What’s a “Cookie”?

Cookies are pieces of text stored in a particular format within your browser’s memory when you visit a website. Just like you might mix up ingredients for baking a cake, websites use data from cookies to ‘bake up’ the kind of experience they think users should have. Common tasks performed by cookie-generated data include:

  • Remembering login information so that visitors don’t have to re-enter them each time they visit the page;
  • Not duplicating ads for the same person on the same page
  • Advertising customizations;
  • Filling in forms on the page (like name or address); and
  • Temporarily storing information while the user navigates around a single page.

Why are there Banners, Bubbles, Popups and “Consent Management”?

Have you ever visited a website and seen a banner that pops up asking if you accept cookies? That’s a cookie consent banner. It’s a simple way for websites to comply with data privacy regulations by letting visitors know that the website uses cookies (small pieces of data that are stored on your computer by a website) and giving visitors the choice to accept or decline them.

A complete consent management system, on the other hand, is a more comprehensive solution that allows website owners to manage and track user consent for different types of data collection and processing. It goes beyond just cookies and can include things like collecting email addresses for newsletters, tracking user behavior on the website, and sharing data with third-party services.

So, while a cookie consent banner is a basic way to comply with data privacy regulations, a complete consent management system is a more advanced solution that gives website owners greater control over how they collect and use user data.

We will talk about both below. The biggest difference is price. A management system is a service – where a monthly fee is involved. A banner can be a simple plugin that is free. Regardless of the system you use, you will have to list out the cookies that you use.

Knowing the cookies on your site, and how to stop them is an important part of creating a cookie policy. Let’s talk about types of cookies and how to discover the ones you have.

What Kinds of Cookies do I have?

The most common classification system for cookies, was proposed and developed by The UK International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). The ICC proposes these four classes of cookies:

  1. Strictly Necessary Cookies
  2. Performance Cookies
  3. Functionality Cookies
  4. Targeting/Advertising Cookies

Having such a classification makes it easier for us, as bloggers, as well as visitors to our sites. We can now explain how we handle cookies in groupings, instead of each individual cookie – which gets technical and long-winded.

Strictly Necessary Cookies

“These cookies are essential in order to enable you to move around the website and use its features, such as accessing secure areas of the website. Without these cookies services you have asked for, like shopping baskets or e-billing, cannot be provided.

Consent to use strictly necessary cookies is not needed. (source) A Strictly Necessary Cookie is anything required to carry out the transaction that the user requested. If they went to your site to shop, it doesn’t make sense to ask them if they want the shopping cart to work (it won’t work without cookies).

Performance Cookies

“These cookies collect information about how visitors use a website, for instance which pages visitors go to most often, and if they get error messages from web pages. These cookies don’t collect information that identifies a visitor. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. It is only used to improve how a website works. [emphasis mine]

Functionality Cookies

“These cookies allow the website to remember choices you make (such as your user name, language or the region you are in) and provide enhanced, more personal features. For instance…  these cookies can be used to remember changes you have made to text size, fonts and other parts of web pages that you can customise. They may also be used to provide services you have asked for such as watching a video or commenting on a blog. The information these cookies collect may be anonymised and they cannot track your browsing activity on other websites.

Targeting/Advertising Cookies

“These cookies are used to deliver adverts more relevant to you and your interests. They are also used to limit the number of times you see an advertisement as well as help measure the effectiveness of the advertising campaign. They are usually placed by advertising networks with the website operator’s permission. They remember that you have visited a website and this information is shared with other organisations such as advertisers. Quite often targeting or advertising cookies will be linked to site functionality provided by the other organisation.

Find out what cookies you use

First you need to know which are in use on your site! You can do this one of two ways:

  1. Use a service that provides a free report – like CookieBot.com
  2. Get a Consent Management System that does this for you.

If you opt for the free report from CookieBot.com. It will scan a limited number of pages. Be aware that if you add code from advertisers, YouTube, or anywhere else to single pages or posts, those cookies will only show up on those pages.

It can take a couple hours for your report to arrive. Be patient. When it comes, it will look something like this:

Now that you have a list of cookies, that are categorized, you can copy/paste them into your designed consent management platform – or cookie consent banner.

Most Popular Plugins for Installing Cookie Policies Automatically

Illow Policy Maker, our favorite!
illow provides a full Consent Management Platform. It provides a cookie policy in multiple languages to ensure that all users can understand how you use cookies on your website.

Your website is scanned and all the cookies are found, and categorized automatically. You can turn on “Block until Consent” to be compliant in the EU and prevent cookies from firing before a user can customize their permissions or opt-out.

Then you customize your banner, and the plugin does the work to create the cookie policy for you. It will track who selects which level of permission. And it will also facilitate the erasure of data, if requested.

With illow, the cookie policy is created automatically to ensure that it is always up-to-date and compliant with relevant privacy laws and regulations.

Cookie yes operates both the consent banner, and also the Consent Management Platform. They have a free version of the consent banner. And monthly fees around $15 for the CMP.

Cookiebot ($39/month – Cookiebot)
This is a consent management system that provides automatic scans of your website to ensure that you are compliant with the latest EU cookie regulations.

Complianz GDPR & CCPA Cookie Consent ($18/year – WordPress Plugin Directory)
This tool provides an easy way of managing all these regulations in one single solution, having a wizard creating both policies tailored for the business upon installation and easily upgradable when needed in order to have an always up-to-date legal document set following any changes within laws and regulations concerning website compliance worldwide.

How to Add a Cookie Policy to WordPress

In conclusion, we recommend, and use illow to add a consent banner and also use their complete consent management tools. It is easy to set up. And you can get a deal for $50 off right now (at time of writing).

Beginner Checklist

If you’re starting out, you’ll love our comprehensive 52 point checklist for your website! Read through once, and then work on items one at a time as it comes up!

52 Edits Checklist – beginners categories

Cathy Mitchell

Single Mom, Lifelong Learner, Jesus Follower, Founder and CEO at WPBarista.