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The Invisible Objects That Changed Digital Media
By: Mike Krass
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"Half my advertising works: I just don't know which half."

With the advent of tracking methods for digital marketing initiatives, marketers were finally able to attribute success to their paid and unpaid marketing efforts.

The creation of tracking pixels, which are objects embedded on a web page that are invisible to the user but allow advertisers to see who has viewed a web page, allowed marketers back then (and still to this day) to track this vital information. But how do marketers actual implement these tracking measures?

Where Do Tracking Pixels Go?

First, the advertisers' landing pages or the vital buttons that determine campaign success must be identified. Good examples include "Thank you for purchasing our product" landing pages, "Buy Now" buttons, or "Click here for a quote."

Generating Tracking Pixels

Next, the pixels must be generated. Most third-party ad servers have the capability to generate iFrame and Javascript pixels (both secure or unsecured), which are into their platform at no extra charge. 

Also, make sure that the pixel type matches the web page type. There are two types of pixels:
  • Unsecure: These are most common and are placed on web pages that have a "http://" at the beginning of their web address. They can be used on About, product search, and Learn More pages.
  • Secure: These pixels need to be placed on web pages that involve a transfer of secure information ("https://" at the beginning of their web pages). Examples include shopping cart checkouts or pages that involve submitting personally identifiable information (like address, DOB, etc).

Placing Tracking Pixels

The pixel then must be placed into a text file and sent to the client to implement. DO NOT place the pixel code into a Microsoft Word document, as Word will auto-correct the pieces of code that it deems are "errors" (i.e. the entire thing), destroying your pixel and making it completely useless.

Finally, the client will need to place the pixel code into the body element of their website. This should be done weeks in advance in order to provide enough time to QA the pixel to ensure it is functioning properly.

QA-ing Tracking Pixels

The next step includes performing quality assurance, or QA checks, to ensure that the pixels are firing, which means they are activated and returning data correctly.

A couple tools you can utilize to do this are...
  • Charles Proxy: Easy-to-use debugging software allows you to browse website and see which pixels are firing. This can help guarantee that the correct pixels, identified by unique numeric identifiers, were placed on the correct conversions.
  • Fiddler Web Debugger: Like Charles Proxy, Fiddler is a program that users activate and then use to browse to see which pixels are firing on their key actions.

Campaign: Go Live

Once all pixels have been generated, placed on the advertisers' websites, and QA-ed successfully, it's time for the campaign to go live!

Sit back and enjoy the show as the conversions flow in!


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About the Author
Mike Krass is the founder of MKG Media Group,  a Bay Area digital media shop that specializes in measurable media solutions for small and medium-sized businesses. When not walking his puppy or sky diving around the US, his personal musings can be read on Twitter at @mikekrass.
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