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ICO reveal only 18 websites had more than one cookie complaint in 2013

Since the ‘cookie law’ was introduced in the UK, the number of websites asking for permission to set cookies has been growing. Even small company websites are affected, in fact it strangely seems to be them who’ve been the group that have adopted these mechanisms most actively. These usually take the form of a banner or popup. Most of them are fairly ugly, intrusive and what’s worse, they sometimes even break other parts of the website, commonly mobile versions. But, the vast majority of sites still have no cookie warnings and no cookie policy.

So do the ICO have cookie law at the top of their list? Do the public understand cookies well enough to be bothered about reporting their improper usage?

Well I made a Freedom Of Information request to the ICO to find out – specifically asking how many sites had complaints made against them in 2013 and enquiring about any follow up actions.

The information I requested is in bold below…

The number of websites that have had a complaint lodged against them by a member of the public during the period Jan 2013 – Jan 2014 inclusive.

ICO reply: A total of 220 concerns about individual websites have been about brought to our attention via the reporting tool for the period between Jan 2013 and Jan 2014.

The number of websites that have had more than 1 complaint lodged against them by a member of the public during the period Jan 2013 – Jan 2014 inclusive.

ICO reply: 18 of these were organisations that were raised as concerns with us more than once.

The number of warning notices (emails/letters) issued to websites that have had a complaint lodged against them by a member of the public during the period Jan 2013 – Jan 2014 inclusive.

ICO reply: We sent out a total of 51 letters in the time period for which information was requested.

The number of websites that have had any action taken against them (above and beyond a warning letter/email/notice) as a direct result of member of the public raising a complaint during the period Jan 2013 – Jan 2014 inclusive.

ICO reply: We have not taken any formal action beyond writing to organisations and discussing their compliance with them. As is reflected online, this has resulted to sites taking significant steps, so formal enforcement has not been necessary.

So no action harsher than a letter or discussion and only 18 sites with more than 1 complaint all year. I hope this shows that you don’t need big cookie warning banners, you don’t need to force visitors to click ‘agree’ or ‘ok’ before setting cookies. Simply make sure you have a clear cookie policy explaining the name of the cookie, its purpose and the length it’s set for – that should be plenty to keep the ICO at bay.

If huge sites like Amazon and Tesco don’t have ugly and often overly intrusive banners or popups about cookies – why should anyone else? I imagine their vast legal teams told them to ignore it and wait for any warning letters that might arrive before taking action…

My advice (if you’re interested) is by all means add a cookie policy but for heavens sake remove the banners and popups. Good riddance to them all, what a waste of time for all concerned.

P.S. The reply from the ICO also made clear that whilst they receive “very low levels of concerns reported by members of the public” in relation to cookies, the emphasis is still every much on “unwanted marketing communications” – they received over 29,000 complaints of this nature in Q4 of 2013 alone.

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Using National Days, Weeks & Month Events for Link Building

By now you’ve probably read Jon Cooper’s gigantic blog post listing almost every link building strategy known. If you haven’t, then go and read it…now. Back? Great.

I say ‘almost’ every link building strategy because I’ve got one that’s not listed and you don’t see talked about very often. I’m not claiming it’ll work for every site and every industry, but there’s so much scope that I’d be shocked if you couldn’t apply it to your site in some way.

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Claiming a custom Facebook vanity URL with zero likes in 2012

Ever since Facebook announced ‘usernames’ in 2009, they’ve been a handy tool in the armoury, adding an extra touch of professionalism to pages, keeping the brand guys happy and helping them to rank for company or brand names.

The ’25 likes’ rule

It used to be the case that you could only claim a custom Facebook username (or vanity URL) if you had over 25 likes. That number was probably picked to stop spammers, or people who wanted to ‘squat’ the URLs, being able to register them en masse. It meant you couldn’t just setup a page and choose a URL, you had to hustle a little, get friends, family and employees to like the page so you could hit that magic number and claim the name you want before someone else got it.

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