What is Web Beacon (Bug)?
A Web Beacon is also known as Web Bug, pixel tag, invisible GIF, Clear GIF. In order to know what the user has accessed in emails or web pages, web bug is used. Mostly used for web analytics, a Web Beacon is mostly invisible. A Web Beacon arrives in the form of an image and can be detected by the user, only if the back end source code is checked. Web Beacon can work easily because it is a small graphical image with very little size and low bandwidth and weak network connection is not a problem to it.
Web Beacon is still a controversial topic and is still debatable whether to use it or not since it comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. Some take it to be a good thing because of its ability of high-level real-time analytics for business. On the other hand, some people consider it as a tool for data theft and are causing disruption. Some find it extremely concerning.
While in many cases, Web Beacons also constitutes an image which has a pixel size dimension of 1×1. But, Web Beacon has so many positive aspects and it could be used in the tracking of the following statistics:
- The exact time for the web bug was used or accessed or viewed.
- Type of Web Browser of a user who has fetched the web bug.
- The physical Internet Protocol address of the system that accessed the web bug.
- User Preferences are stored in the Web Beacon to use it later for remarketing Ads.
- Advertisers have the ability to build up browsing profiles for customers to display a healthy amount of relevant ads.
For validating email addresses a Web Beacon can be used by spammers. The sender can validate if the user has accessed the email, therefore, the sender can validate the authenticity of an email address.
Working of Web Beacon
Images within the web page also get rendered when the browser tries to render a web page. A request by the browser is made to the server to download the images within the web page, with this request server keep a log of some information such as IP address, timestamp, and other few details. The process of tracking how many times you have accessed the web page could be done with the help of Web Beacon with the location information and few additional user specifics. Reference to an existing can also be made by this request which was sent to the server by the browser. By the means of this request, the webmaster understands the user preferences and builds a profile based on user preferences. It’s placed on the website by website design and development company in the backend, making it completely invisible. Web Beacon can not only be used over emails, but it can also be work over websites. Tracking and monitoring emails and their click rates is a common practice. Open Tracking, a Method that is used to insert images right in the emails. So whenever the email server tries to download an image in the mail, an alert is directly sent to the web server. In email marketing, it is an important part of analytics since they know if their email was opened or clicked.
Web Beacon can also be a part of embedded links, most probably in the form of a reference ID within the URL. By clicking on the embedded link, one can identify if the email was opened and when it was opened. In 2007, Facebook implemented its own beacon which was also referred to as “Facebook beacons” existed. Facebook Beacon collected data from users profile from beacons partners of what that user accessed and other information. But without taking any prior consent, Facebook displayed this data on users profile’s which a breach of privacy and security, which was without really letting the users turn on or off this feature, which was a huge security issue. That was past, Facebook learned its lesson owing to privacy concerns they revoked the Facebook Beacons and had to suspend it from the website.
Difference between Cookie and a Web Beacon
Most of the times both the components are used for a similar purpose, which is to track information. The purpose is to provide a better user experience. Perhaps they sound similar, but the working is different. Many of the times Web Beacons are used in conjunction with cookies. Cookie could be identified as a session cookie or a persistent cookie. Cookies are targeted to improve returning customer’s user experience by enabling faster interactions. Cookies have an upper hand that they can be accepted or declined. By default, cookies are turned on, but most browsers give users to choose the cookie preference.
On the other hand, Web Beacons are a part of images and are not visible to users in any way unless the user checks the source code. Web Beacons do not provide user preference to accept or decline them. But there’s a way to block the Web Beacons by just going into the browser’s privacy section. But this has to be done manually on all the browsers the user is using. By doing this few of the other websites or user interface may not work properly based on the configuration of the website.
Advantages of Web Beacon
It has some advantages that are the reason many websites and email marketing campaigns focus on this.
- Based on interest, Web Beacons allows advertisers to display ads to users very effectively.
- Easy to implement and extremely cheap.
- It enhances user experience with the help of selected personalization
- Data Insights are provided, which is data gold mines.
- It increases the Retention of customers and user engagement.
Disadvantages of Web Beacon
Basically, there are no disadvantages for Web Beacon, but there are some concerns which annoyed some users, they are listed as follows:
- Coding Expertise is required.
- Since it is technology dependent, and hence implementation can vary based on technology.
- To avoid any privacy-related issues it should be implemented carefully.
Web Beacon can provide great insights making it a powerful tool. If implemented properly can provide great data insights. Without the requirement of any expensive analytics tools, Web Beacon is the most affordable option.