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What is a Digital Footprint?

Updated: Mar 18, 2019

No we're not talking about some hi-tech sneakers like in Back to the Future but what we're talking about here is what you do online! OK, don't panic, we're not going to give you the heeby jeebies about what you should and shouldn't do or look at, we'll leave that you but we're going to jargon bust this phrase for you right here right now and how that can affect what you see online in advertising terms.

What actually is it?

A digital footprint is a trail of data you create while using the Internet. It includes the websites you visit, emails you send, and information you submit to online services. Your digital footprint is also classed in two ways i.e. 'passive' and 'active'. The Tech Terms website explains a passive footprint as a data trail you unintentionally leave online. For example, when you visit a website, the web server may log your IP address, which identifies your Internet service provider and your approximate location. While your IP address may change and does not include any personal information, it is still considered part of your digital footprint. A more personal aspect of your passive digital footprint is your search history, which is saved by some search engines while you are logged in.'

The site explains an "active digital footprint" as data that you intentionally submit online. Sending an email contributes to your active digital footprint, since you expect the data be seen and/or saved by another person. The more email you send, the more your digital footprint grows. Since most people save their email online, the messages you send can easily remain online for several years or more.

"Publishing a blog and posting social media updates are other popular ways to expand your digital footprint. Every tweet you post on Twitter, every status update you publish on Facebook, and every photo you share on Instagram contributes to your digital footprint. The more you spend time on social networking websites, the larger your digital footprint will be. Even "liking" a page or a Facebook post adds to your digital footprint, since the data is saved on Facebook's servers." So in short what you do on websites, what you shop for, what you do on social media sites but also the devices you use to surf i.e. Mobile Phones, Tablets, or Laptops.

The site goes on to reassure that everyone who uses the Internet has a digital footprint, so it is not something to be worried about. However, they advise that it is wise to consider what trail of data you are leaving behind.

"For example, remembering your digital footprint may prevent your from sending a scathing email, since the message might remain online forever. It may also lead you to be more discerning in what you publish on social media websites. While you can often delete content from social media sites, once digital data has been shared online, there is no guarantee you will ever be able to remove it from the Internet."

Equally Margaret Rouse from Tech Target advises that a digital footprint is relatively permanent and once the data is public or even semi-public, as may be the case with Facebook posts the owner has little control over how it will be used by others.

Your portrait

The Internet Society says that your digital footprint paints a picture of who you are. So if you want to make sure it's accurate they offer tutorials as to how. In advertising terms this portrait helps companies target content at specific markets and consumers, helps employers look into your background, and helps advertisers track your movements across multiple websites. So in essence when it comes to banner advertising you may recognise adverts for certain products that you've purchased or recently looked at trying to entice you in. This can come in the forms of panel or banner adverts served to you on sites you visit or strategically targeted ads using 'programmatic advertising' that utilises artificial intelligence.

At adalytix our forté is AI so we can analyse your customers' digital footprints and find 'look-a-likes' i.e. potential customers that match the profile of your existing buyers and therefore deliver targeted, non-intrusive ads that match that person's interests or buying habits all left behind by their digital footprints. As a person that uses the internet this is nothing to be cautious about as it simply means you get more relevant content as you browse the web and not get bombarded by annoying pop ups and keep seeing products that you have already purchased.


Your digital footprint is your online persona, whilst most of your activity is perusing, buying, posting and engaging, be aware of how you use the web. Equally, with the emergence of AI the future of advertising is looking much better not only for brands wishing to reach out but also for customers seeing content and products that actually interest them. With any hope the next few years may see a reduction of intrusive, pop-up related advertising tactics that simply annoy and ruin all of our online experiences.

Make sense? Then why not give us a call to see how we can propel your ads to the right audience using AI with adalytix. US: +1 (302) 763 3740. UK: 0800 368 7658.

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