After the introduction of privacy laws by countries like Europe, businesses now have to be transparent and inform users about how their data is being used.
So that’s why this guide will teach you all about website cookies, how they work, and various ways to use them in your marketing while also complying with privacy laws.
Table of contents
- What are website cookies?
- How do website cookies work?
- Different types of web cookies
- Website cookie laws explained
- 3 steps to manage cookies on your website
- Drawbacks of cookies
What are website cookies?
Website cookies are text files that get stored in the users' browsers. These text files remember specific information about users, such as login information, cart details, pages visited, IP address, etc., which is later used for various needs.
1. Better user experience
It is frustrating for users to reenter the information each time they visit a website. That’s why cookies can store that information and use it again without making users reenter it.
Users can also save their settings on particular websites, and cookies are used to remember them and automatically use them when users revisit the website.
2. Retargeting users
Retargeting is the practice of collecting user data and using it for retargeting them on various platforms. One such example is online advertising using display ads.
When users visit certain websites and leave, the ads about that website start following those users on different platforms. This is done with the help of cookies which store which websites a user has visited, and by using that information, the advertisers are serving them targeted ads.
Besides advertisements, cookies also help eCommerce websites remember which products their users have checked out. If they add certain products to their carts and leave them without purchasing, you can show them their cart items when they revisit your website. Or retarget them by sending personalized emails.
But not all cookies are the same. There are different types of cookies that work differently. So let’s discuss different cookie types and how they work.
How do website cookies work?
When users visit a website and accept their cookies, a cookie is downloaded in their web browser (such as Google Chrome) and stored as a plain text file. When that user visits the website again, the information in this file will be used to give a better site experience and personalize the marketing efforts.
The information stored in cookies depends on users. If users accept all cookies, the website will collect as much information as possible. But if the user decides to opt-in for only essential cookies, the website must comply with it.
Here’s a great example.
Source: Cookie Law Info
Now you know that cookies help website owners give a better user experience (UX) to users and improve marketing efforts. Let’s discuss how exactly those are done.
Different types of web cookies
Here’re the different types of cookies and how they work:
First-party and third-party cookies
As the name suggests, first-party cookies are stored by the domain that the user visits. These cookies work only on that domain and can’t track you on other domains. These cookies help you provide a better user experience by remembering your information, such as log-in details, cart information, site preferences, etc.
Permanent cookies and session cookies
Permanent cookies (also called persistent cookies) are the ones that stay on your browser for a long time. These cookies don’t expire once that website session is over.
But session cookies, on the other hand, expire as soon as the session is over. This cookie type is used by analytics tools that display the number of visitors on that domain.
So these are the types of cookies that users come across as they move around the web.
Coming back to the cookies popups, it is evident that you must comply with their rules and regulations if you don’t want to be a victim of the cookie laws and face a hefty fine.
So let’s discuss a few important cookie laws and their guidelines.
Website cookie laws explained
Website cookie laws set guidelines for businesses when it comes to retrieving information from smart devices. Here’s some privacy you must know.
1. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
In 2018, the European Union (EU) passed the GDPR law that businesses must comply with if they collect data of any EU citizens. This law applies to businesses in the EU and other countries that deal with EU citizens.
This law contains seven principles that businesses must follow.
Lawfulness, Fairness & Transparency
Integrity & Confidentiality
Essentially these principles state that you’ve to collect user data ethically, be transparent about its use, keep it secure from breaches, and remove it after it is no longer needed. Read our guide below to know how it affects email marketing.
2. ePrivacy directive
ePrivacy directive is also a European law that was adopted in 2017. This law considers all definitions of GDPR and improves upon it. Similar to GDPR, this law applies to businesses in the EU and outside that deal with EU residents.
This law requires you not to entertain unsolicited marketing with users. You’ve to take consent from them before sending any marketing material, may it be via email or text.
As a marketer, you’ve to tell your users what data you will collect and how it’s stored and used. You can be mostly safe from the ePrivacy directive if you follow these steps.
3 steps to manage cookies on your website
Here’s a step-by-step process you can follow to comply with most privacy laws and keep yourself on safe ground.
2. Classify your cookies
Do you know all types of cookies that are used on your website? Chances are that there are more cookie types in use than you’re aware of and that’s bad news. If you don’t know all types of cookies that are used, you will not be able to inform your users about them, and the risk of violating cookies laws increases. So organize your cookies by their purpose and move on to the next step.
3. Get user consent by the cookie notification message
Finally, after you know what cookies you’re using, it’s time to create a fancy cookie popup that’ll show when new users visit your site. You can use tools like iubenda to generate cookie popups while also giving users the option to customize their data sharing. Make sure to inform all types of cookies you’ve classified previously.
So these are the steps you can take to protect your business from cookie laws.
Don’t cookies become unattractive when you’ve to follow all these rules? Turns out that cookies are not really reliable in the long run and here are a few major reasons why.
Drawbacks of cookies
Sure, cookies can help you track your users, personalize your marketing, and maximize the ROI. But as we move into a world where people are more concerned about their privacy, cookies become less reliable. Here are a few reasons why cookies are not reliable in the long run for your marketing.
1. Browser cookie features
Modern browsers like Microsoft Edge give users the option to choose their security level. Users can choose Basic, Balanced, or Strict. And by any chance, if they choose Strict, Edge will block most trackers set on websites, and ad personalization will be hindered due to it.
If this is not bad, Google has announced that it’ll stop supporting third-party cookies in 2023. Since Chrome has a market share of approximately 64.53%, this practice will affect most businesses, and cookie marketing, in general, will receive a huge hit.
2. Privacy focused users
Since iOS 14, Apple has restricted how Facebook can track iOS users across multiple platforms. Users are now given a choice to opt-in or out of the Facebook pixel tracking. Android has also followed suit and introduced many features with its new Android 12.
Such privacy acts make users care more about their privacy, and it would also affect cookie tracking. Due to the increased privacy awareness, more and more people will start blocking trackers, limiting the data collection, and keeping their information private. And hence, you’ll have more difficulty collecting and using users’ data with website cookies.
What you should do next
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