How to Manage Website Cookies

What are Cookies?

Cookies are small text files stored on a user’s computer or mobile device when they visit a website. They allow websites to “remember” information about the user’s visit, such as login credentials, items in a shopping cart, or language preferences.

There are a few main types of cookies:

  • First-party cookies – Set by the website domain being visited
  • Third-party cookies – Set by external domains to track user behavior across multiple sites
  • Session cookies – Temporary and deleted after the browsing session ends
  • Persistent cookies – Stored for a set period of time or until manually deleted

Cookies can be useful for enhancing the user experience and website functionality. However, some cookies collect user data for advertising or analytics purposes, raising privacy concerns.

Why Manage Cookies?

There are a few key reasons websites need to properly manage their use of cookies:

  • Legal compliance – Laws like GDPR and CCPA require user consent for setting most cookies
  • User control – Allowing cookie configuration improves transparency
  • Performance – Less cookies means faster page loads
  • Security – Minimize attack surfaces by only using essential cookies

Failing to manage cookies properly can result in fines, loss of user trust, and other issues.

Steps to Manage Cookies

Managing cookies effectively involves several key steps:

Audit Cookies

Conduct an audit to identify and categorize all cookies being set on your website. Document essential first-party vs. third-party cookies.

Craft Cookie Policy

Create a cookie policy that outlines cookie use cases in plain language. Explain cookie types, data collection, and user controls.

Display Cookie Banner

Show a cookie consent banner before setting non-essential cookies. Allow custom configuration for different cookie categories.

Store Consent Records

Maintain consent records showing user permissions for transparency and legal compliance.

Honor User Preferences

Respect user choices by blocking or deleting cookies they haven’t consented to.

Regularly Review

Reassess your cookie use cases and policy on a regular basis to minimize data collection.

Best Practices

Follow these tips for ideal cookie management:

  • Only use essential cookies by default
  • Load third-party scripts asynchronously
  • Explain cookie purpose and expiration periods
  • Allow granular cookie controls and opt-outs
  • Store consent in a browser cookie
  • Reconfirm consent if policy changes
  • Stay up-to-date on legal requirements

Cookie Management Tools

Specialized tools can streamline cookie management:

Scanner Tools

Identify all cookies on site pages to inventory cookie usage.

Consent Managers

Display cookie banners, store consent records, and honor user preferences.

Analytics Integrations

Connect consent tools to analytics for consent-based tracking.

Script Managers

Control third-party scripts to limit unauthorized cookie setting.


Managing cookies is crucial for website compliance, transparency, security, and performance. Conduct audits to understand cookie usage, craft policies to explain practices, display clear cookie banners, store consent as required by law, and regularly review configurations. Utilize purpose-built cookie management solutions whenever possible for a streamlined approach.