When you hear the word pixel, what do you think of? For most, what comes to mind is a tiny digital fragment of light and color that goes into creating a larger image. That’s one type of pixel, and a lovely metaphor for the kind we mean.
what pixel do you mean?
When we talk pixels, we mean a snippet of code placed on a website or within a web container. And like the pretty, pretty pixel, these pixels are a tiny portion of your digital campaigns that contribute to understanding the whole. They might be called marketing pixels or targeting pixels, more specifically.
how are they used?
Code for marketing pixels are most often placed on websites or in web containers like Google Tag Manager. (For more on how and why a pixel should be placed inside a container, see our post on GTM Containers.) They’re used to gather information about specific action website visitors take while on a website.
when do I need them?
We most commonly recommend placing pixels when you’re looking to connect the information gathered through site analytics to information gathered from advertising platforms. The biggest use case for this is when retargeting, or remarketing.
Having analytics on your site will track many of the metrics you commonly want to know, like what social platform you came from, how you interact with the site, what you click on, or how long you interact with certain pages. This is valuable information, because it can help advertisers understand if their campaigns are doing what they intended. Pixels serve a slightly different purpose than analytics. They tell ad platforms that a user visited the site and took a designated action–this could be anything from visiting a particular page to filling out a form. In many cases, when that action takes place the pixel “fires” letting you know what has occurred and triggers a follow up action.
Here’s a an example to illustrate this. Let’s say you’re running retargeting ads on Facebook. Your campaign is set up to serve an initial ad to someone on Facebook, and later serve a follow-up ad if they visit your landing page. It’s having that Facebook pixel in place that connects the dots between your website analytics and your Facebook campaign. The pixel confirms that the desired action (aka a landing page visit) took place, so Facebook can show the individual the follow-up ad.
I heard a thing about pixels being scary. What can I do to ensure security and confidentiality?
We’re glad you asked. It’s something to be aware of, especially if you’re in a field where it’s critical to protect personal identifying information (PII) like healthcare or finance. As a general rule, however, pixels do not collect PII. Ensuring this all comes down to where that pixel is placed.
It’s of the utmost importance that pixels stay on the outside of any secure logins, checkout screens, or forms where customers are asked to provide their PII. While it’s quite uncommon, there have been cautionary tales of pixels accidentally placed inside secure screens which compromised the login credentials and personal records of those customers.
At the end of the day, pixels are a small but mighty tracking tool in your digital arsenal. They should be placed on websites with attention and care, but they’re well worth the insights they provide. If you have questions or concerns about how to correctly place pixels – reach out and we’re happy to help!
Go Forth. Go Digital.