Ensuring the success of your online business is a complex endeavor, and one of the best ways to make sure your website layout and marketing are as solid as possible is to gather data specifically about your site visitors. But website visitor tracking is also complex, and it can be tough to know where to start if you haven’t tracked website visitor data yet.
Today, let’s break down how you can get started with website visitor tracking in no time. We’ll explain what website visitor tracking is, why it’s beneficial, and what tools you can use to gather effective data.
Exactly what it sounds like: tracking the number, frequency, and attributes of visitors to your online store/site. In essence, website visitor tracking turns the people who visit your online shop from mysterious numbers on the screen into tangible metrics you can use to predict future behavior, enhance your marketing, and much more.
Website visitor tracking is not always privacy-intrusive (though it can be—read on to discover why you need to be careful what visitor tracking tools you use). Website visitor tracking is flexible, adaptive, and customizable according to your unique needs and the rules of your home country.
Odds are you practice at least a little bit of website visitor tracking already using tools like Google Analytics or similar complementary platforms. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg regarding visitor tracking, data analytics, and more.
You should track website visitors for all kinds of reasons. When you track your website visitors, you learn a wealth of information about who visits your website, when they visit your website, and what draws them to your brand. More specifically, you should track website visitors because:
In short, there’s no reason not to track website visitors given the plethora of data just waiting for you to collect it.
If you aren’t all that technically inclined, don’t worry about the technical side of things too much. You can use all kinds of tools to track website visitors and gather information even if you don’t have programming or web development experience.
That said, it’s still important to know how website visitor tracking occurs. Depending on the software solution you use, different programs may track visitors in several different ways.
rDNS or reverse domain name system tracking is one of the most common forms of visitor tracking on the web. It relies on two key facts:
A reverse DNS record is essentially a record of all the visitors who pinged a given IP address or terminal. Therefore, some website visitor tracking software uses rDNS tracking to locate which customers or companies visit your website based on their unique IP addresses.
The advantage? rDNS tracking allows the tracker software to filter out spam traffic, bots, and other problematic data that doesn't help your analytics. Through rDNS tracking, you’ll know what real people or organizations are visiting your website, gaining meaningful, important data in the process.
Some other software and tracking tools use script installation. With this method, a code script is installed on your home website. The script then runs in the background and collects website visitor data directly from the hosting server.
The tracking software then combines this data, plugs it into public or private databases, and connects the dots. Therefore, you'll be able to figure out what companies or customers are browsing your website.
This form of traffic tracking is particularly useful because the data gathered can usually be correlated or combined with other data, like physical addresses, employee numbers, company contacts, and other contact information. It can be very helpful when trying to market directly to other companies, such as a B2B organization.
That said, script tracking can be used only in certain circumstances and may be outright banned depending on the rules of your host country.
Another alternative method for visitor tracking is tool stack syncing, which only works if your organization has a CRM or similar marketing automation software. Through this method, you integrate your tool stack and synch web browsing data collected by your tracking software.
Suppose the IP address or other information collected by your tracking software matches the data you already have in your CRM. In that case, you’ll have a much more detailed lead profile and better understand who is visiting your site. This is more useful with script tracking when your visitors are mainly other companies or are known individuals with a massive web presence.
But in any case, there are a variety of means to get started with website visitor tracking. It all depends on the software you use and what exactly you need.
If you haven’t started using visitor tracking software just yet, you might be overwhelmed about what attributes you should be tracking most aggressively. Website visitor tracking solutions let you collect and analyze several different types of data.
Though the ideal tracking methods will vary depending on your industry or niche, most companies will benefit from tracking the following attributes:
As you can imagine, all this information is precious for you to fine-tune your marketing campaign and make sure that you are doing the best you can in the online sphere. Bottom line: you need to be tracking website visitors and analytics data ASAP if you aren’t already.
So how can you do that?
As with most other marketing or web optimization objectives, there are many different website tracking software and digital solutions for you to check out. There are so many different choices that you might not know which software to use!
It’s always best to analyze your business objectives first and foremost before choosing tracking software. In this way, you’ll be able to choose the software solution that best fits your unique needs or business goals.
Regardless, you have three broad choices when tracking web visitors on your website.
Google Analytics is most businesses ’ first choice, and for a good reason: the base version of the analytics software is free. With this free version of the platform, you’ll be able to track basic behavior and audience metrics, and demographics, plus use segmentation tools.
That’s not all. Google Analytics also lets you check the kinds of devices your site was accessed by, whether visitors have checked out your site before, and more. It's a fantastic free tool for small businesses that may not have the budget for a more detail-rich or customizable solution.
However, Google Analytics can also grow with your company to get a greater budget for traffic tracking. Google Analytics charges a $150,000 annual fee for its Analytics 360 platform, including many more advanced capabilities and tons of data capacity.
For comparison, free Google Analytics allows you to analyze up to 10 million hits per month. Analytics 360 lets you analyze up to 500 million hits per month.
In any case, Google Analytics is a fantastic place to start if you just need some basic web traffic analytics data to optimize your website for conversion, increase your marketing campaign’s efficacy, and more.
There are many other third-party or custom-made visitor tracking software solutions as well. Lots of these software choices come with special features or benefits that make them uniquely suitable for specific business objectives.
Of course, many of these tools also cost quite a lot. So you’ll have to weigh the benefits of paying a premium price for specialized web traffic tracking software vs. going with a free tool like Google Analytics.
Some excellent tracking software choices include:
The above list is just the start. It’s a good idea to browse all the visitor tracking software solutions available before making your choice. It’s the only way to ensure you pick the software solution that’s perfect for your needs.
Lastly, you can always build your analytics and tracking tools. But this requires that you either have a code development team on staff already (unlikely if your business is not in the IT industry) or you hire web developers out-of-pocket.
The advantage of this approach is that you can build a web traffic tracking tool perfectly tailored to your needs, software requirements, or demographic objectives. That said, this solution can also be quite expensive (and possibly even the most expensive).
Consider this pathway carefully.
There’s one other thing you need to consider as you get started with tracking website visitors: compliance with the GDPR, groundbreaking legislation that affects the EU, and any companies that do business with EU customers.
The full GDPR regulations can be found on the official website. Without getting too technical, the GDPR sets various standards and regulations to prevent users’ personal information from being hacked or stolen or used against their will by companies.
For you, the business owner, that means you need to:
If you can’t reach these benchmarks, you may not be allowed to do business with EU citizens legally.
The best way to make sure you are GDPR-compliant is to thoroughly research any website tracking tool before signing on the dotted line. Most modern traffic tracking tools are compliant with GDPR legislative requirements, but some are not. Google Analytics is also compliant in most respects.
But you should still stay abreast of new developments with GDPR and how different companies respond to them. For example, Apple no longer supports cookies: a very common web behavior tracking tool. The company took this move to ensure that it could continue to sell products to EU citizens without problems.
Make sure that you don’t use a website visitor tracking tool that is overly reliant on cookies or similar cheap technologies like pixel tags, custom URLs, and so on. While ideal for acquiring data from local traffic, these basic methods won’t get you very far if you want your e-commerce business to expand into international markets.
In the end, getting started with website visitor tracking is relatively straightforward: pick your tool and start gathering data. But remember that this is just the start.
With Building Blocks, you’ll learn how to apply the data you collect to your eCommerce site. Block 19 of the Masterclass covers the analytics behind your visitor’s behaviors and how you can use this information to improve their experience on your site.
Visit Building Blocks today for more information on our Master Class or to enroll now.