make enormous improvements to the usability and experience of their websites. For example, a visitor that comes back to a website might be regarded as a ‘warmer visitor’ and have dynamic content surfaced for them that may be of particular relevance (based on their first visit and behavior). This can help businesses lead customers through the buying cycle with an interactive, evolving website experience.
The future of web visitor analytics
As the world continues to adopt a wider range of internet browsing devices and users chop and change between their different devices (called cross-device usage), the future of web visitor analytics is set to be an exciting one.
From smartphones, tablets and desktops to wearable technology and even web-connected vehicles, furniture and home utilities. Every device that creates a connection to the internet provides the opportunity to understand, access and serve a wider audience better.
As leaders in web visitor analytics, CANDDi is proud to be able to identify and match multiple devices to single user profiles.
That basically means that if Joe Bloggs visits your website from his office laptop and then again from his tablet at home, CANDDi can in certain circumstances match up the two visits as both being Joe Bloggs…as well as identifying any prior and subsequent visits to your website from those same (and possibly other) devices. A pretty cool feature, and one that’s possibly going to become more important as increasing volumes of devices flood into the lives of every customer and their research processes.
Not just who, but where
Geo-location marketing is becoming a fast growing facet of digital marketing…helping digital marketers understanding where customers are when specific actions are performed, what environmental factors they’re exposed to and what triggers they respond to. And as smartphones (effectively GPS tracking devices that never leave our side) become embedded into society and our every day use, the possibilities for insights and user engagement increase tenfold.
It’s easy to imagine a world where analytics goes beyond matching data, name and location to every click, to offering a completely unique and personalised website experience for every user.
So, how to prepare for the future
Depending on your level of familiarity with the topic, the first step is to understand the devices, locations, times and environments your prospects are using to access your site at various stages of their research, or buying processes, and how to identify prospects who may be at their warmest stage.
One easy way to see this is in your Google Analytics dashboard. Navigate to any of the following:
- Audience > Technology > Browsers & OS
- Audience > Mobile > Devices
- Audience > Geo > Location
One crucial point to note when viewing these sectors is not necessarily the actual browsers, devices or locations, but more so how they fit into a wider journey of the user. A large portion of these visitors probably may not be partaking their first visit to your website. Meaning they’re coming back. And they’re coming back because they’re interested in something.
These could be your hottest prospects sitting right under your nose.
In the screen grab below, you’ll see 36% of our mobile visitors are returning visitors following previous visits.
Now, in terms of warm prospects, we know there are some in here. Undoubtedly.
They’ve been before, possibly on other devices. And now they’re back on their mobiles.
If we’re able to identify who they are, what they looked at on their previous visits, the sources and locations they used to access our site, it enables us to build a powerful profile including their visit history and all future visits yet to happen. We can start to identify what interests them and what they might be most interested in next.
If we take a quick look into the CANDDi dashboard, we’ll see how this information can be pieced together to build powerful profiles of our warmest and most engaged prospects.
Which, from a marketing perspective is intelligence gold dust. Every business should be understanding the micro-specifics about their prospects and customers, to identify how to better serve their warmest prospects and customers.
Because once you know who they are, what they like most, where they go most and what they want most from you, the rest as they say, is history.