Why not to disable cookies on your website

Don’t be too quick to turn your website cookies off, cautions Howard Rybko, CEO at Syncrony Digital

Switch off my Cookies!

This was the gist of the tense, urgent message left for me by the IT Manager of one of our large corporate clients. Somehow, she had become embroiled in a debate with her company’s legal department, who had decided that having a cookie policy was too much of a bother. Or less kindly, cookies carried too much risk for the technophobes who likely had no inclination to find out what a cookie was.

What is a website cookie?

Cookies are tiny files that hold small amounts of data that are saved to your computer’s hard drive by websites, when you visit them. A cookie for example, will hold your login credentials for a specific website and will be used by that website to identify you when you visit it.  This will make logging in quicker (see blow). The actual data that is stored in a cookie is tagged to your machine and will only function of your computer.

Howard Rybko, CEO at Syncrony Digital

The benefits of cookies

Cookies let websites recognise users and recall their individual login information and preferences, such as sports news versus politics. These cookies track whether a user is logged in and under what name. They also streamline login information, so users don’t have to remember site passwords.

Customised advertising is the main way cookies are used to personalise your sessions. You may view certain items or products on a site, and cookies use this data to help build targeted ads that you might enjoy.

Shopping sites use cookies to track items users previously viewed, allowing the sites to suggest other goods they might like and keep items in shopping carts while they continue shopping.

Cookies track multiple visits to the same site over time. Some online merchants, for example, use cookies to track visits from particular users, including the pages and products viewed. The information they gain allows them to suggest other items that might interest visitors. Gradually, a profile is built based on a user’s browsing history on that site. It is this tracking process that annoys some users and keeps privacy legislators up at night.

But what if your website does not have logins?

Content specific websites, in general have no need for users to login and thus can be set to not use cookies at all.

We feel that this is a bad idea, because part of web traffic analytics (specifically Google Analytics) make use of cookies to track user sessions. This will render traffic analytics unable to identify users who return to review your content.

And will in effect break Analytics, resulting in every pageview being counted as a unique visitor, which will make your web traffic stats meaningless in certain instances.

So the bottom line is, keep your cookies!

Photo: Jill Wellington, Pexels