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Understanding the Value of Anonymous Visitor Tracking

Chris Osterhout SVP of Strategy
#Digital Marketing, #Commerce, #Inbound Marketing
Published on August 18, 2015

We look at how integrating anonymous visitor tracking into your website can result in a personalized user experience that drives more conversions.

In today’s interconnected online ecosystem, organizations can utilize a wide variety of technologies in their digital strategy, but one that is often misunderstood is anonymous visitor tracking. This functionality is provided by multiple systems, including Content Management Systems (CMSs), Marketing Automation Platforms (MAPs), and analytics platforms like Google Analytics. The value of using these systems to track “macro” metrics like total website visitors, traffic sources, or bounce rates may seem obvious, but what is less understood is why site owners should track data on a “micro” level, looking at how individual users interact with a site.

The misunderstanding that arises when considering this type of tracking comes from the question of anonymity. Why we should be looking at individual users when we don’t know who they are? However, just because you don’t yet know exactly who each website visitor is, that doesn’t mean you can’t understand what they are interested in and how to personalize their experience to deliver them relevant, timely content and help them understand the next steps they can take to accomplish their goals on your site.

Personas and Personalization

We’ve written previously about the importance of defining personas for your digital strategy, which can help make sure the content on your site is targeted toward the people you want to reach and help them find the information or products they need. However, tracking your visitor data can provide you with the information that can help you not only understand what your customers are looking to accomplish on your site, but how to tailor their experience in ways that encourage conversions.

For example, let’s pretend that you have an e-commerce store that sells digital cameras. You could create a visitor group on your site that includes any visitors (either anonymous or known) that have looked at three or more pieces of content tagged as “mid-range”. Visitors in this group are probably intermediate-level photographers, so by identifying them as such, you can then personalize their experience to provide them with the information or products they are looking for and encourage them to make a purchase. This type of personalization could include:

  • Rearranging the products that are displayed to highlight the mid-range/intermediate items which are most relevant to users in this group.
  • Manifesting how-to articles or books that would be most relevant to someone with a mid-range skill set.
  • Offering free tip sheets on how to “up your game” in the photography world.

These are just a few of the many possible ways to use anonymous visitor data to create a more relevant experience for a website’s users. Even if you don’t know the identity of an individual visitor, tracking their behavior can help you determine how to provide them with the information they are looking for and encouraging them to become a customer.

Micro Conversions vs. Macro Conversions

The goal of personalization is to make your products and services as relevant as possible to each website visitor and drive them down the path to conversion. However, while we ultimately want visitors to make a purchase or become a customer, these “macro conversions” are just one part of the big picture. We should also consider micro conversions, which could be any action that you want your visitors to complete, such as viewing a certain number of product pages or following links from blogs to other relevant information.

While your ultimate goals are the completion of macro conversions, such as making a purchase or completing a web-to-lead form, tracking these micro conversions can give you valuable business intelligence that will help you understand how to add more value for your users and provide them with the relevant content that will encourage them to complete the macro conversions.

The Alternative

What’s the alternative to tracking anonymous visitor data and personalizing the user’s experience on your site? Instead, you could do nothing, and present the same information to everyone, no matter their demographic, industry, browsing habits, or interests. This is far from ideal, since it ignores whether information is relevant to each individual buyer’s journey.

For an example of how ignoring visitor data can lead to a less relevant experience for your users, consider the following scenario: your company provides janitorial services, and your website shares success stories from your existing clients. However, since you don’t use any personalization, every visitor sees the latest success stories that have been published. If the three most recent stories are about services you’ve provided to hospitals, that’s what everyone will see, so if an individual from, say, an institute of higher education visits the site, they won’t have any idea of the work that you’ve done that would be relevant to them. By not tailoring the site’s experience to each user’s interests, you’re not just creating a less-than-ideal experience, you’re potentially losing out on business.

Relevance Is Everything

When it comes to digital conversions, the relevance of your site’s content to each individual visitor is what can make the difference between a one-time visitor and a long-time customer. And what’s more, the benefits of this visitor tracking extend beyond personalization; just imagine what you or your sales team can do with the information that this tracking supplies after a visitor converts. Before calling or reaching out to a potential customer, you can see every page or article they’ve viewed on your site and every email that has been delivered to them. Knowing how much they already know about your products or services will help you have a more relevant and timely conversation with them and help them understand how you can meet their needs.

The benefits that visitor tracking can provide are endless, and if you haven’t started, you’re missing out on valuable information that is being generated on your site today. Do you want to know more about how to implement tracking on your site and tie it into your Inbound Marketing strategy? Do you have any questions about how to begin personalizing your site’s content to your personas? Please contact us, and we can work with you to create a digital strategy that will bring you the success you deserve!