Six websites earned recognition as the fastest and most secure over the recent holiday season, based on anonymous consumer data aggregated across more than 26 million domains worldwide.
Ghostery, a global marketing technology company that provides online transparency and control to consumers and businesses, claims the sites ranked the highest on its newly developed Ghostscore Website Optimization Index. The index is based on a data-driven engine that ranks website performance and security across key industries worldwide.
Ghostery CEO and founder Scott Meyer boasted that the index will help establish a new global standard for website efficiency and profitability. "A lot of companies that use our marketing cloud management service have been asking us how they are doing, relative to other companies. We decided to create a tool to help answer the question," Meyer told CMSWire.
And the Winners Are ...
Capital One, Delta Airlines, Pinterest, Amazon, Comcast and Southwest Airlines "consistently maximized the returns from their investments in digital marketing technology while advancing website security initiatives, protecting customer data and improving site speed," Ghostery reported.
Ghostery ranked 100 pure-play domains in six verticals — finance, insurance, publishing, retail, search/Internet and travel. "We analyzed the data for the same week each month – from the second Tuesday to the third Tuesday. Then we compared the data to see where the most significant changes have occurred across the entire Ghostscore group, within industry verticals and within the individual metrics we analyze. It’s a ton of data, and we’ve endeavored here to pull out the most relevant points," said Meyer, former CEO of About.com.
He said the company created the index to give website owners better benchmarks and help them "assess their own progress" in relation to website performance and security. "Many consumers know more about what's happening on a company's site than the company running it," he said.
Ghostery tracks the invisible web – cookies, tags, web bugs, pixels and beacons — and offers Internet users insights on some 1,977 ad networks, behavioral data providers, web publishers and other companies interested in your activity.
Source of the Data
Consumers can download a free privacy-related browser extension for Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Opera, Safari and, most recently, Android devices, that enables the detection and control of web bugs: Objects embedded in a web page, invisible to the user, that allow the collection of data on the user's browsing habits.
Try it. It's somewhat unnerving to see the dozens of background objects running on the web pages you visit.
More than 40 million consumers use the web browser extensions. "It isn't an Ad Blocker per se," Meyer said. "It's more of a digital transparency tool. The browser extension allows consumers to see what companies are tracking them on the Internet. And the user can decide which trackers are allowed (white listed) and which ones are not."
For instance, a user may want the allow the New York Times to know what columns he regularly reads. However, he may not want a retailer to know what products he is browsing and comparing against others.
Consumers have the option to share the data they generate with Ghostery — and about half of them do, Meyer said. "Obviously with privacy-conscious users, Ghostery does not use any electronic cookies on individuals. Rather, when allowed by users, Ghostery is profiling websites and is able to determine how long it takes a site to load as well as to determine if there any non-secure code or 'tags' on the website," he added.
Ghostery used the data generated by the 20 million consumers who opted to share their data sets as the basis for the Ghostscore Index. All these can reduce the digital experience and in the worst case can cause cause customer data leakage and other security concerns.
There are five metrics that are for now equally weighted to arrive at a domain’s Ghostscore Index:
What's the most important thing for marketers to know about the Ghostscore Index?
"Marketers need to know that when Marketing Cloud technology goes un-managed, it can impact the user experience, company brand and ultimately impact revenues and costs at a level that outweighs the near-term impact on making online marketing more efficient. Every marketer would agree they want to have the cleanest, fastest and safest site possible. But until the full impact of this complex ecosystem of vendors is under control, they can't achieve it," Meyer said.
There are several things Meyer recommends marketers do:
- Clean up the site: Only work with the vendors you need and want. "Why should you be paying for four retargeters who all do the same thing? Do you know what these vendors are doing with your data? Are they using it just for you, or is it going to help them sell your audience to your competitors?" Meyer asked.
- Speed up the site: Every second of additional page load equals a 1 percent decline in conversions. Each additional vendor tag (or script) added to the site can increase page load by an additional 5 percent. "Vendor tags can still slow your site down and cost you money even if they are loaded asynchronously or through a tag manager," Meyer said.
- Lock down the site: Security is the priority today, so make sure your vendors abide by your security protocols and deliver secure technology on your secure pages. "With so many vendors on the site, if one of them is hacked, the user, press and regulators still hold you accountable," Meyer said.