Ontraport is great at keeping track of your audience. You can follow someone's whole experience, from first click to purchase and beyond. This is crucial for anyone spending time or money advertising a business, because you need to know what’s working and what’s not, so you can do more of the good stuff and less of the rest.
But tracking is for more than just marketing attribution.
When you know who specifically is visiting your website, you can use Ontraport Pages to personalize your site for each visitor. So, keeping track of who’s who means you can show offers that each prospect is most likely to be interested in, or the next steps for each new customer, or maybe you change your sales argument based on what problems you know each visitor has. It’s powerful stuff that can really set you apart in the market.
Ontraport’s tracking makes it easy, but it’ll be helpful to understand how it all works — and that’s what I’m going to cover in this video. It gets a little technical, but I’ll explain everything as I go.
I’ll start by talking about cookies — what they are and how Ontraport uses them to identify people. Then I’ll go over the three ways Ontraport identifies your site visitors as they move through your site.
Let’s get rolling.
So what is a cookie, exactly?
A cookie is just a little text file that is stored in each visitor’s browser, whether it’s on their desktop or on their phones. As the owner of your website, you can use code to write whatever you want into those little text files.
Different sites store different information there. Some sites record a visitor’s preferences and behaviors so the next time they visit, your site remembers that stuff about them.
Other sites remember all the items visitors put in their shopping cart so that if they leave and come back later, the stuff is still in their cart. Same thing works for language preferences, login details, and more.
So that’s how cookies work. But before we move on, let’s clear up the difference between third party and first party cookies. This has gotten a lot of press lately, as there are some privacy concerns with 3rd party cookies, and browsers are changing how they handle them.
The difference is all about who can access them. If you set a first party cookie on your site, you’re the only one who can view the data in it later. A third party cookie can be set and viewed by sites other than the one that’s being visited.
That's how ad platforms like Google and Facebook get involved and where privacy becomes an issue. There are a lot of site owners who include Facebook and Google scripts on their pages. By setting 3rd party cookies, those platforms can see basically every page you’re visiting on the web. That's a lot of valuable data we might not want to share.
As a result, major browsers are starting to block third party cookies by default.
But that won’t matter for Ontraport’s tracking, since we set first party cookies. You aren’t trying to track people all across the web; you’re trying to keep track of your visitors as they browse your site.
For the ad platforms, this is a big problem since they won't get as much behavioral data. Their ads will become less targeted — and, in turn, less effective. As an advertiser, you'd wind up spending more money to get the same results you're getting now.
As an Ontraport user, you dodge that bullet. As long as you share Ontraport’s tracking data with your ad platforms, you can still get targeted results. We cover how this works in the Deep Funnel Conversion video.
For now though, we’ll focus on how Ontraport tracks visitors as they move through your site.
The key is that we need to have that 1st party cookie on a visitor’s browser. We give each visitor an ID and store it in that cookie, so that when they come back we know who they are. The catch is that people use different browsers - say, their laptop and their phone - and we wanna get each device they use cookied with their id. So, understanding how that happens is helpful.
There are 2 basic things you need to have in place to make sure we can track things for you: You need to use Ontraport’s Forms to capture leads and sales- any of the 3 form builders will work - and you need our tracking scripts on every page of your site. These work together to identify people on your site. Using Ontraport Pages takes care of both of those things automatically - forms and tracking scripts are built in.
Ok. Let’s look a little closer to se e how Ontraport’s tracking works, and let’s imagine someone’s visiting your site for the first time. We’ll call her Monica.
The first time Monica comes to your site, she won’t have Ontraport’s tracking cookies yet. That makes her an anonymous visitor; we just don’t know her yet. Right away, Ontraport adds a cookie to her browser with an ID and some important information:
First, it has the UTM variables from the URL Monica visited. Without this saved in Monica’s cookie, you’re a lot more likely to lose track of her later on.
For example, let's say Monica clicks one of your ads and doesn’t fill out the form on the first page she visits. When she moves to another page, most systems will lose her UTM source tracking. Ontraport avoids this by capturing Monica’s data as soon as she hits your site — even if she never fills out a form. So now your site will recognize Monica next time she visits.
You’ll also be able to see everywhere Monica has been on your site because we store every page visit in that cookie. When she does fill out a form, we’ll grab all that history and put it in her contact record, so you can see what pages she visited even before she was a contact!
If Monica came from Facebook or Google, she’ll also bring over a couple of IDs from those platforms. Those end up in your cookie and can be really helpful later on. Again, we cover that in the Deep Funnel Conversion Tracking video.
Finally, if you’re using Ontraport’s partner program, you might also see a referrer ID in Monica’s cookie. That'll let you know which partner sent her your way.
So Monica’s cookie will now show you: an ID number so we know who she is, UTM variables, page visits, Facebook or Google IDs and maybe a referrer ID. All that information hangs out in Monica’s browser until one of two things happen:
Monica clears her cookies. This isn’t too common with first party cookies, but it happens. If her cookie disappears, then next time she visits, she’ll be anonymous again.
The other time cookies get cleared is when Monica fills out an Ontraport form. That’s when things get exciting.
First, of course, Ontraport creates a contact record for Monica. Then we take all that information from her cookie and drop it into her new record.
After that, all that’s left in Monica’s cookie is a unique Ontraport ID so we can recognize her next time she visits. As long as she has that cookie, we’ll continue to track each page visit and store it in her contact log.
At this point, Ontraport considers Monica an identified visitor. And now you can begin to personalize your Ontraport Pages to match her interests.
We try to keep everyone in this “identified” status, since it opens up more options on your end. So, if they delete their cookies for some reason, we try to put them back.
So whenever somebody clicks an email link that you sent them, fills out a form or logs in to your membership site, we reset their cookies, identifying them again.
This helps you out a lot, since people are always switching between their devices. Think about it — you probably check email on your phone, log in to work on a computer and use a tablet to skim the news.
Without the right tech in place, it’s easy to lose track of people when they're switching around like this. But as an Ontraport user, if Monica opts in on her phone, then later clicks a link on her laptop in an email you sent her, we’ve got cookies on both those devices. So we always know who’s who.
But there’s a caveat that I have to warn you about with identified contacts. Every now and then, Ontraport can get tricked.
Let’s say Monica forwards one of your emails to a coworker, and the coworker clicks a link. When Ontraport sees that, it'll tie the click to Monica's email and assume she and her coworker are the same person.
And there are hackers out there trying to spoof your cookie data as well.
Normally, neither of these issues are a big deal. But Ontraport Pages gives you the power to actually put Monica’s data on a page - her name and whatever else you want.
Because Ontraport CAN sometimes get it wrong here, you want to avoid sharing your contact’s personal information on pages for identified contacts.
Voiceover (?) - this one could go either way
For instance, let’s say Monica’s coworker followed that link to a page that revealed her purchase history. Monica might not want them to know that information. What if she bought something like an ergonomic squatty potty? She might expect you to keep that to yourself.
It can get even messier if you work with sensitive data like home addresses or credit card info.
So, to handle situations like this, we have a third level of identification that prevents these hiccups.
When people log in to your membership site, they’re no longer anonymous or identified — they’re logged in.
That means once Monica confirms her username and password, we can be 100% sure of who she is. Now, you can securely show her personal information, product delivery info and more. Of course, if Monica shares her username and password with her friend, at that point she expects the friend to know about the squatty potty. Not your problem anymore.
So now you’re familiar with all three identification levels: anonymous, identified and logged in. You can use these in a few places within Pages.
If you want to limit who gets access to a certain page, you’ll choose from these three levels. Or if you want to get fancy, you can create those settings for specific blocks on a page. Together, these tools give you detailed control over who gets to see what on your website.
Good job! Now you know how contact tracking works in Ontraport. You've learned about cookies, how we identify visitors and what that means for your pages.