A Guide to Wordpress Cookies

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Guide to Wordpress Cookies

Cookies play a central role in terms of managing user experience and personalizing user interactions in the world of web development. They help web developers improve user experience and provide personalized content to the users while also allowing them to track user interactions on a website.

Wordpress is the most popular content management system and used for developing various types of websites from personal blogs to portfolio sites and ecommerce sites. Understanding how cookies function in Wordpress is critical for Wordpress users to maintain compliance with privacy regulations while also optimizing website performance.

In this post, we will take a look at the types of cookies used in Wordpress and how they help you provide your users a superior experience, how safe they are and some of the best practices with regards to cookie implementation.

What are cookies in web development and Wordpress?

Cookies are basically small pieces of data that are stored on a user’s device by a website. Their role is significant in terms of tracking user behavior, remembering users’ preferences as well as improving website functionality.

If you are a Wordpress user, you will need to have cookies enabled in your browser so you can login since Wordpress relies on cookies for authentication.

When you visit a website, it remembers your credentials, pages you browsed, articles or items you liked and so on. All of this is made possible with the help of cookies. These cookies allow us to store user data safely. Websites can offer more personalized experiences with the help of cookies and without putting user data at risk.

Basically, Wordpress uses two types of cookies which are users’ cookies and commenters’ cookies. However, there are more types of cookies like analytics and session cookies that we will describe later on in this post.

Are cookies secure?

One important concern with regards to the use of cookies is that of security. Users often think if it is secure to use cookies and if they store data securely. Security is not your worry while using cookies. It is because user data is secure with cookies. Whether it is the login credentials or other user data like pages liked, all of this data is secure with cookies. The actual Wordpress cookies have hashed data which means by just gleaning at the cookie data, someone cannot find out your password or whatever data is stored in the cookies.

Hashed data is the result of a specific mathematical formula applied to the input data like your login credentials. It is quite hard to reverse hashed data or to unhash it which makes cookies highly secure. Noone can unhash the Wordpress cookie data to know about users’ personal data. However, in case of third party cookies like those set by plugins and themes, you have to be a bit cautious.

Types of WordPress Cookies

  1. Session Cookies: The session cookies used in Wordpress are temporary and expire when the user closes the browser. These cookies are essential for maintaining user sessions and storing information temporarily. They store data temporarily such as login credentials and user preferences during a single browsing session.

  2. Persistent Cookies: The lifespan of persistent cookies is longer compared to the session cookies and will stay on the users’ device even after they have closed the browser. These cookies last for multiple sessions which means users will not need to enter the same data for several sessions. Persistent cookies can store user credentials and preferences for multiple sessions.

  3. Authentication Cookies: As the name implies these cookies are used by WordPress for user authentication. Wordpress uses authentication cookies to verify the identity of logged-in users. These cookies help maintain user sessions and ensure secure access to restricted pages of a website.

  4. Commenter Cookies: The commenter cookies store commenter data. It is purely for the commenters convenience so that if the commenter will comment again, he will not need to enter the same data. As you might have seen, there are generally three fields in the comments box in Wordpress which include username, email and website. So, Wordpress sets three cookies for commenters:

  • comment_author_{HASH}

  • comment_author_email_{HASH}

  • comment_author_url_{HASH}

When a commenter leaves a comment for the first time, this data gets stored and saves the commenter time when he needs to leave more comments on other posts.

  1. Analytics Cookies: Analytics cookies are used for collecting data related to user behavior on the website. Most of the Wordpress users employ Google analytics for collecting data on user behavior. It includes the data about pages they visited, the length of the visit and other data. Analytics cookies help understand user behavior and their interaction with the website allowing webmasters to better optimize their website for superior user experience.

WordPress and GDPR Compliance

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has significantly affected how websites handle user data, including cookies. However, ensuring compliance in wordpress with GDPR, CCPA and other user data related regulations is easy. Wordpress websites are required to provide their visitors clear information regarding the type of cookies in use on the website. Users should explicitly consent to the use of non-essential cookies and obtaining user consent with regards to the use of cookies in Wordpress is generally made possible through the use of a cookie consent plugin or service.

Best Practices for WordPress Cookies

  1. Cookie Consent Banner: You can easily implement a cookie consent banner on your Wordpress website to obtain user consent with regards to using cookies on your website. The cookie consent banner basically informs the users about the use of cookies on the website and that they are required to provide their explicit consent. USers will click on the banner to approve or deny the use of cookies. There are several Wordpress plugins that allow for easy implementation and customization of a cookie consent banner on your site. You can use cookie plugins like Cookie Yes or Complianz to implement a cookie consent banner and obtain user permission.

  2. Cookie Policy Page: You also need to implement a cookie policy page on your website which can be added to the wordpress site in the same manner as you add other static pages like the contact page. You can ensure that this page is easily accessible on your site by adding a link in the menu or in the footer of your website. You can use one of the free cookie policy generators to create a customized cookie policy for your own website.

  3. Plugin Management: Regularly review and update plugins to ensure they are compatible with the latest WordPress version and comply with privacy regulations. Some plugins may use cookies, and it’s crucial to be aware of their impact on user privacy.

  4. Secure Cookie Implementation: When developing custom functionalities, ensure that cookies are implemented securely. Use secure, encrypted connections (HTTPS) to transmit cookies and set appropriate flags, such as the ‘Secure’ flag, to enhance security.

  5. Regular Audits: Regularly check your website’s cookies to identify and address any potential privacy or security related concerns. Sometimes, there are a number of cookies set by third party services and plugins which also need to be reviewed from time to time to ensure full compliance.

Deleting Wordpress Cookies

Clearing Wordpress cookies is easy and you can clear them any time from your browser. If you are using the chrome browser, just click on the three dots on the top right and then click on clear browsing data.

Clear cookies in chrome Now, you can select to clear cookies from your browser by ticking the box next to cookies and other site data.

Click on the clear data button and all the cookies from your browser for the selected time range will be cleared.

However, if you want to delete specific cookies in Chrome, click on the three dots on the top right and go to settings from the drop down list.

From here, click on privacy and security in the left sidebar and then go to third party cookies.

Now, click on see all site data and permissions to check out the list of websites storing cookies in your browser.

Search for the website you want to delete cookies for in the search on the top right.

Now, you can delete cookies by clicking on the delete icon next to that website.

A few last words:

Cookies play a vital role in terms of providing a superior and personalized experience as well as better site functionality. When creating a website with Wordpress, you will need to ensure that you have a dedicated cookie policy page and you have implemented a cookie policy banner to ensure that users can provide consent. Wordpress cookies are secure because of being hashed which means you do not have to worry about users’ data falling in wrong hands. Knowing about the Wordpress cookies, their purposes and cookie management best practices is essential for both user satisfaction and maintaining regulatory compliance. The cookie plugins in Wordpress make it very easy for webmasters to implement and customize cookie banners. However, you will not always need a plugin since there are several online services which make it easy to implement the banner by just adding a link to the website header. Wordpress publishers and developers who are using Google AdSense, Ad Manager, or AdMob are now required to use a Google Certified CMP (Consent Management Platform). Google has provided a detailed list of its certified CMPs that you can check out to know if you are using the right CMP. This list includes both CookieYes and Complianz as well as several more. Cookie Yes and Complianz are available in the form of plugins in the Wordpress repository. You are already using one of them on your website, there is nothing to worry about. To learn if the service you are using for consent management on your website is Google certified or not, just check out the list.