Website cookies exist in all corners of the web. Often, when visiting websites you probably receive a pop-up message asking if you wish to accept the website’s cookies. Depending on the prominence of the pop-up on the page, you may choose to ignore the pop-up, close the pop-up or accept the cookies. But have you ever wondered about the results of the decision you make when encountering the all-so-common cookies pop-up?
What are Cookies Used for on Websites?
What exactly is a cookie?
First, you should know what a website is. Website cookies are packets of data a computer receives when visiting a page, then sends back with the same exact data. You cannot alter the data within a website cookie. When you visit a website, the website will store the packet of data on your computer. Depending on the type of cookie, the packet of data can remain either for your entire session on the website or up until you delete the cookie or the cookie expires. Now you know what a cookie is, keep reading to find out what purpose cookies serve.
Many digital marketing agencies use behavioral targeting to provide web users with customized advertisements. You might be wondering, what is behavioral targeting in digital marketing? Behavioral targeting uses data such as web pages viewed, items viewed, time spent on a website, etc, to improve the overall ROI of digital marketing campaigns. By utilizing cookies to track specific data, digital marketers can collect information on users’ purchase behavior, website engagement, email campaign engagement, and app engagement to create behavioral advertising campaigns.
Lastly, cookies monitor and keep track of specific actions viewers take on the website. By tracking what pages users visit and items users view, cookies gather information to help tailor advertisements to contribute towards behavioral targeting.
Now that you have a better idea of what website cookies are and what website cookies are used for, you might want to know a little more about what exactly happens when you accept website cookies. Cookies act entirely behind the scenes, keep reading if you want to know how accepting those cookies can affect your own experience on websites.
What Happens When I Accept Cookies?
At this point, you have probably either decided you do not like how website cookies monitor and track your movements online, or you see some of the benefits and do not mind cookies. Regardless of your preferences websites often contain some cookies, essential to properly use the website. So what really happens when you accept website cookies?
A simple way to understand the process is thinking of cookies as a valet service:
- First, you give your car over to the valet attendant. You arrive on the website and the website server creates a pocket of data linked to you.
- Next, you receive a claim ticket to hold on to until you return. The cookies for the website you visit transfer from the website server to your browser without any alterations to the data. Each cookie possesses a special user ID specific to each individual user.
- Lastly, you go back to the valet to retrieve your car with your claim ticket. Your browser returns the cookies to the website server. The server reads your individual user ID and gathers your activity data from your visit to the website.
What are My Options?
When it comes to website cookies, you have little control over essential cookies but have the freedom to accept or decline some cookies. Some website servers can automatically accept cookies when you connect but, you may still have the option to change the cookie settings. With optional cookies, you can choose to accept, decline, or customize
Many times, when you visit a new website you get the pop-up asking what you want to do about the website cookies. If you choose to accept all the cookies, you allow the website server to track your visit to the website to the fullest extent intended. As previously mentioned the cookies will optimize your visit to the website through session management, personalization, and tracking. Depending on the type of cookies your cookies may affect your experiences in future visits to the website as well as on visits to other websites.
Just like accepting cookies when you receive the initial website cookies pop-up, you can select to decline the website cookies as well. If you opt to decline all optional cookies you sacrifice optimization during your visit to the website for privacy. Some cookies which personalize your user experience on the website through methods like targeted advertisements will not track your visit to the page. On the other hand, some cookies essential to the operations of the website may still run. If you cannot decide between optimization and privacy and are asking yourself if you should delete website cookies, customizing your cookie settings might serve as your best option.
Fortunately for us users of the web, we have the option to customize our cookies. Many websites do not force users to accept all cookies or decline all cookies, but rather also offer the option to select which cookies to accept and which to decline. On many websites, you can customize cookies by clicking the “more information” button on the cookie pop-up. From there, you will see a list including items such as required cookies, functionality, analytical, marketing, and personalization cookies. You can select which cookies you would like to accept throughout your visit to the website and which you would prefer to decline.
Should I Accept Website Cookies?
Luckily, websites typically provide the option of selecting whether or not you want to accept all cookies, decline all cookies, or accept some and decline others. But what factors should really influence your decision on accepting cookies and declining cookies? The following section walks you through the safety of accepting cookies as well as different types of cookies.
Safety of Accepting Cookies
Different factors will influence the safety of accepting cookies. Different cookies consist of different properties and functionalities. Ultimately, the decision on which cookies to accept and which cookies to decline comes down to personal preference. One tip to keep in mind: if a website seems suspicious for any reason, you may want to decline the cookies or just leave the website altogether.
SSLs or Secure Socket Layers provide another level of safety while browsing the web. Essentially, an SSL encrypts a user’s data while transferring the cookies between the user’s browser and the website server. By encrypting the cookies until reaching the intended recipient, hackers cannot intercept and steal the data as easily. Continue reading everything you need to know about SSL certificates.
First-Party Cookies vs. Third-Party Cookies
First-party cookies consist of cookies employed directly by the sites you visit. These cookies include data such as items you put in your shopping cart as you travel to different pages of the website or cookies recommending videos based on your previous watch history.
Third-party cookies include cookies utilized by parties unassociated with the website you visit. Some examples include cookies which provide you targeted ads across multiple websites or marketing companies who buy advertising rights to other websites.
Session Cookies and Persistent Cookies
A session cookie tracks and stores your information while you visit a page but does not save the information after leaving the website or when you return to the website. An example of a session cookie can include placing an item into a cart on a shopping website.
A persistent cookie returns as you return to the website using the cookie in order to maintain optimization as you leave and return to the page. An example of a persistent cookie can include the same recommended item coming back the next time you return to the website.
Safe Practices With Cookies
After reading all about the different types of cookies, you may wonder about safe practices when encountering website cookies. Numerous tools exist for your safety on the internet. A VPN or Virtual Private Network allows you to travel to websites while obscuring your own network. Some of the Best VPN services available provide other services as well, such as changing the location of your network to access additional features on certain websites. Additionally, separate browsers such as the DuckDuckGo Browser will help bolster your safety as you browse the web.
Future of Cookies
As technology evolves and time changes, so will website and marketing strategies. Marketing companies may find more efficient methods to provide personalized ads or browsers may stop accepting cookies. In the near future, Google will stop selling ads based on your browsing history. Regardless of what may soon come, you now know everything you need to know about website cookies.
FAQs about Website Cookies:
- What is a website cookie?
- Are cookies viruses?
- Should I store cookies on my browser?
- How to accept website cookies?
- Can I clear my browser cookies?