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Companies follow you everywhere on the net thanks to Cookies and Session… What are they exactly?

Cookies and sessions are two powerful tools that companies use to “improve” user experience and probably make more money.  I used to have interesting discussions with people that claim that they are spied on. Most of them believe that google or Facebook sells their information to companies. And they follow them everywhere on the net.… Continue reading Companies follow you everywhere on the net thanks to Cookies and Session… What are they exactly?

Cookies and sessions are two powerful tools that companies use to “improve” user experience and probably make more money.  I used to have interesting discussions with people that claim that they are spied on. Most of them believe that google or Facebook sells their information to companies. And they follow them everywhere on the net. Even though I can’t claim it is false, things are not as bad as we think. The secret behind what companies do is called “Cookies and Sessions.” In these small articles, we are going to demystify the concept. First, we are going to define and see how cookies and sessions work. Then, we will see how most companies use them to implement a better marketing strategy for their business. If you still have questions at the end of this article, I will be glad to discuss them further. You can contact me through this link.

What exactly are cookies and sessions, and how do they work?

Both almost have the same purpose, but they have little differences. Let start with Cookies.

What are Cookies?

cookies

Cookies are a small block of codes that some companies store from their server in your web browser to connect you to some specific requests.   The first time you browse a website,  it would drop some data to your browser for the next visits or marketing purposes.

You may be surprised to see that a website would suggest personalized content during your second and next visits. It has nothing to do with magic; it is just cookies dropped to your browsers that enable a website to know your preferences.

Some characteristics of Cookies are:

  • A browser can store up to 4 kb of cookies for a given website.
  • The cookies will stay on your browsers until you decide to clear them. It may disappear when the lifespan expires. We can technically set up a lifespan of a cookie.
  • The limit of cookies per website is set to 50. Hence, when a website can store more than 50 cookies on your browser.

Now that we know a bit about cookies, let talk about sessions.

What are sessions?

Sessions help in keeping some data when you browse pages of a website. It is similar to cookies in the sense that data are stored to improve your experience. The session is also used to secure your data when you log in to a website. For example, when you log in successfully to a website, it will create a session that it will use to connect with your data store in a database.

Unlike Cookies that are stored in your browser, the sessions are in the server.  Here are some characteristics of a Session.

  • Sessions have no limit except the limit of server memory.
  • The lifespan of sessions is shorter than that of cookies.
  • Most sessions will disappear as soon as you close the browser.

How do companies use Cookies and sessions to implement a better marketing strategy for their business?

Companies use Cookies and sessions to follow you

Companies use Cookies and Sessions in many ways for their business. Below are some examples.

Store your preferences

Most websites will store your preferences to make better suggestions in the future. For example, whenever you visit a site selling multiple products, you can take advantage of pages you visit to suggest specific types of products.

Keeping your session alive

You probably know how difficult it is to remember all the passwords. And most of the websites you will use will request a secure password. Companies can use Cookies and Sessions to implement a system to enable you to keep your session alive. That is the reason why you can sign in to your Facebook or Google account without having to provide a username and password all the time.

Remarketing

Most businesses use Cookies for remarketing. If you visit a website and later see the ads from that website everywhere you go, don’t wander too much. The website dropped cookies on your browser, and it is using it to follow you around.

Secure your content

Companies offering services that require logging in use sessions to secure your content and suggest the right content. The session is also the reason when some applications exist.

Some disadvantages or advantages of cookies

We can do without cookies and sessions. You can maybe stop or block cookies, but you can’t use some applications without sessions. Here are some disadvantages of cookies.

  • Users can delete cookies – Depending on from which perspective, we can consider it an advantage or a disadvantage.
  •  Some browsers automatically block cookies. Hence, as a company, you may have to think about alternatives when you build your website.
  • Cookies are on the user’s computer, and they may be risky if someone else accesses a computer. For example, if you’re logging into your bank account or email that users cookies to keep your session alive, someone else can easily access your accounts.

Some cookies and sessions best practices for clients browsing websites

Clear your Browser History regularly

If you are regularly on websites, you need to know some of those practices whenever you’re logging in or use computers.

Browser website in private mode or clear the cookies whenever you are using a public computer

It can be dangerous to browse a public computer because all our activities are stored in the browser. For instance, let say you reach a school and access a public computer. And then you decide to open your bank account, email or Facebook page. If you are not careful, the next person coming to the same computer may log into your accounts. It is then dangerous a not secure.

Private mode (incognito mode) claims not to save your activities. However, to be on the save side, check if you clear the cookies before leaving.

Clear the browser history regularly

Due to many websites requesting usernames and passwords, some prefer to keep the browser history of access websites easily. However, if you’re often sharing your computer with people you don’t usually trust, clearing your browser from time to time can avoid some trouble.

On chrome, there is a feature to save a password that would require the user to enter the computer password. Personally, I think it is not always safe either. At least it can be a solution to avoid remembering a thousand passwords.

Don’t hesitate to subscribe for two-factor authentication if a website has the feature.

Most companies like Facebook, Google and maybe LinkedIn started suggesting to users to subscribe to two-factor authentication. For some users who are cautious with new things, it is another strategy to gather more information. I take it as the best option to address the issue of passwords that we save on browsers.

Let imagine a second that someone comes to your computer and goes through Chrome or Edge’s general setting. Then decide to get a password for some of your accounts. If they know your computer password, they can practically get any password they need. On the other hand, if you subscribe to the two-factor authentication with a security question or your mobile phone, that crazy individual will not have a chance to access your account. Hence, Two-Factor authentication would have saved your life.

Clear your cookies and browser history to chase those companies following you around.

As we mentioned somewhere in this article, some companies use cookies for remarketing. In other words, they assume that if you came to their website the first time, then you have some interest in their products. As a result, they will use their products or promotion for hunting you on any website other websites you visit. I do believe that Google, through Google Ads users, advance methods such as session or data from your account (If you click in a link while logging to chrome) to help companies do their remarking. However, in some cases, if you clear your browser history, most of those companies will stop following you.

How can a company take advantage of Cookies and sessions to make more money?

cookies and sessions can help in improving UX

If you are a business owner and think, “Hmm, I need to use this approach to get more customers,”; then this section is for you.

Improve and simplify the logging process of your customers

Most users will not want to come back to your website if they have to log in all the time. With cookies and sessions, you can implement an easy way to looking. You may also have some advanced technology to keep your customers’ accounts active for a long time.

Help your customer’s browser faster on your website.

When you sell thousands of products, it may become difficult for your customers to find your products if you don’t have an advanced search engine. Hence,  using cookies or sessions can help you know what your customers really like and show products based on preferences.

Close more sale and keep your customer’s products in the cart

Most of the website uses cookies for the non-logging customers to keep their products in the shopping cart. And when the user is logging, they use sessions. You can implement that as well for your business.

Conclusion and final thought

I can't imagine the internet without cookies

the concept of Cookies and sessions has been there for quite a long time. I believe they are there to stay. There is currently growing discussion about users’ privacy and some advanced tools such as Google Analytics to track users’ data. Some countries even put a law to force businesses to inform their visitors about Cookies specifically.

For now, we are widely dependent on there used to run business.  Let us cross our fingers and hope countries don’t end up stopping it completely.

If you have a question,  I will be glad to continue with the conversation.

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