What is a digital footprint? (Plus benefits and examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 3 May 2022

If you actively use the Internet to conduct business, it's vital to understand your online presence. By having a solid understanding of your online presence, you can hone it to optimise your business performance. If you're interested in learning how to create a safer presence while online, knowing how to monitor your digital presence and what tools to implement are also important. In this article, we discuss what a digital footprint is, what differences there are between an active and passive footprint, how to manage your online footprint best and what the benefits of managing it are.

What is a digital footprint?

A digital footprint tracks all of your actions, conversations and interactions on the Internet to form a map of all your efforts. It covers all online mentions of that person, such as social media websites, blogs, articles and photographs. If you use a search engine to look up someone's name, any results are part of their online presence. Businesses and organisations can also have online footprints, which comprise all Internet references to them and the acts they conduct. You can have either a passive or an active footprint.

When people openly disclose information about themselves on the Internet, they leave an online trail. Companies save this information and search engines use the same information to generate search engine results for that user. Search engines and databases can access content on websites to find information about people, such as a blog post that mentions a person by name. Websites use a software called cookies to track your information and surfing activities and they add the information gathered by the cookies to your footprint.

Related: What does a digital marketer do? (With salaries and skills)

Why managing your digital footprint is essential for your business

Managing your online presence is essential for several reasons. First, online footprints are relatively permanent, meaning there is a high likelihood that whatever you post or do online remains online forever. Therefore, you may assume that everything you put on the Internet stays on the Internet even after you delete it. Second, to avoid miscommunications, you may consider what words and phrases you use, as people can interpret these words and phrases differently than you intended. It's best practice to assume that others may share anything that you share online.

Third, hackers can use information from your online presence to hack your private accounts and financial information. For this reason, you may use incognito mode, which is a browser option that allows you to act on the Internet without as many tracking measures. It's best practice to use incognito mode when doing anything financial online and to avoid saving your bank account or credit card information in your browser when possible.

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Active vs passive footprints

There are several differences between active and passive digital footprints. When users have an active footprint, they purposefully share information about themselves and make no effort to conceal their actions. For example, you have an active footprint if you use social media networks and other public online forums. You may have an active footprint if you sign up for email lists or fill out forms online, as these actions contribute to your online presence.

A passive footprint is when a user is unaware that their browser or website collects their information and adds it to their online footprint. For example, it's common for websites to track users' IP addresses when they visit a specific webpage. Additionally, marketers use information collected from users such as likes, shares and other forms of engagement from social media platforms to target users through advertisements better.

How to manage your digital footprint

Managing your online presence is essential for managing your brand reputation as a business entity. Here are some ways you may control your online footprint to maximise your business:

1. Utilise social media tools

One of the primary ways you manage your online presence is to use social media tools and analytics. You can directly control who views your profiles and how much they can see by adjusting your privacy settings on your social media settings. For example, you can change your profile settings, so your profile is visible to your friends only. You may consider adjusting your privacy settings if you're applying for jobs, as it's common for employers to look at a candidate's page.

2. Delete irrelevant content

As a business, you may find that you have duplicate social media pages, old content that's no longer relevant or outdated website pages. This may be useful to improve your digital presence and image. It may be beneficial to conduct an online audit at regular intervals to ensure all of your content is current and appropriate.

3. Develop a positive brand image

You directly control how much information you share online and what information you share. Therefore, you can cultivate your brand image by being particular about what content you post and why. It may be helpful to create specific parameters that your content passes before it's posted online.

4. Develop your businesses' digital presence

It may be helpful to enhance your businesses' digital presence by developing your digital presence. By posting appropriate content and keeping all information about your business up to date, your customers know they can rely on you for accurate information. You can implement the same strategy in your personal life to cultivate a personal brand.

5. Utilise browser privacy settings

To have more control over your digital presence, you can utilise browser privacy settings. Using a private browser doesn't allow websites to track your cookies within your browser can increase your control. It's possible to control which websites automatically save to your browser history. Ultimately, if you control your privacy settings, you can drastically reduce the amount of stored information.

6. Enhance security measures on your technology

To manage your digital presence, you can enhance security measures on your technology. You can do this by changing your passwords regularly or updating your passwords to increase their strength. Also, be cautious when downloading files from the Internet to ensure you don't download bugs onto your computer.

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Primary benefits of managing your online presence

As managing your digital presence is a vital part of your business strategy, you can generate an array of benefits from enhancing your online presence. Here are some of the primary benefits of managing your online presence :

Enhancing your brand reputation

One of the primary benefits of managing your online presence is gaining control over your brand reputation. With the prevalence of the Internet, most people go to the Internet to research a business. Enhancing your how your information maps online can improve your brand reputation. If you're discerning with what content you post online and develop a reliable reputation, this can enhance your brand reputation among your target market.

Generating brand awareness

One of the primary goals for all businesses is to increase their brand awareness. Increasing brand awareness increases the number of people who know what your business is. By having current information about your business, people have a direct line of access to your business. Consumers appreciate the ease of access when researching a company to fit their needs, so having clear information is a significant benefit.

Increasing brand loyalty

If customers perceive your brand to have a reliable, positive reputation, they're more likely to use your services or purchase your products. Additionally, if they have a positive experience before, during and after the purchasing process, the customer is more likely to return. By optimising your digital presence, including your retail experience for customers, you're more likely to retain customers and increase your customer loyalty.

Generating more revenue

Ultimately, if you have a solid digital presence and give your customers a positive experience, they're more likely to stay loyal to your brand. If customers are loyal to your brand, they're more likely to purchase your products or services again. Retaining customers is easier and cheaper than acquiring new customers. Therefore, you can generate revenue and increase your profit margins by keeping customers.

Examples of online activity

Here are some examples of elements that can make up part of your digital footprint:

  • making purchases from e-commerce websites

  • viewing articles on a news app

  • signing up for a publication's newsletter

  • reposting articles and information you read

  • using fitness trackers

  • signing up for coupons

  • creating an account

  • using social media

  • logging into other websites using social media credentials

  • connecting with friends and contacts

  • sharing information, data and photos

  • joining a dating site or app

  • reading the news

  • registering for brand newsletters

  • using a mobile banking app

  • buying or selling stocks

  • subscribing to financial publications and blogs

  • opening a credit card account

  • subscribing to an online news source

  • using apps to receive healthcare