1. My personal statement on privacy, and an explanation of why I use cookies on this website

My name is Alastair McDermott. I’m the owner and operator of WebsiteDoctor.com and the business behind it, WebsteDoctor. Here are my thoughts on online privacy.

I grew up reading George Orwell and Robert Heinlein, so I’m a very big proponent of privacy and our rights, online and offline. The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) is one of my primary charities for the work they do in this area and I’ve vehemently argued for the “right to be forgotten” on discussion forums.

That said, here’s the thing about this website: the entire purpose of this site is to help small businesses to increase their online sales, and a massive part of that is tracking design changes and user behaviour on websites which needs cookies.

This website is also a testing ground for experimentation in new technologies. So I need to be straight up: this is my site and I’m putting valuable information up here for no charge and so I absolutely reserve the right to use these cookies to track user behaviour on the site.

By visiting this site assume that you’re being tracked anonymously using cookies from several different services. In fact if I don’t list a specific cookie that you’re concerned about, assume that this site DOES use it. There’s a full list below, but not all are in use simultaneously as I test different services,  but in general:

  • At least one “analytics cookie”: this will tell me what pages visitors are looking at, and how long they spend on them. The purpose I use this for is to create more stuff that people like looking at. I don’t get your contact info. At time of writing I use Google Analytics for this, I have used others in the past.
  • At least one “retargeting cookie”: this allows me to tell another service, e.g. Facebook, that someone visited my site. Then, later, I can say “Hey Facebook, show this advertisement to people who visited my site”. I don’t get your contact info. At time of writing I use Facebook retargeting for this but I definitely will be experimenting with other services over time, including any of the social media providers and any other service that provides retargeting.
  • An “A/B Testing” or “Split Testing” cookie : this is used to improve the site design and content and tracks which version of something you were shown. E.g. I might split test a red button and an orange button – it tracks which coloured button was shown to you. Later this data is aggregated to give me a breakdown of how many clicked each one, e.g. 12% of 1000 visitors clicked the red version, 18% of 1000 visitors clicked the orange, therefore the orange is more effective.
  • A “pop-up cookie”: this stores the fact that you were shown a cookie and closed it, and makes sure you’re not shown a cookie when you visit again. If you delete this cookie you’ll see a popup again, if you keep it.
  • An “email service cookie”: this will store the email signup form that you used, and tells the email service that I use so that it knows which valuable free resource you just got. This may store which website pages you visited after registering for email. Note: this one MAY NOT be anonymised.
  • A specific “previous visitor cookie”: I don’t have one currently, but it’s kind of like the analytics one, what it does is show different things to new visitors vs previous visitors. Something like “First time here? Check out our welcome page with free resources to get you started” vs “Welcome back! We’ve added a new resource to the advanced resources page that you may want to check out”.

Some parts of the site may require these cookies to work. You are more than welcome to browse the website in Private or Incognito mode which stores no cookies, just bear in mind not all site features may work and you may see That Annoying Popup You Hate for the 3rd time because it doesn’t know that you already closed it – the joys of privacy.

My Advice: Clear All Cookies Regularly

The web is impossible to use without cookies, most technologies depend on them. Rather than avoid them all the time, I highly recommend that you regularly clear your cookies, every week or two.

In most web browsers you can do this by going to something like Settings –  History – Clear Cookies. I also recommend using a program like CCleaner (that stands for “Crap Cleaner”) on Windows which deletes cookies (as well as a whole bunch of other temporary files) off your computer.

I hope you find the content useful enough and valuable enough to you and your business that you’ll put up with the use of cookies!

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