Hint: We Don’t Want Your Credit Card Info
Once in a while, the web measurement and analytics industry comes under enhanced scrutiny due to one controversy or another that is tangentially related to the privacy of the average person. Then, some of these average people invariably jump to conclusions based on a snippet of regurgitated information and no research of their own. Suddenly, they’re convinced that every tracking cookie is a trap, and everyone’s out to get their precious credit card info, web surfing history, or private… err… preferences.
We’re Not Interested in Your Secrets
While web analytics is concerned with visitor data insofar as we can determine where a visitor has come from and where they have gone after visiting the website of one of our clients, we don’t really care so much about the ‘what a visitor is doing’ as the ‘why they are doing it’. In a nutshell, all we want to figure out is: Is there something we’re doing wrong to make you leave the website and visit a competitor’s?
That’s it. We don’t want your credit card info. We don’t want a visitor’s most deeply-held secrets so we can sell them to shady organizations. We just don’t.
All we want to know whether a visitor’s needs are being met by the website they’re browsing, and how their experience can be improved upon.
We Just Want You (The Visitor) to be Happy
What information do we collect, then? As stated above, we want to know what other website(s) led you to our client’s website. We want to know where you went after you left our website, just in case a competitor of our client’s has a better, flashier, better-organized, or more useful website that could give us some insight into what our client is up against. We want to know if you left because something went wrong on the website, if you didn’t find the information you expected, or if the website’s content was simply boring you to death.
Sometimes, we’d like to figure out what kinds of people from what general geographical region visit a website. We want to know this because we would like to give information to our client that could help make their website more useful to particular types of visitors. Maybe a client could put region-specific information on their website, or even create a separate mini-site for a given region if the need exists.
It’s all about knowing your customers, understanding their needs, and continually improving to match their constantly changing desires.
The Technology Doesn’t Allow It
There’s one simple fact about web analytics technologies that should assuage a lot of fears about its invasive potential: cookies can only be read by the website or advertising service that created them in the first place. Period.
If you visited two sites before you came to our website, we would only be able to see the website you came from to get to ours. The first page you visited in that chain is unknown to us. We only know what page you visited immediately before our website because the server hosting our website grabs that information as part of the way it, and every other server on the Internet, works – cookies can’t even tell us this.
If you visited two sites after you came to our website, we could only see the one website you visited immediately after you left our page. If you typed the address for another site in the address bar to leave our site, we have no way to find out which site that was. The page you visit after that is, and will always be, unknown to us – unless you have come back to our site, that is.
Even the much-used and well-respected Google Analytics doesn’t track visits made more than 30 minutes apart.
Web analytics can’t be Big Brother, and we certainly don’t want it to be. Web analysts just want to make the Internet more useful for you, and help you find what you’re looking for.
PublicInsite Web Analytics Inc.
Google Analytics Certified Partner