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Everything You Need to Know About Pixel Codes

Angie Tran

Content Marketing Manager @ AdRoll

As a digital marketer, you’ve probably encountered terms like tracking pixel, marketing pixel, Facebook pixel, or simply pixel. For those unfamiliar with the concept, it can seem like confusing jargon, especially when discussed without context. In this blog we explain what exactly a pixel code is and why it wields such significance in the digital marketing world.

Pixel Code? What’s That?

Picture this scenario: you’ve visited an online retailer’s website and added some things to your cart, but then, for various reasons, decided not to complete the purchase. Subsequently, you find yourself served ads on your social media feeds, gently nudging you to revisit those abandoned items. That’s the artistry of a tracking pixel at work.

At its core, a pixel is a tiny piece of code meticulously crafted to blend seamlessly into the design of your website or email. Its primary purpose is to discreetly identify and monitor site visitors or email recipients. Once integrated, this unassuming piece of code gives website operators or email senders the power to glean a wealth of information about their digital audience, including:

  • What pages they browse

  • What buttons they click

  • What operating system they use and their screen resolution

  • What time they completed the action (e.g., opening the email or visiting the website)

  • Their IP address

For the tech aficionados among us, a pixel code is a piece of javascript code or an iframe that marketers can embed within their website or email’s HTML code. When the targeted user interacts with the ad, visits the destination website, or opens the email, their browser triggers the invisible graphic concealed within the pixel. This graphic then adeptly collects the user’s data and sends it to a designated server. The pixel then leaves a trace in the form of a cookie within the user’s browser, a secret code that savvy brands can later leverage for crafting retargeting ads

Why Do We Need Pixel Codes?

Pixel codes allow marketers to collect and access a treasure trove of behavioral data from their website visitors. Here are some reasons why your marketing strategies needs pixel codes:

  • Enhanced retargeting: Armed with insights into the products that potential customers expressed interest in, marketers can orchestrate highly personalized retargeting ads, propelling more conversions. 

  • Performance evaluation: These unassuming codes facilitate the meticulous tracking of impressions and conversions, providing marketers with a clear litmus test for their marketing campaigns’ efficacy.

  •  A/B testing prowess: Pixel data serves as the backbone of A/B testing, enabling marketers to refine creatives and online offers to make them more compelling and engaging. 

  • Cross-browser compatibility: With the aid of pixel codes, digital experiences can be seamlessly tailored to accommodate the most commonly used browsers and screen sizes. 

  • Email open rate insights: Pixel codes also grant marketers a glimpse into the open rates of their emails, offering invaluable insights that can steer the refinement and optimization of email marketing strategies. 

In essence, by integrating a pixel code into your digital assets, you unlock the potential to maximize your marketing resources and hone in on the audiences that matter most.

If you think that a pixel code sounds awfully similar to a cookie, you're certainly not alone. In fact, a pixel serves as the conduit through which a cookie discreetly takes up residence within the recesses of a website visitor’s browser.

Although both pixel codes and cookies play pivotal roles in tracking user activities across the internet, pixel codes are generally more effective due to their ability to capture a more comprehensive tapestry of behavioral data. While cookies reside within individual users’ browsers, offering them a degree of control (including the option to block or clear them), pixels operate on a different plane.

Pixel codes transmit information directly to the host’s servers and can seamlessly traverse the boundaries of devices, courtesy of cookies, especially those of the third-party variety. In a nutshell, if you’ve ever wondered how your marketing efforts span from the realms of desktop websites to mobile advertisements, a pixel and its associated third-party cookie hold the key. Pixel codes also make it possible for marketers to ascertain whether site visitors are real shoppers or bots, laying the foundation for the creation of user profiles and navigation paths rooted in behavioral trends. But as with any marketing technology, pixel codes generally just provide the basis — supplemental tools are often necessary to analyze the data and provide insights on the next steps.

Are There Different Types of Pixel Codes?

Indeed, different types of pixel codes are tailored for distinct purposes. You may have heard of some of the most popular ones:

  • Browser HTML pixels: This is the most basic and common type of pixel offered by most website providers, such as WordPress. However, because this type of pixel relies on cookies in some situations, it may occasionally provide incomplete information. 

  • Retargeting pixels: These specialized pixels are used to monitor user behaviors and interactions on a website, enabling marketers to serve tailored ads in real time. To capture the most comprehensive data for maximum effect, you’ll need to embed the pixel across the majority of your webpages. 

  • Conversion pixels: These pixels are strategically placed on thank you or confirmation pages and spring into action when users complete predefined goals. They facilitate the connection between conversions and revenue with specific behaviors, audience profiles, and ads, offering marketers a precise map of the origins of their conversions. By identifying the source of conversions, you can pinpoint which user journeys or demographics deserve heightened attention and investment. 

Pro Tip: Rather than taking a pixel code for every site visitor on every single webpage in your arsenal, adopt a strategic approach. Concentrate your efforts on pixels that will help support and inform your campaign strategy or cater to specific demographics that closely correspond to your target audience. 

How Do I Get Started With Pixels? 

Not to worry, getting started with pixel codes is straightforward. Typically, you can install a pixel code via your email or website hosting platform, which will offer extensive implementation instructions. For instance, with AdRoll, the pixel code is automatically generated upon signing up. Moreover, if you manage multiple different websites, AdRoll’s Pixel Assistant tool ensures a flawless pixel integration that has coverage across entire sites and the ability to troubleshoot with the least amount of clicks. With third-party cookie deprecation, AdRoll also made it possible for marketers to collect customer relationship management (CRM) data directly through the platform instead of third-party sources. 

Maximize Your Growth With AdRoll

Beyond the realm of pixel codes, AdRoll provides a robust suite of tools for marketers, expertly designed to maximize growth. Whether your objectives involve nurturing customer loyalty, compiling better data, or recovering abandoned carts, we’re ready to meet your needs head-on. Check out how we can solve your marketing challenges today. 

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