They know who you are
I’ve just about beat the topic of visitor tracking, with its attendant difficulties, into the ground. It’s hard. It can compromise your analytics and experiment results.
Reader Edward Meehan raised a point I haven’t covered, though.
You make a good point of understanding what a visitor is in doing most marketing tracking, sending paid traffic to landing pages, etc.
But if you run a service that users log into, with tools like GA you can bind a cookie to a user, based on login. And you can do things like cross-device tracking (if they login with other devices as well).
Most of my experience is in marketing site optimization, working with visitors who are anonymous until the moment they convert.
But in-app optimization is absolutely a thing, and with in-app optimization, tracking unique visitors is less of an existential crisis and more of a “buy you donuts” favor request for your dev team.
(For anyone interested in the technical side, here’s an article Edward shared.)
Your in-app experiences are already being tracked and optimized, across devices, by the biggest tech companies. Facebook knows who you are, even if you’re using your grandma’s computer. Amazon’s got your number for any device you’ve logged in on. Google knows your Chrome profile.
This is what some media sites are up to, as well. The New York Times lets you create a “free account” to browse articles beyond the paywall (though still with limitations). I’m guessing this is largely a data integrity play - when they know who you are and what you read, they can sell subscriptions more effectively.
User tracking is the motivation behind building mobile apps, too. At least, I assume so. Why else does 7-11 need an app?
So, to recap:
- If you’re a huge tech company, you already know who all your users are. Your central challenge is optimizing without being offensively creepy
- If you’ve got a logged-in experience, you have much cleaner data on logged-in visitors. You might even incentivize them to log in by withholding functionality 😉
- If neither of the above applies, you should take your visitor-level analytics with a grain of salt, and consider that an optimized mobile experience might be more about email signups than purchases
Have you changed your site experience to encourage visitors to log in? Implemented cross-device tracking in Google Analytics? Reaped benefits? Hit Reply and tell me about it.