What You Need to Know About Pixels

by | Aug 20, 2019 | Education

Pixels Feature Image

Pixels are a vital element used by media teams to track ad campaign performance because they help quantify actions on websites. 

What Are Pixels?

What are pixels?

They are snippets of code – unseen by website visitors – that collect information about interactions with the website and communicate that information to external platforms.

They can track specific website interactions, build audience pools based on behavior and serve as indicators for performance, among others.

How To Implement - Pixels

How do you implement pixels? 

Pixels can be implemented through a tag management system, or developers can hard code them onto a site. Let’s use an analogy to understand the difference between the two implementation options.

Imagine your website is a grocery store, and as the owner of the store you want to understand your customer’s in-store activity and ultimately what leads them to the purchases they make.

To better understand your customer’s behavior you need video footage of customers in your store. You have two options:

1. You can manually install new video cameras into each area of the store that you want to monitor. With each installation you will need to rewire your store’s infrastructure.

2. You can make one change to the store’s infrastructure by manually installing a camera program that allows you to turn security cameras on and off with an app. The app will allow you to centrally manage collecting behavior from any part of the store.

The app concept is akin to using a tag management system. Essentially, you can place code one time in the header of a website but then have access to a central hub to control the information that is being collected by easily turning off and on tags/pixels (the cameras).

Hard-coding pixels requires a developer to insert code on every page where action is measured. It would be akin to manually installing a camera for each action you want to measure in each area of the store you are monitoring.

Every website has its own unique code and infrastructure,  so placing a tag management code script once is far less complex and often times safer than hard coding each pixel code to each page, and each action on that page.

Once a tag management code script has been placed, additional pixels can be placed and managed through the tag management container, delivering an excellent solution to managing pixels at scale.

Info Collected - Pixels

What information do pixels allow me to collect?  

The short answer is: It depends. Let’s examine different pixel types to understand what information can be collected. 


Global Pixels

Global Pixels are provided by the Ad Serving platform. Global pixels have their own unique  configurations and collect a specific set of data. Global pixels are always placed in the header of the site to fire on each landing page. Typically Global Pixels collect a suite of general-user data.

Some examples: 

  • Landing page information
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Limited geo
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Newbie Note

Conversion Pixels are called many things across many platforms. Here are some examples:





Custom Conversion

Display & Video 360 and Campaign Manager

Floodlight Activities

The Trade Desk

Static Tags (Tracking Tag)

Google Ads




Conversion Tracking Pixels

Pixels can also be created to measure individual actions. These are implemented to fire only when a user takes a specific action.

Some examples:

  • Collect an audience pool on a specific landing page 
  • Measure quality time on site
  • Track phone calls
  • Measure scroll depth or the part of the landing page that is in view
  • Captures form fills and/or form submissions
  • Tallies product purchases
  • Measures button clicks or link clicks
  • Tracks video views
  • Sitewide retargeting

There are two main types of Conversion Tracking pixels: Iframes and Image pixels.

1. Iframes
An iframe (Inline Frame) is an HTML document embedded inside another HTML document on a website. Iframes are more secure than other tracking forms and as a result the information you can track is more limited and/or protected.

2. Image Pixels
An image pixel allows you to better see the information being transmitted. You can see more parameters within the code and you can pass additional parameters into the code to collect more information.

How It Works - Pixels

How do pixels work?

If a pixel has been implemented into the code of a website, as the browser page loads, once the page load hits the HTML code that contains the pixel it triggers a request to the web server where the tracking pixel is being hosted.

The server sends a unique string (also called a cookie) that only that web server can identify. This data is stored and can be analyzed.  

What are they used for? - Pixels

What are pixels used for?

The use of pixels is multi-dimensional and often times depends on the role the user plays on a media team. In general, pixels are most commonly used to build audiences, track conversions and deliver insights. 

Some members of the team will use pixels for storytelling purposes. Pixels help shape a story around how audiences are responding to the advertisements.

For example, measuring activity on a site might inform decisions midway through a campaign, or influence future campaign strategy. They are also strong data points to include in reporting, concretely tying ad spend to action or demonstrating a users intent if an action isn’t fully completed. 

For the team member that is optimizing a campaign, pixels provide tangible insights with which optimization decisions can be made.

Pixel data provides constant feedback throughout a campaign, and pixel-based audiences are dynamically growing and changing. For example, someone optimizing a campaign might use a pixel to capture a pool of people who have already taken a specific action and then create a blacklist in order to stop serving ads that drive the action that has already been taken. 

Pixels are also useful for the stakeholder who is responsible for proving return on ad spend or return on investment. Pixels can directly attribute action and revenue to ad spend. They help campaigns become nimble and ultimately attribute hard numbers to a specific strategy. 

Looking for more information on how to best communicate the story of campaign performance? Check out “5 Great Charts for Digital Advertising Reports.”

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