What are website cookies?

But more importantly, why should you care? And what can they be used for? Quite a lot as it turns out, but mostly for tracking your visitors behaviour and allowing you to better serve them, if they agree to you dropping them on their device that is…

What are cookies and what do they do?

When you visit a website which uses cookies it drops a small text file on your computer. This file is called a “cookie”. It contains the name of the website and a unique ID which represents you as a user. Some cookie files are more sophisticated and store information like:

  • The amount of time you spent on the website
  • The specific pages you visited
  • The links you clicked
  • The options, preferences and settings you chose
  • Accounts you logged into
  • The items you put in the shopping basket

If you visit the website again it can use the cookie to personalise your experience based on your previous behaviour.

Is there a risk involved in using cookies?

When websites first used cookies they did so without warning, which led to some worry about websites storing personal information. But there are now regulations in place that govern the use of cookies (hence the annoying banners and popups seeking your consent).

Even so, you can’t escape the fact that some cookies contain personal information that website owners use to personalise advertising. Yet on the flip side…

Cookies can also make your interaction with websites smoother, easier, and more enjoyable.

And that’s the only purpose of most cookies.

How do cookies benefit you as a website owner?

Cookies allow you to track the behaviour of visitors and use that information to inform your marketing efforts.

For example, Google Analytics tells you how prospective customers use your website; it couldn’t do so without cookies.

How can you use this information?

You could use it, for example, to uncover how many users abandon their purchase. You could then improve the checkout process… reduce the number of abandonment’s… and make more sales.

You can also use cookies to improve your advertising. How? Well, prospective customers are more likely to respond to your ads if they already know who you are.

So you could use cookies… target your advertising to previous website visitors… and generate a higher return on investment.

What do you need to do to comply with GDPR?

Most cookies are governed by GDRP because they contain personally-identifiable information.

Cookies for website analytics, advertising and chat services are some examples. So for simplicity, it’s best to assume that you need to check the GDPR-compliance of your website.

How do you do that?

We advise our clients to use software like CookieBot to:

  • Generate a cookie banner for your website
  • Periodically scan your website and update your cookie policy

This keeps your cookie policy compliant with GDPR without any time investment on your part. But it’s only one part of the picture. Which is why we also recommend seeking the advice of a Solicitor that specialises in data protection.

There’s just no other way to make sure you comply… and avoid the risk of a fine from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).