Do you know what a cookie or a pixel does? Most people, outside of online marketing professionals, do not know anything about cookies and pixels; including, the differences between the two.

These items are often lumped together and their roles poorly understood. While cookies and pixels work in conjunction with each other they are entirely separate entities.

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In order to fully understand how pixels and cookies function together, you need to have a little bit of background knowledge about servers and how they operate.

Servers and How They Work

A server is a computer that delivers information to your computer. There are two basic types of servers: the web server that provides content through websites and the ad server that delivers advertisements.

Cookies and Real-Life Applications

Cookies can be described as codes placed on your internet browser through a web server. These cookies gather and store different types of information; however, their main goal is to store information about you and your relationship with the website that placed the cookie on your browser.

Have you ever had returned to a website to find them addressing you by your user name? If so, you have experienced a practical application of a cookie deposited on your browser. Most websites use cookies to keep track of their reader’s behaviors and shape their reader’s experience on their website.

In addition, cookies can be used to store information about your shopping behavior on a website. Cookies can provide advertisers with targeted information about your likes and dislikes.

The Truth About Pixels

Web servers and ad servers do not talk to each other. Because of this developers created a tool to act as an intermediary. This intermediary tool is known as a tracking pixel.

A pixel is a transparent square that is embedded on a webpage or an email. When a webpage or email is downloaded so is the pixel. The pixel communicates with the webserver. When a particular task on the website is completed the pixel will instruct a cookie to be deposited on the browser.

The server is able to read the information stored in the cookie and can trigger the ad server to follow the user with targeted ads.

What Is the Difference Between the Two?

A pixel will record information to be sent to the server while a cookie will store that information on the browser for later use. They work together but they do separate jobs.

What Cookies and Pixels Don’t Do

Cookies and Pixels do not collect personal data like your name, address, or financial information. Instead, they assign a unique user code that records your behavior and personal preferences to customize your online experience.

How Cookies and Pixels Work Together

Consider what happens when you visit Victoria’s Secret and view a couple of handbags. When you leave the page to read a news story Victoria’s Secret will record this information in the form of a cookie; including, information for advertisers. This information will be stored on your browser.

While reading the news story on your local news site you will begin to see relevant Victoria’s Secret appearing.

The goal is to get to you to return to the site to make a purchase at the original site.

Together pixels and cookies work to capitalize on your interests and preferences.