Cookies have many functions but are ultimately used to track user behavior. They are small text files containing user data – for example, passwords or usernames. They can ultimately help to improve user experience. It is almost unavoidable in this era of browsers, personalization, and analytics, especially for businesses. But how can you improve your cookie strategy? That’s what we’ll be exploring in this blog post. Read on to find out how you can optimize your cookie strategy.
Types of Cookies
Before we explore how you can optimize your cookie strategy, let’s go through the different types of cookies.
|Cookies placed by the website itself, such as Google Analytics.
|Placed by a third-party server.
|Active only during the user’s visit to the website.
|Cookies that remain on the user’s device even after leaving the website.
|Persistent cookies that are browser-independent and remain even if other cookies are deleted.
|Cookies that remember user preferences and enable certain site features.
|Used to track user behavior and interactions with the website.
|Cookies that collect data to enable personalized ads based on the user’s browsing history.
1. First-Party Cookies
First of all, you have first-party cookies and third-party cookies. First-party cookies are cookies that you’ve placed yourself – for example, Google Analytics. These cookies are usually used by webmasters to implement various functionalities on their websites. The code is either built by themself or by a third party.
2. Third-Party Cookies
Third-party cookies, however, are placed by a third-party server such as through social media. These cookies can sometimes cause issues with the website based on how the third-party manages them. So, if your users are facing any issues, ask them to clear cookies.
3. Session Cookies
Session cookies are used to track how a user moves through your website. This type of cookie is only active during the user’s visit to the site – the cookie is then deleted once they leave the site. Session cookies are usually used for user login purposes.
4. Persistent Cookies
Persistent cookies, however, remain once the user leaves the site. They retain information regarding login credentials, payment information, language preferences, and more. They also store data about the user’s shopping cart – which means when the user leaves, their cart data will remain and still be accessible when they return to the site.
5. Flash Cookies
Flash cookies are even more persistent – even if a user deletes all browser cookies, these cookies will remain as they are browser-independent. It is not generally recommended to use such cookies as it possesses some security threats.
6. Functionality Cookies
Some cookies are generated by website banners and pop-ups. Strictly necessary cookies are required for the website to function. Functionality cookies are similar to these cookies – these are used so the site remembers user preferences. If you want to make use of these, you should enable cookies.
7. Analytics Cookies
Analytic cookies are used to track user behavior – including how they interact with the site. Advertising cookies collect data from users that enable personalized ads – users will see advertisements that are tailored to their browsing history.
Optimizing Your Cookie Strategy
Here are the top three ways that you can improve your cookie strategy for your business – completing regular audits, determining your consent policy, and addressing third-party sharing.
Complete Regular Audits
One of the best ways you can optimize your cookie strategy for your business is to conduct an audit of your website. This will enable you to understand the cookies you have on your site as well as their purpose.
Some organizations will hire somebody to conduct an audit, whereas others will do so internally. By completing an audit, you can determine where all your cookies come from, and the data that all cookies collect. It can also help you understand the reason behind each cookie on your site.
It’s important that you’re aware of any cookies that collect data pertaining to personally identifiable information of the user. Likewise, you should be aware of any collected data going to third parties. An audit can provide you with this information.
If you have cookies that track users through sensitive areas, or that are used without user consent, this is a red flag and should be addressed. Likewise, you should address cookies that don’t have an expiration date.
Determine Your Consent Policy
There are two options for establishing how users will interact – informed consent and opt-in consent.
Opt-in consent, however, requires clear consent from the user. As per GDPR, consent is explicitly required from users. Opt-in consent only uses strictly necessary cookies until users give their consent – the user will have a choice of which cookies they are happy with.
To educate you more on this, here is a video by TEDx Talks on Data Privacy and Consent –
Make Users Aware of Third-Party Data Sharing
Finally, you should make all users aware of instances of third-party sharing. There are many things that could leave third-party cookies on your site, whether it be live chat, social media buttons or ad retargeting.
Although you can use these, you should be aware of what they are doing and why they are there. It is also best practice to make sure your users are aware of these third-party cookies. You should share this information simply and clearly so it is easy to understand. A cookie management platform can help you stay on top of cookie use and data protection.