What Are Internet Cookies, and How Are They Useful for My Website?

You’ve probably seen cookie consent forms and thought, what are internet cookies? Recent laws governing the storage of user data on websites has brought the concept into the limelight, but many business owners still don’t quite understand what cookies are.

Can I eat them?

Is this an internet cookie?

Unlike their baked counterparts, internet cookies are small pieces of data stored in your browser or on your computer. A website is allowed to create these cookies by default to save some subset of data about your browser session.

How are cookies used in a WordPress.com site?

The most common use of a cookie is used whenever you have to log into your WordPress.com account. WordPress.com will use a cookie to store the fact that you have logged in, so that it can show you information that is most relevant to you.

Another example of cookie usage on your WordPress.com site is when a visitor submits a comment. In this instance, a cookie is created, containing their information so that when they comment somewhere else on your website, this information is automatically filled in for them.

Plugins you install on your site, if you have a WordPress.com Business plan, may also use cookies to store data. For example, if you’re running a WooCommerce store, the plugin will use cookies when your shoppers have logged into their accounts, or when they’re adding items to their wish list or carts.

The benefits of cookies for the small business owner

Using cookies responsibly allows to you provide a more tailored, personalized experience for your site visitors.

As described in the online store above, cookies allow your shoppers’ wish lists or carts to persist — even if the shopper hasn’t logged into their account yet. This is useful if someone doesn’t have time to login and complete a purchase. By storing the wish list in a cookie, when your store page is closed and reopened later, their wish list is saved.

Other useful ways cookies can be implemented is if you’re using a service like WordAds to show advertising to your readers to earn income from your blog. By storing basic information about your readers, like their location, services like WordAds can serve them relevant ads, which they’ll more likely click on.

Ensuring you take care of your visitors’ data

The important thing to remember about cookies is that if a website needs to store any Personally Identifiable Information (PII), it needs to let you know.

Lifelock described PII as any data that could be used to identify a particular person. So, your username and your IP address could be considered PII.

Recent laws surrounding the use of cookies, specifically the European Union’s cookie law, requires websites to get user consent to store any information in cookies, which is why a lot of websites are now showing you cookie consent pop-ups whenever you browse to them.

This pop-up is then linked to a Cookie Policy page, which details what data is being stored in the cookies.

An example Cookie Consent popup

How can WordPress.com show that my website can be trusted with their data?

Site owners can enable the Cookie & Privacy Banner Widget to notify their visitors that cookies are in use. It’s worth noting that you’ll need to create the relevant Cookie Policy page and ensure that you comply with the applicable local laws.

WordPress.com also allows you to opt out of some of their tracking options and provides this option to visitors to your site as well — available in each user’s Account Privacy Settings.

Opting out of tracking options

With WordPress.com, building a website doesn’t have to be a difficult task. If you can answer the question “what are internet cookies?” you can use cookies responsibly on your website and provide a great experience for your fans and shoppers.

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