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Web Tagging: A History

In the late 1990s, something interesting happened. Identifying visitors to a website became more difficult. This was mainly due to the development of search engine spiders and robots; and web proxies and IP addresses for large organizations and Internet service providers (ISPs).

To record visitors, log analyzers began tracking visits by cookies and by overlooking requests from known spiders.

The use of web caches also became a problem in logfile analysis. For instance, if a person revisits a page, the second action or request would most likely be retrieved from the browser's cache. Thus, the web server will not receive a request. If this happens, the person's path around a certain website cannot be tracked. Configuring the server can beat caching, but this could lead to degraded performance and discourage the visitor.

Eventually, concerns were raised about the accuracy of logfile analysis, particularly when caching was involved. There was also an intention to outsource web analytics. These developments led to page tagging.

More than a decade ago, web counters were often observed in web pages. Why was this significant? Web counters showed the number of times a particular image was requested. This later evolved into invisible images that used _JavaScript, which passed along certain information about the page and the visitor.

A web analytics company can process the information, which extracts statistics that are useful to the organization.

The web analytics service company is also responsible for assigning a cookie to the user. The cookie identifies a particular visitor from the first visit to the next.

Most web analytics service companies offer both logfile analysis programs and page tagging solutions.

An organization that seeks the services of a web analytics service company must know the disadvantages and advantages of the two approaches, in order to determine which one to choose.

About the Author: Mark Rapor is the author. More information can be found at

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