What is session tracking? How does it work?

Curran Van Waarde
Curran Van Waarde

Founder of Visitor Tracking


Are you puzzled by how websites remember your previous actions each time you visit? You’re actually experiencing the magic of session tracking, a fundamental part of many web applications.

Our blog post will decipher what session tracking is and explain how it works to enhance user experience on the web. Join us as we navigate this intriguing aspect of the online world!

Key Takeaways

  • Session tracking is the process of managing user state in web applications to personalize content and enhance the user experience.
  • Techniques like cookieshidden form fields, and URL rewriting are used for session tracking to track a user’s activity during their visit on a website.
  • Session tracking allows websites to remember specific user actions within a certain time interval, providing personalized experiences and gathering insights about visitor behavior patterns.

What is Session Tracking?

Session tracking refers to the process of maintaining and managing user state in web applications, allowing for personalized content and improved user experience. It involves techniques such as cookies, hidden form fields, and URL rewriting to track a user’s activity during their session on a website.

Definition and purpose

Session tracking serves as a vital tool for businesses and users alike. It plays a crucial role in maintaining a continuous exchange of information between the user’s browser and the web server.

By issuing unique IDs to individual user requests, session tracking manages to follow the trail of interactions made during an active browser’s existence. This capability proves essential for websites that require login credentials, shopping carts, or any platform which requires remembering specific user actions within an interval of time.

Businesses utilize this mechanism to offer personalized experiences while gathering significant insights about visitor behavior patterns on their website.

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Maintaining user state

Web servers encounter the challenge of maintaining user state due to their inherent stateless nature. User states are pivotal in understanding and managing a user’s interactions across several page requests.

This maintenance involves tracking users’ actions, preferences, and progress during an active session. Web applications establish this continuity through various session management techniques like cookies or URL rewriting.

One key aspect is assigning a unique session identifier that persists for the duration of a user’s visit on the site. This process allows any interaction to be linked with previous ones within that particular interval of time, enabling personalised content delivery and enhancing the overall user experience.

A well-implemented system maintains equal balance between client-side and server-side session tracking, offering efficient usage of system resources without compromising security considerations.

Alternatives to session tracking

Session tracking is not the only means for maintaining user state in web applications. Several alternatives exist, such as:

  • Local Storage: Like cookies, local storage allows information storage on a user’s browser. This method can handle larger amounts of data and has no expiration date.
  • Session Storage: This form of storage is similar to local storage but deletes information after a session ends.
  • Web Storage API: Used with modern browsers, this tool provides larger storage capacity than cookies.
  • JWT (JSON Web Tokens): A secure way of transmitting information between parties as a JSON object. They can verify users and store user info securely.
  • HTTP Authentication: Similar to session tracking, this method authenticates users and authorizes them to access resources.

How Does Session Tracking Work?

Session tracking works by using various techniques to maintain user state in web applications. This can be done through the use of cookies, hidden form fields, or URL rewriting to track and store information about a user’s session during their interaction with a website.

Session management in web applications

Web applications utilize session management techniques to keep track of user sessions. This involves maintaining the state of each user’s interaction with the application during a specific interval of time.

Session management allows for effective data management, customer conversions, and progress tracking. It ensures that users are recognized and their information is stored securely.

By implementing session tracking in web applications, developers can enhance the user experience and personalize content based on individual preferences.

Techniques for session tracking

Session tracking involves various techniques to maintain user state and track their activities on web applications. Here are some commonly used techniques for session tracking:

  1. Cookies: Web servers store session information in small text files called cookies, which are stored on the user’s browser. These cookies contain a unique session identifier that is used to recognize the user during subsequent requests.
  2. Hidden form fields: Session data can be stored in hidden form fields on web pages. When a form is submitted, the server retrieves the session data from these hidden fields to maintain continuity.
  3. URL rewriting: Session identifiers can be appended to URLs as query parameters. This allows the server to retrieve the session information from the URL itself.
  4. Serverside session tracking: In this method, the server maintains the session state by storing session data in its memory or a database. The server assigns a unique identifier to each session and uses it to keep track of user information.
  5. Clientside session tracking: With clientside session tracking, all session data is stored on the client-side using technologies like HTML5 Web Storage or IndexedDB. This allows users to access their sessions even if they switch devices or browsers.
  6. Persistent sessions: Some applications require sessions to persist even after users close their browsers or restart their devices. Persistent sessions use techniques like browser caching or databases to store and retrieve session information across multiple sessions.
  7. Session timeout: To optimize resources and enhance security, sessions have a predefined expiration time known as a timeout period. Once this period elapses without any activity from the user, their session is terminated automatically.


Cookies are small text files that websites store on your computer or device to remember information about you. They play a crucial role in session tracking by helping maintain user state and recognizing users when they return to a website.

When you visit a website, it sends a cookie to your browser, which stores it on your computer. This cookie contains a unique identifier that allows the website to recognize and track your activities during your visit.

It can be used for various purposes like personalizing content, tracking user behavior, and even managing customer conversions. Although cookies have benefits for both users and websites, such as improving user experience and enabling personalized content, they also come with limitations.

For example, some people have concerns over privacy issues related to the collection of their personal data through cookies. Additionally, if too many cookies are stored on a device, it may impact the performance of the website by slowing down page load time.

Hidden form fields

Hidden form fields are a commonly used technique for session tracking in web applications. These hidden fields, as their name suggests, are not visible to the user on the webpage but can store important information about the user’s session.

They are typically placed within HTML forms and can hold data such as session identifiers or other relevant details. By including hidden form fields, web servers can maintain and track user sessions effectively, allowing for personalized experiences and seamless navigation throughout the website.

This method of session tracking is convenient because it does not rely on cookies or URL rewriting, making it a viable option for situations where these techniques may be limited or restricted.

URL rewriting

URL rewriting is another technique used for session tracking in web applications. It involves adding session information to the URL itself. This is done by appending a unique identifier or token to the URL, allowing the server to identify and maintain user state across different pages and requests.

With URL rewriting, every link clicked by the user includes this session identifier, ensuring that their actions can be tracked and their state can be maintained throughout their browsing session.

This method is particularly useful when cookies are disabled on the user’s browser or when there is a need for greater control over how sessions are managed.

Benefits and Limitations of Session Tracking

Session tracking offers several benefits such as improved user experience, personalized content, and better customer conversions. However, it also has limitations in terms of security considerations and performance impact.

Improved user experience

Improving the user experience is a key benefit of session tracking. By maintaining user state and recognizing returning users, websites can provide personalized content and offer a more seamless browsing experience.

Session tracking allows for progress tracking, enabling users to easily pick up where they left off in their previous sessions. This not only enhances convenience but also increases customer conversions as users are more likely to complete actions or transactions when their information is remembered.

Additionally, session tracking helps web servers monitor page load timing, ensuring optimal performance for users. Overall, by effectively managing user sessions, session tracking greatly improves the overall user experience on websites.

Personalized content

Web session tracking allows for personalized content to be delivered to users based on their previous interactions with a website. By maintaining user state, web applications can store information about a user’s preferences, interests, and behavior.

This enables the website to recognize the user upon their return and tailor the content specifically to them. Through techniques like cookies, hidden form fields, or URL rewriting, websites can track users’ sessions and provide a more customized experience.

Personalized content enhances user engagement and satisfaction by displaying relevant information that meets their individual needs and preferences without requiring them to manually input data each time they visit the site.

Security considerations

Web session tracking involves the storage of user information and session identifiers to maintain state during a user’s visit. However, it is essential to consider security measures when implementing session tracking.

Protecting user data and preventing unauthorized access should be top priorities. Implementing encryption algorithms, regular session ID regeneration, using secure cookies, and validating input are crucial steps in ensuring the security of web sessions.

Additionally, monitoring for suspicious activity and implementing robust authentication mechanisms can help protect against potential threats like session hijacking or cross-site scripting attacks.

Performance impact

Session tracking can have a noticeable impact on the performance of web applications. As session data needs to be stored and managed, it puts an additional load on both the server and the client.

This can result in slower page load times and increased network traffic. Additionally, if sessions are not properly managed, they can consume excessive server resources and lead to scalability issues.

Therefore, it is important for developers to carefully consider the performance implications of session tracking techniques and implement them efficiently to ensure optimal user experience.


In conclusion, session tracking is an important aspect of web applications that allows for the maintenance of user state and personalized content. Through techniques such as cookies, hidden form fields, and URL rewriting, web servers can track user behavior and manage sessions effectively.

While session tracking enhances the user experience and enables customer conversions, it also comes with security considerations and potential performance impact. Overall, session tracking plays a crucial role in maintaining user sessions and improving website functionality.

Visitor Tracking is the only analytics tool that passively tracks your conversions!

Track effortlessly. Grow exponentially.


1. What is session tracking?

Session tracking is a mechanism used to keep track of the interactions between a user and a website or application during their visit.

2. How does session tracking work?

Session tracking works by assigning a unique identifier, known as a session ID, to each user when they first access the site. This session ID is then stored on the server and can be used to retrieve information about the user’s activities throughout their session.

3. Why is session tracking important?

Session tracking is important because it allows websites and applications to personalize content, remember user preferences, and provide secure access to protected areas.

4. What are some common methods of session tracking?

Some common methods of session tracking include cookies, URL rewriting, and hidden form fields. These techniques help maintain continuity and statefulness across multiple requests from the same user.


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