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A magician unravelling a bowl of mysterious  cookies

Unravelling the Cookie Mystery: What You Need to Know!

Everyone’s out for your cookie

The UK Government Information Commissioner’s Office has some startling news for you. They’re fed up with searching the web and then writing letters to companies about lack of compliance (it’s so old-fashioned). Instead, they are turning their efforts toward an Artificial intelligence-powered crawler to go find you. It’s all very modern.

Meanwhile, Google has announced that they are phasing out Chrome’s support for 3rd party cookies across 2024. So if the ICO doesn't get you first, Google will get you next.

 

Good cookies and bad cookies

It really depends on your taste, but broadly speaking cookies that your site drops are generally seen as good - aiding convenience with a seamless login is one example. Hang an advertising banner on your site that’s delivered by an ad network and you’re in a whole different world. Yes, we might receive more carefully targeted ads as we then browse on elsewhere, but we are handing over our browsing history to someone we don’t know. Those cookies are seen by many as ‘bad’.

This cookie data can be used in all kinds of ways, often without us realising. To quote from the ICO - “Gambling addicts may be targeted with betting offers based on their browsing record, women may be targeted with distressing baby adverts shortly after miscarriage and someone exploring their sexuality may be presented with ads that disclose their sexual orientation.”

So we all have to think again about how we are using cookies and why. It’s not just a question of compliance, or with whether or not Chrome will even reference cookies, it’s about your reputation with your audience too. Are you really making it easy for them to make informed decisions about how they are being tracked? And if you aren’t - how are they going to think about you?

 

Cookie banners

There are as many variations on cookie banners as there are websites, well almost. Some are wonderfully simple and straightforward to engage with. Some are downright devious in their attempts to make it as hard as possible for you to say ‘no thanks’.

Even the services that provide out-of-the-box cookie banners are in on the game. Free versions often provide complex user options and you have to upgrade in order to access the ability to provide neat and simple options for your users.

Remember, your cookie banner is quite literally the first thing a new user sees in the digital experience you provide. You can make a good impression or a bad one and you need to look long and hard at your banner to understand the message you are projecting - it’s too easy to just click and dismiss and not take this into account.

And then there’s the question of whether your cookie banner and the choices you offer are actually being actioned in the background. Oftentimes, we find banners that say they’ve accepted a user preference for no 3rd party cookies, while the site itself is not set up to deliver on that promise and spills them out anyway.

So don’t underestimate the importance of your cookie banner to both your audience's perception and your own integrity.

 

Banning cookies

We’re not here to speculate on Google’s motives for changing the way Chrome treats 3rd party cookies - they abandoned their motto ‘Don’t be evil’ in 2018 and haven’t looked back. Maybe their motives are good, maybe they have other thoughts in mind. Either way, they have a big chunk of the browser market and others will follow. 

With Chrome side-stepping 3rd party cookies, there is a rethink among site owners as they look to recover the lost revenue opportunities this change brings about. Here’s a few to think about:

Contextual advertising, where the publisher themselves makes decisions about the efficacy and appropriateness of the advertising they carry is one way that a site publisher can provide an advertising experience that is both compliant, is preserved by the browser and is appreciated by the audience. Yes, there’s more effort involved, but your audience is more likely to appreciate it too.

Subscriptions. Another way to recover revenue is by introducing new or improved subscription models. This isn’t a trivial consideration and takes time to plan and work through. It places demands on you to identify and create content with value and then encourage and incentivise your audience to engage with the proposition. The upside is not just subscription revenue, it is a far greater engagement with your audience - and that has significant value in many ways beyond subscription fees.

Personalisation. Finally, this is a call for improved personalisation too. The more you can personalise, the more engagement you get. There are many tools and techniques to improve on-site personalisation for the user and you should be looking to make the most of them. The more engagement you get, the more you can monetise your audience - and here’s the important bit - you are doing it yourself with the consent of your users, a far better deal than you allowing other parties to monetise the data your user's presence on your site generates. Even if they do pay you for it!

NDP can help you with Cookie Audits and Compliance, Contextual Advertising, Subscription Management and Personalisation - get in touch below to find out more.

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