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Best Practices For Cookie Usage For Web Metrics Tracking

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#1 ttw


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Posted 20 July 2009 - 05:02 PM


Are there any public sources for best practices regarding the length of time a cookie is left on a visitor's computer?

Is there an industry standard for cookie usage?



#2 Randy


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Posted 21 July 2009 - 06:25 AM

There's no standard that I've ever seen Rosemary. It's one of those things where the length often depends upon the need for having the cookie in the first place.

For my own sites, where I've always got some kind of conversion tracking in place, I set a cookie that lasts 1 year from the date of the original visit. I could probably go with less and make do just as well, but one year sounded like a good compromise and hasn't caused me any problems.

Google Analytics sets a 2 year cookie, and they update its expiration date each time you visit the site. Meaning if you had visited 6 months ago and visited again today the cookie expiration would show as 2 years from today, not 2 years from your original visit. That's okay I guess since they're more concerned with the history of visits and primarily about new traffic vs. returning traffic. I don't think I'd want to do something like that for conversion statistics though. The chances of the user having bookmarked your site on that original visit are pretty low if it then took them over a year to purchase. So you'd probably miss out on the new search phrase they used to find you all those months after initially finding you.

On sort of the flip side of the coin are affiliate cookies. I've seen those get set for anything from a few months to one year, but many seem to be in the six month range. Meaning if an affiliate had directed someone to you 7 months ago and the affiliate cookie was set for 6 months, that affiliate would no longer get credit for the sale.

I don't have a position on that one. Affiliates of course like longer term cookies. Merchants like shorter. I can understand the positions of each camp.

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