When you visit ANY website, you automatically leave behind certain data. These include:
Unlike Caller ID on your telephone, which you can choose to disable, these data are part of the internet protocol and are left behind with every click of your mouse ... whether you like it or not.
Web-hosting services usually provide a canned daily traffic report that summarizes these data as part of their standard offering. Webmasters can supplement this report using commercial software packages (for example, I use WebTrends Log Analyzer) to view and analyze the "log file" that contains these data for all visitors. This can be done for any given time period, and can even be viewed in real-time. What they usually look for are pattern's of visitor interest so that they can provide more material of relevant content. They can also modify their web pages to increase the chances that a search engine will lead targeted readers to their website.
But if you think about it from an advertising/marketing perspective, you realize that this kind of information is also of significant potential economic value in the marketplace. The vast majority of ads reach people who have no interest in what's being sold. "Ad yield" is vastly improved if you know the recipient is interested, right now, in what you're selling. That is increasingly the hidden business model of many websites. Whether it's amazon.com, where the banner ads that appear on your screen are customized to the subject of the book you're looking for, or one of those free informational sites that require you to register on-line, your visit is a sellable product. In fact, the metric that determines the selling price is denominated in "clicks" per day. The ad-maker's dream is to be able to discover that you are at this very moment searching the internet for information on, say, "balanced scorecard software" and have their client's sales department instantly call, email, or even intervene on-screen to provide their unsolicited sales pitch. That's the ultimate in ad targeting.
Responsible websites give you the choice to opt-out of their selling to or sharing with any third party information you willingly or unwillingly leave behind. Unfortunately amazon.com, recently opted-out of the opt-out option and informed users that they consider this information their property, not yours. It is likely that courts and lawmakers will have to determine the future of that position.
So please be assured, that your visit to my website has no hidden agenda. What you see is what you'll get ... and nothing more.
Last modified: August 13, 2006