What is a cookie and why do we use them?

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What is a cookie and why do we use them

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What is a cookie and why do we use them?

When a user accesses a website, a cookie is sent from the server to the user’s device. A unique ID is usually generated by a random algorithm, along with an expiration date. 


Identification of the user is done through this ID, which is made up of numbers. A cookie is transferred back to the server every time the user visits the website.


Data stored in a cookie can be used to purchase products on an online store, remember user preferences or passwords on subsequent visits, or to gather additional information on browsing habits.


An expiration date is assigned to cookies, which can differ from a temporary cookie that disappears after closing a browser – such as shopping cookies, for example – to those used in marketing for a period of time, some even several years. 


It is also rather baffling to note that users can also use cookies to keep track of what type of cookies they have opted to accept being set within their browser. Cookies for cookie preferences, great right? 


A brand’s use of cookies is what determines whether they are good or bad.

Cookies allow a website to track your browsing habits across the web and show you content from sites you’ve visited before.


For example, if I browse through Zara’s shoes department but don’t purchase anything, they will drop a cookie so I will see Zara ads as I continue browsing.


If I like a pair I liked, it may serve as a helpful reminder to return to purchase them. Otherwise, it will just be an annoying interruption.

Cookies Categorized by their Function

  1. Cookies essential to the website’s operation

In order for specific websites to function properly, these cookies are necessary. For example, cookie data is collected following the addition of a product to an online shopping cart, followed by browsing the site (or other sites) and completing the checkout process. Hence, even after a browser window has been closed, the shopping cart is not deleted.

       2. Cookies that improve performance

Information is collected on how users behave when using the site and if they experience errors and receive error messages (and if they do, when and where). Performance cookies are also used to measure loading times or the behavior of websites across a variety of browsers when those cookies are set.

       3. Functional cookies

The cookies do not add functionality to a website, but they do make it more “usable.” For example, the location of the page is saved in a cookie, and when the page is retrieved, the saved location is presented for each individual user. When a form is filled out, font size or other preferences can also be saved.

       4. Cookies Used for Advertising

Cookies that provide the user with customized advertising based on their browsing habits are advertising cookies. After you visit an online store, you will notice cookies are being used: Advertising for this shop appears on a number of websites, sometimes immediately and sometimes overtime. This is known as retargeting in online marketing.

       5. ercookie

A so-called Evercookie contains several regular cookies as well as “Supercookies”. Evercookies are difficult to delete by the average user as Evercookies are placed across 8 different locations. In the event that a cookie is deleted from seven of these storage locations, Evercookie will be able to recover them from the contents of the remaining stored cookies.

What are the benefits of cookies for marketing?

Cookies and marketing: how do they work?

Here’s how it works: cookies on the internet are similar to real cookies. As with real cookies, online cookies leave crumbs, however just like real cookie crumbs are followed by ants, websites can track their users’ movements.

Same with real-life cookies, internet cookies come in many forms, primarily session, persistent, and third-party cookies.

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What Are The Benefits Of Using Cookies In Digital Marketing?

Internet cookies are not intrusive for all consumers. Since most cookies assist in providing a better browsing experience, they are designed to benefit the user.

Although cookies can help you track your audience automatically, it’s not always guaranteed. In order for your digital marketing and SEO campaign to succeed, you must choose the right types of internet cookies.

A good example is using persistent or first-party cookies when you manage an online store. Whenever your website is viewed by a customer, they will be able to keep track of their preferences, purchasing habits, and interests.

Third-party cookies, on the other hand, can be used to define your target market and send targeted ads. You should also consider the fact that some people do not wish to enable third-party cookies due to concerns about privacy. It’s important to build your online reputation in this case in order for customers to feel confident about your website.

The Importance of Cookies for SEO

The ability to track a user’s behavior gives marketers insight into their needs, thoughts, and experiences based on cookies. As well as giving users this capability, it is important to protect their individual information. 

A web entity’s ranking may suffer if it implements cookie-based practices in a way that violates the privacy guidelines or breaches the security guidelines. To maintain a web entity’s existence, it is equally important to consider legal issues and obligations. An important resource for SEOs is calculating the page load time and page usage experience. 

Google's effort to protect user data

Concerned about privacy laws, it should not come as a surprise that Google Chrome is adopting this strategy of protecting user data. 

According to an announcement from Google, the Chrome team is working on increasing the privacy and security of current web technologies. Beginning in February 2020, Chrome will treat first-party cookies without a SameSite label as insecure cross-site tracking cookies. The company is requiring third-party cookies to be accessed over HTTPS, so the user has better security and more control.

Even if you’re taking steps to prepare beforehand, there shouldn’t be a significant impact despite the widespread frustration regarding the decision to eliminate third-party cookies altogether. 

In light of this news, how should you adjust your strategy?

A lot of companies are rethinking their cookies strategy as Google Chrome accounts for 1 in 2 web browsers. A lot of difficulties will be encountered in identifying new audiences for targeted ads by 2022. 

The first-party cookies on your site are able to retrieve certain data, but they do not pull in any information about potential visitors. Therefore, working with brands like BounceX could be a good idea. They help turn anonymous visitors into potential leads.   

A third player also needs to be mentioned – it’s often overlooked, but when implemented effectively can be as profitable as or more so than other channels. Organic search is the answer! 

You must invest in SEO to increase website traffic, gain new visitors’ trust, and convert them into qualified leads and customers. 

I’ll tell you why.

To maximize the revenue potential of your site, invest in SEO

According to data, 47% of consumers block ads, whereas, in 2010, Adweek reported that 60% of consumers ignored ads (the number is likely even higher now). How can brands generate the revenue they rely on if people ignore or block ads, and third-party cookies are being phased out by Google? 

Although we may be biased, it’s hard to ignore an opportunity when 80% of its viewers use it every second. Obviously, we’re referring to search. Organic search traffic can be a valuable source of the traffic to brands who invest in SEO. 

The effects of SEO directly support all digital channels, making it more than just a top revenue generator. Additionally, SEO can increase the amount of organic traffic to your site positively and negatively through increased click-throughs on your paid ads, as well as increased engagement across your social media channels

Maintaining your current traffic while increasing your ROI can be achieved by investing in SEO now. 

Your customer experience is directly affected by SEO

In contrast, by earning your visitors’ trust, it is more likely that they will return.

Combining these strategies can boost traffic and conversions on your site from a full-funnel, holistic perspective. Investing in SEO will bring you the right kind of visitors to drive ROI if the organic search is the most trusted path for visitors to find your content. 

It takes time (and SEO) to build trust. When ads are turned off, paid search traffic stops,  while search engine optimization remains for years. To ensure the biggest, long-lasting impact, we suggest prioritizing organic search from the very beginning. 

General Data Protection Regulation and e-Privacy Regulation: What's covered by cookies

Cookie technologies allow webmasters to customize websites according to the preferences of their users, as well as gather data about their visitors, which include information about their browsing habits.

The GDPR introduced a new era of user awareness. Previously, most users didn’t realize their device was being stored with cookies. As a result, online marketers collected huge amounts of data. In response to the increased interest in data protection, legislators and browser providers reacted swiftly.

Europe has paved the way for greater data privacy online with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Now, any cookies that are not essential to the operating system will have to receive the express consent of the user. 

Nevertheless, the law is not clear when the user is required to provide explicit consent for cookies. Equally, Article. 6(1) ff. In the GDPR, no clear definition can be found for “legitimate interests” of the operator of the website.

At present, the European Union is developing a new ePrivacy Directive, based not on the website’s location, but rather the user’s location. Therefore, companies such as Facebook or Amazon and Google could be required to change how they deal with cookies as a consequence of the new European law.

Is the cookie era coming to an end?

Cookies will become redundant in the online marketing model within the next few years. It has been a long time coming, as relevant policymakers have introduced strict privacy regulations, consumers are becoming more aware of privacy issues and web browsers are gradually phasing cookies out.

As an example, the Safari and Firefox browsers from Apple and Mozilla block all third-party cookies by default. Because of this, most cookies not required by the site, such as marketing cookies, have no purpose other than to collect information.

The Chrome browser will also block third-party cookies by default by 2022 as Google follows suit. Google, however, will be compelled to change its own advertising platforms as well, due to the significant proportion of earnings that come from (remarketing) advertising.


Cookies seem out of date, but their relevance is only growing as the web continues to evolve. Digital marketing now relies heavily on SEO, so make sure you select the right type of SEO strategy for your marketing efforts. 

Retargeting – a marketing strategy aimed at displaying ads to users who visited your website previously – may be the best way to use cookies for marketing. This lets you display ads geared towards gaining their trust. Those who trust you are more likely to return to your site.

Additionally, cookies are essential to digital marketing. Here’s a recap on how cookies work:

  • Display ads on previous visitors’ websites and retarget them
  • Collect useful information
  • Create a personalized user experience
  • Monitor online activity


About the Author

My name’s Semil Shah, and I pride myself on being the last digital marketer that you’ll ever need. Having worked internationally across agile and disruptive teams from San Fransico to London, I can help you take what you are doing in digital to a whole next level.

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