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OSTI’s Web Metrics – Persistent Cookies and the Functionality They Enable

by Mark Martin 30 Nov, 2010 in Technology

Last year I introduced OSTI’s Web Metrics and how they help our organization measure how successful we are in disseminating the research information we curate for the Department of Energy.

Recently we have had the opportunity to enrich the functionality provided by our web metrics.  On June 25th, 2010, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released guidance that enabled the use of persistent cookies for web measurement on Government websites.
What is a persistent cookie?  Why are they important?  Both are great questions.
First and foremost, persistent cookies are important to web users. The use of persistent cookies leads to better designed websites.  These improved websites lead to users finding what they are searching for faster.
A cookie is a small file that a website transfers to your computer to allow the retrieval of specific information about your session while you are connected to a website.  A persistent cookie will remain on your hard drive until it reaches its expiration date or is deleted by you.  This type of cookie is stored on your computer so the website that placed it there can recognize and remember when you return and keep track of which pages on the website you visit.
Persistent cookies are important to web managers because they enable them to understand the usage of their websites better. For example the following questions can be answered through the use of persistent cookies:
How many users return to my site?
What path of navigation do users follow on website?
Is a particular branch of website used once and never again?

Related Topics: cookies, OMB