There has been a lot of talk regarding users being tracked on the web, and most of it has been negative. With such a vast pool of human behaviour to pull from, and with so many of us making use of the web, it is no wonder that national security agencies and hacker groups may be interested in our private data for their purposes. But there is so much good to be had from (anonymously) tracking user behaviour with outcomes that benefit all who use the web.
In digital agencies such as This Side Up, like our friend in the photo, cookies are one of our favourite snacks. These are snippets of information about the websites you are visiting that are stored in your hard drive by the web browser. This information identifies you to the site you are visiting and maintains any previously held information such as products in cart, should you return – thus improving your experience.
Cookies are also involved in the collection of website user data such as how many times a page was viewed, what videos were watched, how users behaved on a page – i.e. what buttons were clicked, how long they spent on the site and where they navigated to next.
This is valuable information for both improving user experience and also in measuring the performance of a website. Business owners want to know their online revenue, how many visits they get, how many people sign up for their newsletter and much more. Agencies want to help clients continuously improve their website’s business objectives and cookies feeding information to tools such as Google Analytics are invaluable in achieving this. In such tools, all information collected is completely anonymous and thus any identifying data such as names, email addresses and credit card numbers are kept safe and out of view.
In fact, the process of collecting user data whether online or in offline surveys is exactly what helps to improve the web for all. Today’s relatively strong online user experience is the result of the interpretation of such information.
Furthermore, cookies assist in providing web users with less annoying and more relevant advertisements. By understanding where you have been browsing in the past, internet marketing providers such as Google can serve you advertisements that are related to your interests and are thus less annoying. Ads are beneficial to all who enjoy the web as they help to pay content providers who publish what we search for on the web.
So next time you hear a negative remark about web tracking, just remember that the relatively high quality online content and user experience that we enjoy on the web today is due in large part to anonymously monitoring user behaviour.