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Crash Course: Cookies and how they help in marketing

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You have clicked away the notifications countless times – the banner, which usually appears at the bottom of a web page and tells you that cookies are used on that platform. Often you don’t even read the message anymore, you just click it away.

There are many types of cookies, but the most interesting and controversial ones are third party cookies. Third party cookies collect a lot of useful information from users for advertisers, including:

  • Dwell time
  • Number of page visits
  • Movement of the user via links

The totality of this information provides a good picture of the user’s interests, as it is possible to track not only what the user is interested in within a domain, but across several domains. Third party cookies thus allow the creation of extensive user profiles so that advertisers can deliver exactly the right advertisements.

To give a rough idea of how much websites rely on third party cookie data, Digiday selected some of the biggest U.K. publishers and checked how many third-party cookies they use on their website:

But what are cookies anyway and how do they help in digital marketing? 

What are cookies? What are they used for?

Cookies are basically small text files that are stored on your device as soon as you visit a website. They record information about your visit to the site – they ensure that your shopping basket is saved on Amazon, even if you have closed the tab in the meantime. Or that you stay logged in to Facebook and don’t have to re-enter your data every time you visit.

Therefore Cookies are like little info notepads for websites and are stored as files locally on the computer. These notepads remain stored for different lengths of time – they have an expiry date. Some cookies are deleted after a few hours, days or weeks. But there are also cookies that have no expiry date at all and are stored until the user deletes them.

How do Cookies help in Digital Marketing?

Cookies provide the necessary context in order to determine which content is particularly appealing to your target group. They are therefore particularly valuable for marketers. Even if visitors do not interact directly with your site (by filling out a form), cookies still provide data that is useful for collecting performance metrics. If a visitor fills out a form and does not delete the cookies that were collected before registration, the individual visitor history of search behaviour before and after registration is fully available. These cookies therefore help you learn more about the interests of your target groups. This in turn enables you to better tailor your initiatives to the needs of your customers. Especially when it comes to targeting your prospects and visitors on third party websites, tracking through cookies is highly relevant. It enables you to show the most engaged and warm audience the highest frequency of ads of specific retargeting ads, often used in programmatic advertising on the third party sites directly.

So how does Programmatic Advertising actually work?

How do I use Cookies legally?

Cookies are indispensable for web analysis and marketing efforts. They collect information that allows you to get to know your users better and help you to draw conclusions about user behaviour. This valuable data opens up many different possibilities for you. For example, you can make the right optimizations to your website, adapt the structure of your website and your products to user needs, increase user loyalty, expand your target group and deliver personalized content. With these measures, you can increase your conversions.

However, caution is advised when using tracking cookies. In order to protect your users’ personal data in accordance with the DSGVO, you require your users’ consent to the use of tracking methods. Therefore, if you set this type of cookie to collect, process and store corresponding analytics data, you need the consent of your users.

There must be an opt-out function on your website so that users have the opportunity to decide whether they allow tracking tools. However, it is advisable to use a Consent Manager, as you will then receive the active consent of your users for tracking and you can be sure that you act completely in accordance with data protection laws.

Cookie Take-away

Cookies do not always taste good – the recipe must be right!

In summary, cookies are useful and important. They facilitate and simplify browsing through the web. But you should not blindly accept all cookies. You have to know which cookies are useful and which ones reveal too much data. As a user, you should also take care of your own privacy. Be aware of which data you want to disclose about yourself in order to have a better user experience. On the part of the website operators and marketers, data protection should be observed. You should use Cookies cleanly and offer a corresponding transparency. Data protection does not exclude web analysis and personalisation. You just have to link the topics together in a smart and transparent way.

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