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Siteimprove GDPR: Cookie Tracking

Sean Needham avatar
By Sean Needham

What is cookie tracking?

A cookie is a small file placed by the browser onto your computer when you visit a site. This file contains records of your interaction with the site. It can remember preferences and store information provided by a website user, e.g. language selection, login details, etc.

The Siteimprove GDPR module includes cookie tracking which provides users with an overview of the cookies set by the selected website.

Cookie Overview Table

  • Cookie name: The cookie name can be helpful in identifying the purpose of the cookie. The cookie name links to a details page showing the values of the cookie.
  • Domain: The domain is the provider of the cookie. If it’s not the domain of the website currently being visited it is considered to be a "3rd party cookie".
  • Path: The path indicates the pages that will set a cookie. A cookie is sent on all URLs containing the specified path in a domain. Web pages outside of that path cannot use the cookie, e.g. a path of “/” indicates that the cookie will be set on all pages.
  • Expiry: Here you can see how long a cookie is stored on a visitor's computer. Cookies that are deleted once a visitor closes the web browser are called "session cookies", i.e. they expire at the end of the session. Cookies that stay on a visitor's computer beyond the end of a session are called "persistent cookies", for these the time period until the cookie expires is shown.
  • Set by: Cookies are classified as 1st- or 3rd-party. 1st-party cookies are set by the same domain as the one visited, while 3rd-party cookies are set by a different domain.
  • First detected: The date that this cookie was first detected by the Siteimprove crawler. Note: The cookie may have been present before the crawl of the website.
  • Pages with this cookie: Number of pages on which the cookie was found. The page number can be clicked to show a list of the pages.

Cookie Details

In addition to the information given in the overview table, the cookie details page provides the values of each cookies and lists the pages on which the cookie was found.
The value field on the details page can be expanded if there is more than one value. Knowing the value can help identify the purpose of a cookie if it is not clear from the name.
Users also have the option to export the data to a .csv file.

Why is it good to know what cookies are set on your website?

It important to be aware of the cookies being sent by your website so you can assess their liability and the need for cookie consent messaging.

Why is there no data in the cookies table?

The cookie table can be empty for the following reasons:

  • The site has not yet been checked by our crawler.
  • The site has been crawled, but there are no cookies sent from the site. Although this is unusual it can happen in some cases. 
  • Our crawler needs to be configured in order to be able to access the site.

If data is missing from your cookie table, feel free to contact Siteimprove Technical Support, who will be happy to investigate.

Is it possible that additional cookies are set when users visit my website?

Yes, although we configure our crawler to identify as many cookies as possible, additional cookies may be set for visitors to your website. Our crawler is configured to emulate a set of browser conditions, but variations in conditions can result in differences in the cookies that are detected.

Here are some examples of conditions that may affect which cookies are set by your site:

  • The user agent used to access your site, e.g. Internet Explorer users may not see a Facebook "like" button and its associated cookies.
  • Geographic location, e.g. some content and related cookies might be presented to USA users only due to legislation.
  • Referrer, e.g. referrers from reddit see specific content and are sent related cookies.
  • Screen resolution, e.g. iPhone users get specific cookies.
  • Time conditioning, e.g. some cookies may be set on a certain day, after the third visit, or when a user has been on the site for two minutes, etc.
  • Login conditions e.g. users logged into a member's area or LinkedIn get specific cookies.
  • Differences in the crawler’s browser emulation and the browser used can mean JavaScript engine variations and therefore differences in the cookies that are registered.
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