Table of contents
Cookies – what are they and how do they work?
Cookies (cookies) are small text files weighing a few kB, created, saved and stored on your device when you browse a website. What, on the other hand, does such a cookie look like? It consists of a string of characters (numbers and letters) and contains basic information about the site from which it comes, as well as information about the so-called “cookie lifespan.”
You’re probably wondering now how long we can store user information. This is specified in the parameters of the cookie (in its HTML code), but it also depends on the specific type of cookie. There are two basic types here:
- “Session cookies” – as the name suggests, these are temporary cookies stored in our browser’s memory until the end of a given session. They are mandatory, they are responsible for the functioning of sites in the browser, so they do not do us, as users, any harm. When the session ends, they are immediately deleted.
- “Persistent cookies” (persistent cookies) – remain in the memory of the browser for a certain period of time (which we can change from the browser settings). On the occasion of each visit to the site, they transmit information to the server, where they are collected and processed, and then displayed in the form of reports, for example, in analytical tools. As users, we also have the option to manually clear such permanent cookies from our browser.
When you see a banner cookie popping up on the site, you have the option to choose which of the essential, analytics, preference and marketing cookies you can select. What exactly do these names conceal and what activities are they responsible for?”
- Essential cookies: are responsible for the functioning of the site. These are, for example, files that provide security for browsing the site.
- Analytics cookies: collect data about the user, but in a completely anonymized manner. They provide information to analytical tools and so we can see how many page views there have been on a given page, how much time users have spent on it, etc. They do not allow us to identify the user.
- Preference cookies: they collect information about the choices users have made on the site. They also decide to personalize the site according to users’ choices.
- Marketing cookies: they make it possible to display personalized ads, as well as collect information necessary to run campaigns of various kinds.
First-party cookies vs. Third-party cookies
This is another of the cookie divisions you’ll encounter frequently, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with them. So what are they and how do they differ from each other?
1. First party cookies (i.e. first party cookies) are placed in our browser by the site we visited. These cookies are more favored by users because they make our daily use of the Internet much easier. Among other things, they save our logins and passwords for logging in to, for example, an account at a particular online store, so we don’t have to do it every time we launch the site. Thanks to first party cookies, the things we have added to the shopping cart are remembered, as well as the most basic settings of the site such as text size or language.
2. Third-party cookies (third-party cookies) – are the most “problematic” cookies about which there is so much fuss. They are used by third-party companies for advertising purposes. The best example of third-party cookies is Facebook’s Pixel, which triggers a cookie when you enter a site. It then saves the data and sends it to Facebook. This allows us, for example, to create Meta remarketing lists
How does this work in practice? If you accept the tracking consents in the cookie banner and browse for new sports shoes – for the next few days, ads for these shoes (or other items from the store) will follow you everywhere possible on the Internet.
Why changes in cookies policy?
You already know that there are different types of cookies, which are used, among other things, in advertising systems, and thus – also in web analytics. In recent years, user awareness of online tracking and privacy policies themselves has also begun to increase. This has caused cookies, which previously received little attention, to play a key role in recent times.
In 2018, a four-letter acronym entered the scene, which turned many issues upside down. We are, of course, talking about RODO, or the Personal Data Protection Regulation. What does this mean in the context of marketing activities? The document was created to protect individuals from having their data used in ways they did not consent to. In addition, it mandates that entities that collect this data should openly disclose for what purpose the data is collected, processed and to whom it is shared. The introduction of the RODO and the protection of personal data was necessary in an era of ever-evolving digitization, but it has also sparked a flurry of subsequent actions relating to cookie privacy policies.
How should a correct cookie banner look like?
Today’s digital marketing era is a breakthrough of sorts. Never before have we had access to such advanced marketing and analytical tools. Algorithms used by advertising platforms, as well as by Google Analytics 4 can accurately profile the user, his interests, needs, and can even predict his future behavior with pretty good accuracy. Therefore, it has become a requirement to give users the ability to decide for themselves which consents they want to give. The previously used data collection bar is becoming a thing of the past, and consent management platforms (CMPs) are taking its place.
There are many consent management platforms available on the market today, and the choice depends on a number of individual preferences. However, you will most often encounter the platform Cookiebot The main arguments for using Cookiebot are, first of all, the relative simplicity of configuration using Google Tag Manager, the free version for up to 100 pages, and the paid version, which gives you a lot of options for banner configuration (including colors, consent statistics, etc.).
A valid cookie banner from Cookiebot should display when a user enters the site and include a minimum of two, and preferably three, consent options:
1. Deny -in this case, we do not consent to both analytics and marketing cookies.
2. Personalize/Customize – gives you the option to review what types of tracking will be applied and to consent only to selected ones.
3. Accept all – indicates acceptance of all types of cookies.
Google consent mode
Simply placing a banner on our site to collect consents is not enough. It is still necessary to properly configure the consent mode (i.e. consent mode).
What is consent mode? Wanting to define it in the simplest terms, we can say that it adjusts the operation of Tags (Google Analytics, Google Ads, etc.) depending on the consent that the user has given.
How, on the other hand, does it work in practice?
Consent mode is based on consent acquisition platforms (such as the aforementioned Cookiebot platform). Properly implemented and configured, it “understands” the consents a user has given and, based on this, fires certain tracking scripts and sends the information to, for example, Google Analytics or Google Ads.
When the user consents to the cookies (i.e. clicks on the banner, e.g. “accept all”), the Tags will run as before. On the other hand, if the user does not consent, or selects only certain consents, not all Tags will be able to fire up (e.g., analytics or advertising Tags will not turn on), and those that do will have limited functionality.
You can set up an account on the consent management platform yourself, but if you don’t have the technical knowledge, it’s best to ask your development team or digital marketing agency to set up consent mode.
Consent mode, and user data
How, then, should the future of marketing now look like when we have to respect user preferences for certain tracking consents? What about data about users who reject analytics or marketing cookies before accessing our site?
On the surface, it may seem like lost data. But remember how I mentioned that today’s advertising and analytics tools are brilliantly developed? Adapting to consent acquisition mode is a perfect example.
When a user does not consent to cookies, the site will send a signal to trigger consent mode, which will collect anonymized data. In addition, Google will use so-called “behavioral modeling”, so it will analyze the behavior of users with approved consents and, based on this, will create the most similar profile of users who have not given this consent.
Finally, thanks to machine learning, Google is able to bridge the data gap and thus recover those seemingly lost data. It’s true that as marketers we lose data accuracy this way, but I think you’ll agree with me that it’s better to keep 70% of the data modeled than none at all.
There is no need to fear the changes that are coming in marketing and analytics. They are inevitable and would happen sooner or later anyway. Instead, be that one step ahead and take advantage of the opportunities that marketing tools offer and don’t wait until the last minute to implement and configure cookies.
Take care of your data when the cookies run out!
We will help you create marketing strategies based on these innovative approaches to continue to achieve effective results in advertising campaigns and analyze user behavior.
If you want to learn more about working with GA4 in practice, we ran a webinar on the subject! You can find it on our YouTube channel.