UK: +44 (0)844 589 5000 | USA: +1 616-328-5890

Abstract

- Is website tracking ethical?
- Most say yes, with caveats
- Caution is the watchword
- Privacy must be respected
- Prospectvision does not indentify individuals



 

Website visitor tracking going too far?

In this forum post, Andrew Wise of Prospectvision responds to the issue of visitor behaviour tracking as it related to one of the contributors. Andrew's response highlights the importance of privacy when it comes to the analysis and tracking of people visiting your website. (Andrew's response is post number 12)

  • Birgit Oberlerchner
    Online Marketing at Alternative Networks Plc

    19 August 2009 13:44pm

    Birgit Oberlerchner

    Has anyone heard of this company Prospectvision - or similar ones. They just emailed me (without my prior consent by the way) twice within 10 minutes. Frirst to introduce themselves, then to thank me for looking at their website! Is that ethical, or is that going too far? Good news or bad news?

    Looking at various other forums I conclude that tracking in principle is fine, however "stalking"/"chasing"/"misusing information" without explicit permission is not?

    Thanks for your comments. Best regards B

  • Sarah Farrow

    Digital Account Executive at Red Ant

    19 August 2009 14:13pm

    Sarah Farrow

    With the tracking that is possible today, so much information is available on the success of marketing campaigns, and despite your question it is comforting to see it being used.

    I think as an attempt to make contact with potential clients and begin a  conversation email is a great way to do this, I would probably be impressed enough by the follow up to start that conversation if I were not working in digital myself and understood how they were doing this.

    If we assume that they have gone about getting their mailing list for this campaign correctly, they may be affiliated to another company which you once didn't tick the 'don't spam me from third parties' option and so are legitimately contacting you. Their second email shouldn't have come through if you had unsubscribed from their mailing service - was that option available?

    I am not sure that this is a question of morals or ethics, just a marketer using their data to take the campaign further, which is something I am very much for.

  • Birgit Oberlerchner

    Online Marketing at Alternative Networks Plc

    19 August 2009 14:37pm

    Birgit Oberlerchner

    Thanks very much Sarah! Hm, I am not convinced somehow. I understand the opt in and unsubscribe laws to emails (and that they differ per country), however as for identifying me through my visit to a website (and then contacting me to say "I know you were here") I feel that's quite intrusive? Maybe I wasn't very clear in my first email. What are your thoughts?

  • Sarah Farrow

    Digital Account Executive at Red Ant

    19 August 2009 16:53pm

    Sarah Farrow

    It is perhaps a little strange to think that a visit is recorded to a site by your email address, but this then opens up the debate for behavioural targeting and behavioural marketing, which is a great way to drill down to a core buying audience and improve conversion rates in digital marketing.

    Depending upon the platform, an email marketer can easily a report to discover whom had clicked through to the site from the email and sent out another email thanking you for coming to the site, so both yourself and a number of other people could have received a follow up for this. 

    Marketing data is available and being used to segment further messages. It was very fast to send again 10 minutes afterwards, and they may have sent the wrong sort of message to you, but I am still impressed that marketing data is being used and personally have no issue with this use of behavioural marketing.

  • Birgit Oberlerchner

    Online Marketing at Alternative Networks Plc

    19 August 2009 17:35pm

    ,Birgit Oberlerchner
    Ah I think where I got wrong is that they didn't identify me through my visit to their site, but rather through my clickthrough, which makes perfect sense is no doubt common practice.

    On the other hand I am not so sure though as they claim to "turn anonymous visitors to your website into real, qualified leads". If they are anonymous visitors they can't come through an email campaign can they?

    What I forgot to mention as well is that it' s not just their practice I questioned, but actually their product. I probably need to study it a bit more as at the moment I dont' quite understand it and find it slightly debatable ;)

    Thanks for your comments Sarah!

  • Sarah Farrow

    Digital Account Executive at Red Ant

    20 August 2009 11:24am

    Sarah Farrow

    No problem :) tbh I didn't check out their service. It sounds a little suspicious from your description and I think I will definitely take a look and see what happens!

  • rob mclaughlin

    Client Services Manager at TIG Global

    20 August 2009 11:38am

    rob mclaughlin

    I feel that if we visit a company's website it is a little like walking into their shop/office - it would be normal for someone to speak to you, no?

    The internet is not 'public', these sites are owned by people and businesses so I feel we should expect to receive feedback from site owners.

     

  • Birgit Oberlerchner

    Online Marketing at Alternative Networks Plc

    20 August 2009 14:29pm

    Birgit Oberlerchner

    Hi Rob, I am sure that's a possible/valid point of view, I am again not sure if I share it though and in fact I wonder if that is a common view of the internet. Taking the walking into a shop scenario yes, that's my choice and I expect to be approached by a sales person while I am there, and even after I've left the shop - however in the latter case only if I consented to it by giving out my contact details beforehand. Otherwise I definitely want to stay anonymous and be left alone!

    Looking at this /demo/walkthrough/ it seems as if the software can process website visitor information to an extend where real people are identified?? As they say "turn anonymous visitors into qualified web leads"??

    Unless I clicked through on your campaign, didn't unsubscribe, completed a form on your website, or confirmed that I have read your ("dodgy") privacy policy, please don't' remind me (I obviously know it's possible) in any way that you actually follow me and know what I am doing on your site, that's scary!

    Obviously I've got lots to hide ;) No, seriously I am not taking this one lightly and looking at various discussions think there's no clear consensus on this one yet?

    http://www.advanced-web-metrics.com/blog/2009/08/04/should-you-focus-on-website-visitors-as-individuals/

    http://www.linkedin.com/answers/marketing-sales/advertising-promotion/internet-marketing/MAR_ADP_INM/475285-9505648

  • Birgit Oberlerchner

    Online Marketing at Alternative Networks Plc

    20 August 2009 14:29pm

    Birgit Oberlerchner

    Hi Rob, I am sure that's a possible/valid point of view, I am again not sure if I share it though and in fact I wonder if that is a common view of the internet. Taking the walking into a shop scenario yes, that's my choice and I expect to be approached by a sales person while I am there, and even after I've left the shop - however in the latter case only if I consented to it by giving out my contact details beforehand. Otherwise I definitely want to stay anonymous and be left alone!

    Looking at this /demo/walkthrough/ it seems as if the software can process website visitor information to an extend where real people are identified?? As they say "turn anonymous visitors into qualified web leads"??

    Unless I clicked through on your campaign, didn't unsubscribe, completed a form on your website, or confirmed that I have read your ("dodgy") privacy policy, please don't' remind me (I obviously know it's possible) in any way that you actually follow me and know what I am doing on your site, that's scary!

    Obviously I've got lots to hide ;) No, seriously I am not taking this one lightly and looking at various discussions think there's no clear consensus on this one yet?

    http://www.advanced-web-metrics.com/blog/2009/08/04/should-you-focus-on-website-visitors-as-individuals/

    http://www.linkedin.com/answers/marketing-sales/advertising-promotion/internet-marketing/MAR_ADP_INM/475285-9505648

  • rob mclaughlin

    Client Services Manager at TIG Global

    24 August 2009 12:55pm

    rob mclaughlin

    Hi Birgit,

    I understand your feelings on this matter, however, doesn't this just underline how broad the 'third party/partner' group is in most sign-up/registrations? Sarah mentioned this and I am sure that this is the source of the personal contact info.

    All/most analytics and b2b lead gen companies pick up IP data and can translate it into country, city and often company data. But by cross referencing this data with a richer set, ie. from the readership of an industry related publication, you can enrich the data further.

    As a result you can opt-in to Org A whilst giving permission to Org B (3rd party) and ending up getting contacted directly by Org C.

    On another note - you are not obligated to visit the website of a company...you have no 'right' to visit it for 'free'. However, as in the car showroom, you may wish to go elsewhere should the salesman be too pushy :)

    Rob

  • Colin Watson

    Director at Watson Hall Ltd

    25 August 2009 10:54am

    Colin Watson

    It may not be "comforting" for the individual.  We're currently doing some research on the value of personal information and the business benefits to organisations of protecting such data.  There's a discussion document at:

    Business case for investing in proactive privacy protection
    http://www.watsonhall.com/privacy.protection

     

and if anyone has views from their own marketing experiences, they'd be welcome.

Colin

 

  • Andrew Wise

    Lead Generation Consultant at Prospectvision

    25 August 2009 11:32am

    Andrew Wise

    Hi Birgit, Sarah and Rob

    Many thanks for all your comments, some very good points raised. We take privacy very seriously and would not wish to intrude on anyone.

    Prospectvision identifies organizations and not individuals! As mentioned just like walking in to a shop or car show room you would expect to be assisted in some way. This is what we aim to do for our clients.

    Birgit, as the visit to our website was made in such a short space of time, I guessed it would be you. The follow up email was to see if we could be of any further help. As I did not receive a response I accepted that you were not interested in what Prospectvision has to offer and so left it there. I am sorry if you found this instrusive -- it was not intentional.

    Once again many thanks for all your comments.

     

  • Lindsey Annison

    Web PR Consultant at Clickthrough Marketing

    25 August 2009 14:16pm

    Lindsey Annison

    I think Andrew's response actually shows how important it is to keep things 'personal'. The assumption that seemed to be made earlier, possibly by all of us prior to his response, was that the system was automated. However, it is obvious from his reply "I guessed it would be you" that it was being carried out by a human being!

    I think for all of us the fact that there is a human at the end of the 'connection' makes a huge difference in how we respond to an approach as potential customers, and this is important when looking at behavioural advertising as advertisers. The furore about Phorm showed how many internet users feel about the concept of their privacy being invaded in order to market/advertise products. Yet, as marketers, it is apparent what a difference it makes to the customer if they feel that they are being contacted by a person rather than a system.

    The same works with link building and many other SEO/SEM/IM techniques. A personal email that shows an interest and knowledge about the person/company/website nearly always yields a far better result than a templated email sent out to scattergun targets.

 


Source: http://econsultancy.com/forums/best-practice/website-visitor-tracking-going-too-far