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Website Tracking vs. Privacy: How to Find the Balance

Andrew Gregory
Author
Performance
Category
Jul 9, 2020
Date

Summary / TL;DR

Is it better to be able to track visitors every action on a website or to have a privacy focused website? We’re seeing a change in privacy concerns that is affecting digital marketing.

We share a few tools that you can use to see the amount of tracking on a website. Laws surrounding this topic are continually evolving and show the significance of this topic. Our recommendation is to evaluate the benefits of both sides and find the right balance for your business and your customers.

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There are so many options available to track website visitors, from Google Analytics and Facebook Pixel to Hotjar and HubSpot. All of this data is needed to run your marketing efficiently and effectively, right? How much of the data are you actually using to base critical business decisions on?

The hidden cost of this tracking is often ignored. It means GDPR issues and cookie notices cluttering up the website. Tracking tags can also cause performance issues on the website. This ultimately results in a worse experience for your customers. Isn't the point of your marketing to make a positive, memorable experience? And don't forget that your customers do care about their privacy.

Is There Really Too Much Tracking?

Many people are unaware of the extent that they are being tracked for marketing purposes. Check out the image below showing the web requests of a popular website. The website reaches out to each of these other services when you load a page. Green points are tracking/advertising services. And this is a pretty mild example. Try running some websites you know through this tool to see for yourself.

Website Performance Issues

Is the performance of a website that important? In short, yes! Google has been using website speed as a factor in organic search rankings for years because it matters to visitors. So, how does tracking affect speed? Each tracking script that is loaded on a page will slow down the website. We’ve seen plenty of websites that have significant issues because of unnecessary tracking tags. Ultimately, yes, tracking tags can cause a performance issue.

People’s Changing Expectations

Have you ever felt that ads are following you around? Didn't it feel invasive and shady? This is why we’re starting to see a changing landscape with regards to privacy and tracking on the internet. This is resulting in everything from new privacy laws to the integration of ad blockers into major software platforms.

GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation)

You probably remember receiving a ton of emails about GDPR when it went into effect in 2018. It is one of the more widespread laws addressing privacy and personal data. Here’s a good summary:

“The GDPR is a European Union (EU) privacy law that affects businesses around the world. It regulates how any organization that is subject to the Regulation treats or uses the personal data of people located in the EU.”

MailChimp

The GDPR privacy law brought privacy concerns to the forefront. Even though it did not apply directly to many businesses outside of the EU, we expect other countries and states to follow their lead.

CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act)

Similar in some ways to the GDPR law, in 2020 the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) became effective. This law also expands the privacy rights of individuals, specifically California residents.

Browsers with Ad Blocking

For years there have been people using ad blockers to get around tracking and to stop annoying ads. Now there is a shift from their use by a small minority of people to browsers including ad/tracking blocking by default. Even more than this, privacy is now a selling point of why to choose a specific browser.

Firefox

Firefox is an open-source browser making up 8% of the browser market share. It has had a focus on privacy for years and this is now one of the primary marketing points on their website.

Safari

Apple recently announced that the next version of Safari will include expanded privacy protection, monitoring, and reporting.

Brave

Brave is one of the newest browsers on the block. Its whole story is being a privacy-first browser.

Email Tracking Blocking with Hey

You may have heard of the new email platform Hey that is getting tons of attention. A key feature is that it automatically prevents tracking. Not everyone knows that they may be tracked when they open an email or click a link. Hey is using this as a differentiator to set their email service apart.

We’re Finding a Balance

Those are a few examples that show the changes we are seeing in the awareness of privacy issues (without even mentioning the many Facebook privacy controversies).

So what’s our approach? We know that it can be useful to have analytics about how people use your website. It’s also important to know if your marketing efforts are working. One of our core values is continuous improvement after all. But we work hard to do this while respecting the visitor by minimizing the tracking and not linking it to personal data. Fortunately, the growing focus on privacy is in line with our approach.

Our goal is to build awesome websites and help organizations tell their story. Our goal has never been to trick people or to overwhelm them with ads. We plan to continue shifting to more privacy focused approaches. This means that a unique brand story becomes even more important. Lucky for us, we love to help organizations develop their brand and tell their story!

Andrew Gregory
Author Name
Andrew Gregory / COO & Founder
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https://www.claritysquared.com/articles/website-tracking-vs-privacy-how-to-find-the-balance

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