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How to create a privacy-first growth strategy

Appwrite is working towards a completely privacy-friendly and open-source growth stack. We are committed to putting developers first and building a company that values your personal data. We want to treat you as we want to be treated by any vendors we use.

With our recent announcement of GDPR compliance, we took a big step in becoming a privacy-first organization. But we didn’t want to stop here. We wanted to take it further than just ticking the privacy boxes. We wanted to act as a party that values your personal data, so we needed to take action and move to privacy-friendly analytics. This led to removing most of the tags, pixels, and cookies on our website and the Appwrite Console. In this blog, we dive deeper into what we removed, how this affected our growth strategy, and, most of all, what we, as a community, gained from this decision.

But first, what are pixels, tags, and cookies?

Pixels, tags, and cookies are all pieces of technology used to track user activity online. They are often used for marketing and advertising purposes but can also be used to improve website functionality and user experience.

  • Tags are snippets of code added to a website to track your activity and collect data. For example, a tag can be used to track how many people visit a particular page on a website or to collect information about what products you are viewing. The most well-known tool for this is Google Tag Manager. It allows you to manage all of your website tags in one place.

  • Pixels are small, transparent images that are embedded in a website. When you visit a website with a pixel, your browser sends information about your visit to the company that owns the pixel. This information can include the user's IP address, browser type, and the URL of the page you’re visiting. It is a beneficial tool to retarget website visitors with banner or social ads.

  • Cookies have two different types: first-party, which are set by the website you’ve visited mainly to improve your experience on that website, and third-party, which are set by different websites, such as Google Analytics. Third-party cookies are often used to track you across platforms, mostly meant for advertising purposes.

Appwrite is GDPR compliant

So, what did we remove?

If you visit the Appwrite Cloud Console or website, you will see a cookie consent banner. However, you will see only two options for you to pick from, Strictly necessary cookies and Product analytics.We have removed all of our Marketing classified pixels, tags, and cookies such as:

  • HubSpot tag

  • Google Tag Manager

  • Twitter Pixel

  • Facebook Pixel

  • Google Ads Pixel

  • Google Analytics Pixel

Most were used to get website analytics, analyze website clicks, measure ad performance, and collect form submissions.

The consequences of removing marketing pixels, tags, and cookies

The above mentioned allowed us to analyze user behavior, measure the effectiveness of ad campaigns, retarget ads, and, to some extent, personalize the user experience. There are hardly any growth or marketing teams that don’t rely on them, and as stated in an article from Osano, privacy regulations make it a lot harder for growth and marketing teams to do their work. Go to any privacy footer on any website, and you will read an essay on all the data that is being tracked. But this is precisely what we are challenging: does removing pixels, cookies, and tags make growth’s life harder? Let’s take a look.

  • Attribution: It can be challenging to attribute conversions to specific marketing campaigns without the ability to track users across different devices and websites. This can make it challenging to know which campaigns drive the most results and make informed decisions about future campaigns.

  • Segmentation: Without the ability to track user behavior, preferences, and interests, it is challenging to segment users into different groups based on their interests and preferences. This can make delivering targeted messaging and experiences difficult for different user segments.

  • Reporting: It can be difficult to generate comprehensive reports on marketing performance without the ability to track users across different devices and websites. This can make it challenging to track progress over time and identify areas for improvement.

  • Ad targeting and Retargeting: Pixels and cookies enable precise ad targeting, allowing you to show ads to users who have shown interest in your products or services. Retargeting, which involves showing ads to users who have previously interacted with your website, becomes impossible without these tracking mechanisms.

  • Competing: For some, competition might also drive them towards using the tracking to stay or get ahead. You could fall behind if your competition has more information and data to leverage. Without pixels, cookies, and tags, you'll be at a significant disadvantage compared to competitors who can leverage data-driven insights. So, fear could be a legitimate driver.

If you want to use data for decision-making or personalizing the user experience, removing tags, pixels, and cookies might not be your first choice. But as mentioned, we are here to challenge this idea. Do you really need to track all this personal data to do your work in growth? We think not. Since there are many privacy-friendly options for getting the data and insights you need, and you can adjust your growth strategy to match a privacy-friendly approach. So yes, you can run a successful growth team despite the above challenges.

So, let’s look at what this looks like for Appwrite.

Privacy-friendly alternatives for your growth stack

Our growth philosophy and rules enable us to grow without relying on tracking you across the web. To give you some insight, here are three (of the six) growth statements we follow for success:

  • To center gaining access, knowledge, and information about Appwrite as the most crucial goal to lead to growth.

  • To let information flow freely for developers to find. (accessibility is key)

  • To use paid advertising and sponsorships only to amplify the reach of knowledge and information. (aka creating awareness)

The above can simply be conveyed as having a good content and social media strategy, and the success of this can be analyzed in a privacy-friendly way. We can measure success in metrics like traffic, impressions, social reach, new accounts, etc. Here are some ways we keep the team informed:

  • UTM data helps us track attributions from different campaigns, mediums, sources, and specific content. We can tell whether a visitor is coming from a specific link or not, for which we currently use dub.co, an open-source alternative to Bitly. This helps us determine whether sponsoring a newsletter was effective or if a piece of content brought us traffic. But that is about as far as we will go. As soon as you leave our website, we lose all your information and would like to keep it that way.

  • Open source analytics alternatives. We use privacy-friendly alternatives like Plausible to help us analyze our website and Cloud Console data. It is an open-source analytics platform with one of the highest privacy standards I have seen. It helps us get demographic and user behavior data in a privacy-friendly manner.

  • First-party data. We get a lot from users, like emails and names from authentication. We use it for login purposes, so you don’t have to enter your login details over and over again and add them to our CRM, HubSpot, for email communications. But with this data also comes great responsibility, and with our recent GDPR compliance announcement, we are not only upholding strict data privacy but also are certified with the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) standards.

  • Content performance. As mentioned, you should be able to find information on Appwrite without any limitations. Many companies have gated content, where they set up forms to collect your data for you to get information or reports. We believe this restricts you from learning freely. Therefore, we focus on the performance of our content and see metrics such as page view and time on page as a measurement of success.

  • Search. Many people search the internet daily, looking for solutions, and even after the introduction of ChatGPT, this is still the case. So, keeping track of our search results is another indicator of our tactics' success, as it’s a great indicator of interest shown in Appwrite and the industry. For now, we use Semrush and Google Search Console to give us this data, but we are interested in learning about open-source tools in this area.

To return to our growth philosophy, we believe the dev community will find the information they need on their terms. We know that the developer journey is not one straight line and that people will find information on their preferred platforms when needed. We just need to ensure that we have content ready for you to find wherever you are on your journey. This instinctively eliminates the idea of running ads across platforms to convince you to use Appwrite. We merely use paid media or sponsored newsletters to let you know we exist, making pixels, cookies, and tags redundant in most cases.

But there is more to gain than just privacy-friendly data.

Building experience and trust with the developer community

As we often repeat, we are heavily focused on the developer experience. It is at the core of everything we do. Considering this, there are several reasons why we decided to remove most of the tags, pixels, and cookies from our website:

  • Privacy: As many studies show, people want to control the information they share with other parties online. By removing most of the tags, pixels, and cookies, we reduce the amount of personal data we collect from the Appwrite website and Cloud Console. And as we focus on collecting first-party data, we grant you that control.

  • Performance: Tags, pixels, and cookies can slow down a website's loading time. By removing them, we improve the performance of our website and the Cloud Console for you. And a study from Akamai, shows that a two-second delay in web page load time increases bounce rates by 103 percent. So, improving performance is worth it.

  • Security: This tracking technology can also track you across the web and collect intrusive data about you. By removing them, we are making our website more secure for you and preventing potential data breaches.

Overall, it made much sense to go down this route and focus on delivering a better experience and enhancing trust with the community. And I think it’s fair to say that with the removal of marketing pixels, cookies, and tags, we didn’t lose anything; we merely gained.

Building a privacy-friendly and open-source growth stack

We still have the necessary tools to improve our product, the developer experience, and analyze our website traffic. That said, we will continue to explore the possibilities of moving towards a fully open-source and privacy-friendly growth tech stack. Not only do we feel it is the right thing to do, but it is also rooted in our culture. We want to treat you as we want to be treated by any vendors we use. For now, this has been the most sensible decision we could have made for Appwrite and the community. We are excited to take privacy further and further, so who knows where we will stand a year from now.

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