A simple way to reduce the cookies your website sets

As I mentioned recently, the EU Cookie Law’s 12 months of grace expires on May 26th.

It’ll finally bring regulations into play about getting informed consent from site visitors before storing information on – or retrieving it from – their computers using cookies. And it’s already causing consternation in the marketing community.

Cut cookies without driving yourself nuts

I’m lucky. My website is very simple. Having done a check to establish exactly which cookies it leaves on visitors’ computers, I find my Google tracking code is the only contender covered by the new rules.

I originally put it there so Google could track site activity and deliver accurate stats. But I never use Google Analytics. I much prefer AW Stats, a package provided by my host. As such, Google’s tracking code isn’t necessary.

So, to minimise faffing about with informed consent, I’m going to remove the Google tracking code from my index page code. Doing so won’t affect my site in any way – I just won’t be able to use Google Analytics. Which is fine by me.

The only other cookies my site uses are little bits of code allied to my social media buttons which, by the look of it, might well be excluded from the EU Cookie law anyway.

Doing this one simple thing should relieve me of the burden of deciding how to get an up-front message to visitors explaining which cookies I’m leaving on their computers and why.

Complex websites will probably find the whole thing a lot trickier. But if your site’s as basic as mine, you might find removing your Google Analytics tracking code, if you’ve added one in the first place, does the job.

The commonest sources of cookies?

  • Membership areas and other places where visitors need to log in
  • Subscriptions to newsletters
  • Social media widgets
  • Google analytics
  • Adverts from places like Google and Amazon
  • The comments form on your blog
  • ‘Remember me’

Lost in space? Your first task is to run a cookie audit on your website

So-called session cookies, which expire straight away, are fine. But look out for cookies with long expiry periods. These are the ones you need to get informed consent for. If they’re not strictly necessary, just strip them out.

Keeping an eye on things

I intend to keep a weather eye on my site and check regularly in case any new cookie generators creep in. Better safe than sorry. I also intend to watch carefully what happens, and change tack if it looks like I need to. If I’m compelled, eventually, to get informed consent, at least I won’t be the only one. Everyone will be doing it. Until then, I reckon I’ve done a good enough job to avoid a fine.

Turning informed consent into a positive message

If your site crumbles cookies all over visitors’ computers, you’ll probably end up having to create a positive, clear, simple message than enhances the visitor experience rather than scaring them off. In which case, come to me. As an experienced freelance copywriter with a strong direct marketing background, I’m a dab hand at turning even the worst negatives into shiny, customer-friendly positives.

An accident waiting to happen… data privacy and mobile phones

What’s next on the regulatory menu? It might well be mobile phone data privacy. There are already rumblings of discontent about the way mobile apps capture and use private data. In extreme cases people have been mightily pissed off to discover that a smartphone app has imported their entire contact list without permission. Naughty!