In online marketing, tracking refers to the recording and analyzing of user behavior on the Internet. The movements of a visitor to a website can be tracked through HTTP headers, JavaScript or cookies. Website operators can find out, for example, from where users access a website, what pages they visit frequently, how long they stay on each page, through which links they leave the website, when they make purchases, sign up for newsletters, etc.

You can view the analytics data recorded with tracking tools shortly after their recording or even live.

Tracking options[edit]

To optimize a landing page you can track user behavior on that page. This behavior analysis can be accomplished with the help of mouse tracking or eye tracking, etc.

An analysis of specific marketing campaigns can also be supported through event tracking.

Website operators, who wish to have multiple domains and analyze users across domains, can use the cross-domain tracking with Google Analytics.

Cross-device tracking is a way to analyze the customer’s journey and access from different devices in more detail. It can be used as part of Universal Analytics.

The canvas fingerprinting method can be used as an alternative if you want to do tracking without cookies.


Tracking has become an important tool to achieve success in online marketing. With the data obtained, operators can make their websites more customer-friendly, reduce terminations of visits and market their products or services to target groups. The result is the now all-too-common occurrence where users who have recently informed themselves about a product will increasingly find websites about similar products in their search results pages.

From a data protection point of view, tracking is a controversial method (see “Legal controversy” below).

Tracking tools[edit]

In addition to Google Analytics, there are many other providers of free tracking tools, as well as fee-based professional programs. But the world-renowned expert in data handling, Google, has established itself with its tools as the most-used tracking service.

Google Analytics and many other tools use “first-party” cookies for tracking, with which only information between the website operator and each user can be read. The dreaded “third-party” cookies, which allow a third party to monitor users’ network behavior with unethical intent to spread spam, are not in use according to Google.

Google also offers the Google Tag Manager for tag management.

Legal controversy[edit]

Since user behavior can be recorded in detail with tracking tools, special data protection requirements must be complied with in order to prevent abuse. Based on Google’s own statements, information detected by Google Analytics is anonymous (i.e. not associated with personal data) and are only used to identify user trends.

Google Analytics, however, also stores the IP addresses of users. And after a long time of controversy over the saving of IP addresses in recent years, privacy advocates continue to assert that IP addresses are personal data, which may not be stored and distributed. Therefore, Google uses a browser plug-in since 2011 that allows users themselves to prevent the tracking of their data on Google Analytics. Since then, users of Google Analytics must publish an appropriate privacy *** statement.

Whether that’s enough, remains controversial. In Germany, users must be informed of tracking measures and according to the German Telemedia Act TMG, §15 can opt out at any time. Without the consent of the user, tracking can therefore certainly be considered a violation of applicable law. Also header commands such as do not track are not sufficient. This gives publishers and marketers a major challenge. Explicit user consent according to the law is expensive and complicated to implement while vendors with safe tracking software are hard to find.

Through encrypted search, however, the user’s data can be encrypted so it cannot be tracked.

Web Links[edit]