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5-step checklist for user-centric, privacy-first website tracking

Website tracking provides crucial insights for product teams, but for users to feel comfortable, it needs to be done right. That means striking a balance between getting the data you need while still protecting and respecting user privacy every step of the way.

Last updated

5 Feb 2024

Reading time

5 min


We created this simple five-step website tracking checklist to help you set up your website tracking in an ethical and compliant way. Read on to learn how easy it is to install user-centric, privacy-first website tracking—and how it creates a better customer experience.

Track user behavior safely and securely with Hotjar

Capture how users behave, not their sensitive data. Our privacy-first website tracking tools provide valuable insights without compromising security. 

5 steps to set up user-centric website tracking

Download the checklist below and start checking off your steps.

1. Define your website tracking goals

Step one is simple: outline your goals. What are you aiming to achieve by tracking website user behavior? This will determine which metrics you track—and how you’ll capture that information.

Some common examples of website tracking goals:

  • Measure and improve conversions on key landing pages

  • Understand the customer journey

  • Increase website traffic or pageviews from organic search

  • Improve the user experience

  • Observe and increase engagement with site content

  • Decrease bounce rate on the checkout page

  • Compare website performance on desktop vs. mobile devices

For the best results, attach a key performance indicator (KPI) to your goal, such as an X% increase in conversions on mobile devices, so you can measure your success. 

2. Choose your tools

Your goals should help inform the website tracking tools you choose. For example, if your goal involves monitoring website traffic, use Google Analytics 4 (GA4). If your goal involves understanding user behavior—that is, seeing not only what users do on your website but also why they do it—try a product experience (PX) insights tool to make user empathy an effortless part of your well-rounded website tracking strategy.

Hotjar’s Heatmaps and Recordings, for example, are PX tools that go beyond traditional web and product analytics, helping you visualize how real users act on your website. 

Heatmaps are color-coded representations of the areas that capture (or lose) people’s attention. They’re made up of aggregated data, so they surface common trends about where users click, scroll, and move on a page

They also reveal areas of user frustration, such as rage clicks (i.e. when a user clicks on an element multiple times in rapid succession), as well as which parts of the page they’re most engaged with.

An example of an Engagement Zones heatmap in Hotjar, which collates multiple types of user behavior data into one easy-to-read heatmap

Recordings are video-like playbacks that show exactly how users navigated your site while suppressing any sensitive information they input (like credit card numbers). 

Recordings enable you to track website behavior across different pages so you can see what your users saw—including any bugs or blockers, like a broken contact form that thwarted their user journey. They also work beautifully with heatmaps, letting you jump straight from a rage click in a heatmap to an anonymized recording of a user rage clicking.

#An anonymized Hotjar session recording in action (spot the suppressed numbers that are replaced by asterisks to protect user privacy)
An anonymized Hotjar session recording in action (spot the suppressed numbers that are replaced by asterisks to protect user privacy)

These insights enable you to connect the dots and understand the people behind the numbers. Plus, like all Hotjar tools, Heatmaps and Recordings are fully compliant with privacy regulations (more on that in a minute), so you can focus on analyzing the important interactions—without compromising sensitive data.

💡 Pro tip: use a combination of both quantitative and qualitative website tracking tools for a 360-degree view of user behavior. Look for tools that integrate with one another and work with other apps in your tech stack to give you an even fuller picture of user activity on your website.

3. Do your research on privacy and compliance

Make sure that every website tracking tool you use is compliant with customer privacy regulations.

This is a crucial step on any website tracking checklist. Being GDPR compliant doesn’t just protect your business—it’s also essential for building customer trust and ensuring your customers feel safe and comfortable using your website. In other words? User privacy is an essential part of the customer experience.

This means that before you add any tool to your website tracking tech stack, you must

  • Ensure it meets your (and your customers’) privacy standards and is compliant with all relevant acts and regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and the Lei Geral de Proteção de Dados (LGPD)

  • Read the privacy policy

🔥 What does privacy-first web tracking look like?

At Hotjar, user and end-user privacy are non-negotiable—we design our platform with data protection top of mind. For us, this means we

  • Are GDPR, CCPA, and LGPD compliant

  • Follow the ‘Do Not Track’ flag on browsers

  • Do not collect users' IP addresses

  • Enable users to request to see and delete their data at any time

  • Never sell data to, or allow data to be viewed by, third parties

  • Use first-party cookies that only collect data on a customer’s website

All of this means you can confidently use our tools—like Recordings and Heatmaps—to understand users’ behavior and actions without compromising their privacy or security. Feel free to use these guidelines to evaluate other tools, too. (We’ve added them to the handy checklist above to make it even easier for you!)

My concern was around user privacy, what is or isn’t revealed, and how that kind of data is stored. I was happy to see that Hotjar had options for suppressing things like credit card numbers, so I reassured the client that in addition to suppressing keystroke data with a single click, we could apply this same treatment to specific elements of their webpage as needed.

Jeff Bronson
Business Analyst at Ecommerce Warriors

4. Install the tracking script on your website

Once you’re happy with your chosen tools, it’s time to get everything set up. The process for this will vary based on what you’re installing, but in many cases it’s as simple as copying and pasting a snippet of code.

Installing Hotjar, for one, couldn’t be easier—you can do it in four ways:

  1. Using Google Tag Manager

  2. Using WordPress

  3. Using other platforms, such as Shopify or Squarespace (which are especially useful for ecommerce tracking)

  4. Manually adding the JavaScript code to your website

👉 Find our step-by-step installation guides here.

#Install the Hotjar tracking code on your site with just a few clicks and start tracking user behavior in minutes
Install the Hotjar tracking code on your site with just a few clicks and start tracking user behavior in minutes

Adding the tracking code to our website was easy. And knowing that I could watch what users were doing on the site and follow their path anonymously—that was super important.

Rachel Stephens
SEO & Customer Behavior Analyst at Totally Promotional

5. Analyze your website tracking data and plan next steps

Finally, analyze your data, safe in the knowledge that you’re getting valuable insights while protecting—and respecting—your users’ privacy.

Share the results with your team and stakeholders to make data-driven, evidence-led recommendations and get buy-in for next steps. For example, based on the information gleaned from your website tracking data, you might prioritize

  • 🐞 Fixing impactful bugs that affect conversion rates

  • 🛣️ Updating your product roadmap based on what users are looking for

  • 🤩 Overhauling your website’s UX to create a better customer experience

  • 📈 Launching a new digital marketing campaign to increase organic traffic to your site

💡 Pro tip: enhance your website tracking data by combining it with other Hotjar tools.

  • Dive into conversion drop-offs with Funnelsto quickly understand why users left your site or didn’t convert

  • Send Surveys or use Feedback (like the red button over there, on the right of your screen! 👉) to ask users about the customer experience and validate assumptions

  • Schedule user interviews with Engage to get in-depth insights from your target audience about what they do and don’t like about your website

  • Use Highlights to share relevant clips from session recordings with stakeholders and create Collections to group together banks of relevant, related evidence 

All these power combos help you enrich your website tracking data and turn it into actionable next steps—so you can reach the goals you identified in step one.

Why website tracking is a good thing for users

Privacy-first website tracking allows you to understand how users interact with your website without being intrusive or sacrificing end-user security. This enables businesses to empathize with their users’ needs, preferences, and experiences, so they can cater to them more effectively. 

The insights you glean can be used to enhance customer satisfaction or improve product experience, making it a win-win for your business and your customers.

Here are three more customer-centric benefits of website tracking:

Use our website tracking checklist to start capturing and analyzing user behavior, fast

Website tracking provides a wealth of customer data, but investing in privacy-first website tracking is where the real riches lie. Use the steps outlined in our website tracking checklist above to get set up in minutes and start collecting valuable insights easily—and ethically.

Track user behavior safely and securely with Hotjar

Capture how users behave, not their sensitive data. Our privacy-first website tracking tools provide valuable insights without compromising security. 

FAQs about website tracking