Want a cookie? No? What about a first-party cookie?

What’s the problem with most analytics solutions out of the box?  Nothing really.  In fact, most mainstream free analytics solutions are safelisted on many browser spam filters, or at least held in higher regard than their more expensive enterprise-level alternatives.  What the heck am I talking about?  Cookies.  Those little 1×1 pixels that track everything from the time and source where you came from prior to arriving at a site, right down to your browser type and increasingly – even your demographics!  Don’t accept them or delete them after and your tracking can be inaccurate.

What to do if your user doesn’t want a cookie?  Maybe it’s the color, size or flavour of the cookie.  But most likely it’s where the cookie is coming from.  If you’re running an out-of-the-box analytics solution such as those available from big-name companies such as Omniture or Webtrends, be prepared for a big surprise in cookie abandonment!

Omniture in particular relies on their good old, and somewhat sketchy 2o7.net domain to track all of their cookies.  Basically, companies that are tracking with Omniture are given an id that occupies the subdomain of a 2o7.net URL string pointing to the 1×1 tracking pixel.  Problem is, the 2o7.net domain has been around for ages and ages, and most – if not all – spam filtering software actively searches, finds and deletes those cookies if they’re allowed to download at all.  Herein lies the problem.

Companies such as Omniture and Webtrends admit that their cookie rejection rate on third-party cookies are very high.  In fact, up to 30-40% of third-party cookies can be abandoned or deleted within 30 days, meaning your unique monthly visitors metric, visits metric, and possibly latent campaign success events don’t get tracked properly.  That’s a pretty big margin of error.

Luckily, there is a solution.  For a low-low investment of only around $200US/year and maybe 1-2 hours of implementation time, companies can acquire a security certificate for their domain that can be used to authenticate first-party cookies.  Simply purchase the certificate for secure web traffic (readily available from GoDaddy or Geotrust) setup your CNAME subdomain entries for both secure (SSL) and regular (non-SSL) web traffic, call Omniture or Webtrends and away you go.

This is complicated, why the heck do I want to do all this subdomain redirection and CNAME business?

Simple.  Install first-party cookies across all your sites and replace the blacklisted age-old third-party cookies, and your cookie abandonment issues are all but resolved.  I’ve personally seen cookie abandonment go from 30-40% for third-party cookies to a measily 3-4%That’s a huge difference!

All of a sudden, your campaigns will look a lot better, your unique visitors metrics will be lower than your visits metric (sh*t happens), and you’ll track more visitors for much much longer.  Some first party cookies remain active for more than two years!  In one case, I’ve seen a cookie that’s older than 3 years register a success event on a long but forgotten campaign I was running.  Now that’s impressive.

I’m a big fan of first-party cookies.

On a side-note:  Today, November 11th, is Canadian Remembrance Day and American Veteran’s Day.  Let us all take a moment out of our busy schedules to reflect on the sacrifices made due to war, and remember not to repeat mistakes made in the past.  Lest we forget.

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