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Web Site Measurement Hacks by Eric T. Peterson

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Improve Data Accuracy with Cookies

Cookies are a fundamental component in any web measurement solution and they come in several flavors. Because of the explosion in use of anti-spyware applications, you need to understand how cookies are commonly used and make an active decision about how they’ll be used on your site.

In theory, one of the simplest ways to improve the accuracy of your analytics data is to use cookies as a data tracking mechanism. A cookie is a piece of information that is stored by your web browser and comes in two minor variations: session cookies and persistent cookies. Session cookies last only as long as the visitor is on your site and are deleted after the user closes her web browser or after some period of inactivity (typically 30 minutes [Hack #1] ). Persistent cookies last beyond a single visit and have an expiration date some time in the future. Session and persistent cookies use identical technology but differ in how they’re treated by security and privacy applications like the Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3P) [Hack #26] .

Session Cookies for Short-Term Accuracy

Session cookies are typically set by web server applications and allow your analytics solution to group interactions with your web server at the visit level. With logfile-based solutions, you should enable your web server to set session cookies and configure your analytics solution to track these session cookies in your logs. Tag-based solutions [Hack #3] will typically set their own session ...

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