Put Down the Cookies and Walk Away

Cookies are delicious. Whether you like them crunchy or soft, chocolate or fruity, somewhere there is a cookie that you just can’t turn down. But sometimes saying no is the best thing to do.

Unless you're this guy. Sure he looks friendly now, but after, I don't know, 5 minutes without a cookie, you find out why his name is "Monster!"

Obviously, I’m not talking about that kind of cookie here.  We aren’t Gravitate Online Diet Consultants after all. The cookies I’m talking about are small text files that servers send to your browser when you visit a site. These files essentially just make it easier for the browser and sever to communicate. Some cookies are erased when you close your browser, while others are saved for future visits.

Have you ever noticed an ad that keeps popping up all over the place after you visit a certain site? That’s because your browser helped itself to a cookie. Have you ever gone to a website and noticed it remembers who you are, or what you looked at last time you were there? Yep, more cookies. In fact, once you realize just how many cookies your browser has indulged itself with, you’ll be surprised it hasn’t asked for a glass of milk.

What’s this got to do with SEO?

Great question! I’m glad you asked. Remember all that talk about personalization last week? That’s where browser cookies fit in. It can be pretty difficult to get an objective view of your website. First because it’s yours, and you are likely kind of proud of it, and second because you tend to look at it the same way, in the same browser, all the time. In order to get a feel for what the search engines are seeing, you have to remove yourself (and your browser) from your comfort zone.

For example, when you visit a site with multiple versions (i.e. different languages), your browser will store a cookie that communicates with the server so you get the content in your selected language. Since the crawlers can’t accept cookies, they are going to go through every page in every language, which can lead to duplicate content problems. If you are using those undeniably convenient cookies, it can be a real pain to figure out where those duplicate content errors are coming from. On top of that, every link to the homepage now has to pass through that language filter, which can really water down the link juice it was going to serve.

Link Juice and Browser Cookies
A glass of Link Juice goes really well with a plate of Browser Cookies

So if you want to see your site the way search engines (or customers!) see it, the first step is to put your browser on a cookie diet, and Gravitate Online Diet Consultants are glad to help! Disabling your cookies works differently in each browser, but you’ll generally find them in the privacy or content settings area. You can also find all sorts of browser extensions to customize your cookie consumption. You can also try Incognito(Chrome), InPrivate(IE), or Private Browsing(Firefox). These private modes won’t store any new information, but you still might have to delete anything you already have to get the truly cookie-less experience.

So go try it out! Maybe your site will look exactly the same, but you might find something you didn’t expect.