July 21, 2005

The Web cookie is crumbling -- and marketers feel the fallout

"Internet cookies used to be a treat for marketers looking for ways to measure advertising response, but lately they've become a lot less tasty."

Globeandmail.com has an interesting article on trends in cookie deletion. As more and more internet users are affected by spyware, virii, and privacy concerns, they are increasingly trying to keep themselves and their computers from becoming victims. People are using anti-spyware programs and also manually deleting cookies - roughly once a month according to the article.

While cookies have gotten a bad rap for their unethical use by some companies as well as their unhealthy fat content, most marketers use cookies to gather customer information to better serve the customer and to track key metrics. In the pay per click arena, many times the agency won't even get credit for a conversion if the user deletes their cookies after clicking a link but before completing the conversion. It is also detrimental to the optimization of an ad campaign because the statistics will not be completely accurate - you don't benefit from fixing something that might not even be broken.

While most harmful to long term consumer behavior analysis, the problem isn't as bad in search since a majority of purchases are made on the same day or within a few days of a click. Nevertheless, depending on the metrics you are trying to measure, it might be critical to track a customer for as long as possible, currently 60 days (the length of time before a cookie expires).

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