Pixels and Cookies: How to Optimize Your Travel Marketing Metrics

Understand the difference between pixels vs. cookies for your marketing.

May 10, 2023

Data is a valuable tool for travel marketers and as the data ecosystem changes, understanding how to track and measure your marketing campaigns is crucial. Making the most of your digital marketing means measuring the success of your campaigns using pixels on your website, and you can improve your campaigns by understanding your ideal travelers with cookies. Now’s the time to start thinking about your first-party data and how to measure your campaigns because Google will be sunsetting the third-party cookie in the second half of 2024. Here’s the breakdown of how pixels and cookies play into your marketing campaign evaluation.

What are pixels?

A pixel, often referred to as a tag, is a block of code placed within your site’s code that allows you to measure the effectiveness of your advertising. It’s unnoticeable to your site visitors and won’t affect your site’s performance. A pixel also triggers cookies, which we explain later.

‍It’s important to note pixels do not collect any sensitive personally identifiable information (PII) of the user. Third parties will not receive the name of the user, email, etc, but instead a hashed email of that user. Even with the sunsetting of third-party cookies by Google Chrome in 2024, pixels will still need to be placed on your site to target your audiences effectively. The only thing that will change in the future is that every pixel fire will drop a cookie, but it will pass hashed emails as a unique identifier ID when a user is logged in or completing a booking.

What are cookies?

A cookie is a small piece of text sent to and stored in your browser by a website you visit. Cookies help websites remember information about your visit, such as your preferred language, items saved in your shopping cart, and other settings, making your next visit easier. All modern websites will use cookies to remember your preferences, improving your online experience.

There are three types of data—first-party, second-party, and third-party data:

The most commonly used and compared cookies are third-party and first-party. Third-party data makes up a majority of the data that marketers use because historically it has been easy to collect and readily available. But as privacy regulations evolve and third-party cookies are deprecated, using third-party data is becoming complex and suboptimal.

In advertising, cookies help us ensure the ads seen by a user are relevant. They allow ad networks to identify a user across sites to serve them targeted ads for your travel business. Cookies also help us control the number of times a user sees an ad.

How does pixel tracking work?

When a traveler visits your site and takes an action, the pixel “fires” or collects the data from the user’s behavior and reports the action. Then, you know when a traveler takes an action and can reach them again with your future ads. A common example is a Facebook pixel which can be implemented across many different pages of your website. When a traveler visits a specific page, a pixel fires, allowing you to reach them via Facebook ads.

Another example is working with a partner like Sojern. Similar to Facebook, Sojern provides a pixel to place within your site’s code. A pixel fires on every page load, and if a traveler visits your site, browses for information, but leaves without converting, Sojern would capture this data. Then, Sojern serves ads across multiple channels to that traveler, influencing them to make a decision.

A pixel is also placed within the ad. When someone sees an ad for your business and returns to your site, a pixel fires. Then, you are able to track where your conversions are coming from and trace them back to your ads.

What is the difference between a pixel and a cookie?

Pixels deliver information to a server. Cookies store that information in a user’s browser so the server can read it again later.

Here is an example of how they work together:

  • A user visits a hotel’s website and clicks around on departure dates—a pixel is fired here. Then, they leave the site to check recent news on ESPN.
  • The pixel records that behavior and drops an anonymous cookie, storing the behavior on the browser. The cookie also lets the advertiser know when to serve ads.
  • As the user surfs ESPN, they are served a relevant ad from the hotel they were just researching.
  • The ad captures the user's interest, directing them back to your site to book.

Once third-party cookies go away, this process will no longer share a persistent cookie. Every pixel fire will set a unique cookie, and hashed emails are the key to connecting the data.

Should I add a pixel to my travel website?

Benefits of pixels include:

  • Reaching the right people: Remarket to people who have visited a specific page of your site or who have taken a certain action on your site.
  • Measuring the performance of your ads and website: View analytics and reports on media campaign measurement, insights about the performance of advertising efforts, website performance, and successfulness of ads based on what happened as a direct result.
  • Driving more conversions: Set up bidding to target high-intent, high-value travelers.

When partnering with Sojern, placing pixels also allows you to see specific analytics about your website and gain an enriched view of your travelers through the Sojern Travel Marketing Platform. We can tap into data such as top inbound markets, arrival lead time, demographics of those visiting your site, and much more. Best of all, the pixel implementation is quick and easy.

Why do pixels matter?

The information pixels gather helps you understand more about your website’s visitors, letting you test iterations and improve marketing efforts. You can gain insight into your audience and their behavior, and also key into what’s working and what’s not working. Pixels help you find those travelers who were on the fence and give you the opportunity to inspire them to take the trip.

You can only measure the impact of your marketing campaigns with the right tools. Work with a Sojern travel marketing expert today to make sure you have everything you need to ensure the successful measurement of your campaigns.

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