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The Difference Between a Pixel and a Cookie

Oct 19, 2023

One of my Maverick members asked me last week, “Dave, what’s the difference between a pixel and a cookie? How does it impact my digital marketing?” Great question! Here’s how I replied:
You first need to know what a web server and an ad server are. A server is a computer that delivers data to your computer and a web server delivers websites. An ad server delivers advertisements.
A cookie is a piece of code placed on your browser by a web server. You likely agreed to allow the cookie on your browser the first time you visited the website. The cookie identifies who you are and the website you visited. If you were looking at a specific website for a shirt, that company could send you ads on other websites. This is called remarketing.
Sometimes servers need to talk. That’s where pixels come in. If someone saw your ad on a news website and then purchased an item on your website, you’d want to know that connection so you could place more ads on that news website. The purchase data from your website cannot be uploaded to the ad server because they don’t talk. A pixel is used to get around this.
Pixels are transparent and when placed on a website, only advertisers and websites know they are there. The pixels send the cookie to the ad server when a user completes the action you want them to – making a purchase, filling out a form, or finding a location. We need this connection because the web server and ad server don’t talk to each other.
The best way to illustrate the difference between a cookie and a pixel is to know who is trying to track you. With a cookie, the website is trying to track you. With a pixel, a third-party ad tool is trying to track you (like Facebook or Google). Either way, the goal is to capture information about users to deliver a more customized web experience. It also connects sellers to interested prospects.
An understanding of pixels, cookies, third-party ad tools, and digital ads are all important as you begin to do more digital advertising. If you aren’t doing any digital ads right now, you are missing out. Your clients, like you, spend time online. You need to go where they are!
If you are looking for a company to help you with digital marketing, I would be more than happy to refer you to one, just shoot me an email at [email protected]
Have a great day!

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