Anonymous visitor tracking
Anonymous visitor tracking is the process by which a company tracks the visitors to its website, in order to glean commercially relevant information as to the identity of those visitors.
In July 2013 Matt Goulart of Ignite Digital claimed that an effort to identify anonymous visitors to corporate or sales websites had become commonplace. Many services track the IP address of each visitor to a website and then perform a reverse DNS lookup in order to see if a host name with valid information is found—other than just the name of the general telecom host. This has been used by some companies to track visitors to their website and create a lead profile from those visitor for the company's sales. Other services place anonymous cookies on the computers of the individuals that visit a corporate website, which allows longterm tracking of customers by alerting companies to repeat visitors and their usage patterns via an interaction with that cookie.
A similar process used by Google is "goal tracking", which provides intermediary pages between clicking on a weblink and reaching the actual website, which ask for personal identifying information. This can be used to add to the personal information derived from anonymous visitor tracking results. More recent methods include the attachment to a unique visitor ID to incoming IP addresses, regardless of whether they sign up for an official account with a website, in order to track their behavior in a similar manner.
In 2008, Martin Jeffers patented software, "wherein the visitor information includes at least an IP address of the visitor and a query string; determining an entity associated with the IP address; determining at least one person associated with the entity; gathering contact information associated with the at least one person; and providing the contact information to the user when the contact information meets a pre-defined criterion of the user." In January 2014 two inventors filed for a patent that described a further evolution of tracking, writing that with their system, "the host system creates a spectrum of fan engagement ('like' to 'buy') with quantity and value with a unique combination of data which may include but is not limited to anonymous visitor tracking, host account tracking, and data from Social Network graphs on host account holders."
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