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How cookie control affects 'traffic' and what you can do about it

Many site owners are now getting to grips with cookie management and all of its potential impacts on both the quantity and quality of data moving forwards - so what can we do to help save your data?

Cookies and their impact on your data

Cookies and their management have truly become one of, if not the, most important considerations of website development in recent years. From the launch of GDPR back in 2018 to Google’s intended phasing out of third party cookies later in 2024 (update: now pushed back to 2025...maybe), wider understanding and appreciation of cookies has developed rapidly in the last five years or so. 

This awareness extends to the general web browsing public, who are now consistently asked when landing on a website whether they want to accept or reject cookies (regardless of whether they understand what they are).

This simple decision to accept or reject can have a massive impact on a website’s reported traffic via tools such as Google Analytics - with one response potentially unlocking invaluable insights into both how your website is performing and how to improve it, while the other response is lost in the great digital abyss.

We have performed a deep dive into the data we have collected from a range of sites where we have helped manage the transition from a pre-cookie managed state to a post-cookie managed state and the numbers are quite stark.

The average amount of traffic ‘lost’ following cookie management implementation was 28%. For one particular site this figure was as high as 50%.

That’s a lot of missing data.

We understand this can make site owners potentially nervous in making the switch to a cookie management solution for their site. Fundamentally though it is a move which has to be made if you want to remain legally compliant and there have been some high profile cases to serve as a warning to this.

Here’s the good news however, there are ways to mitigate this potential loss.

Accept? Reject?....Other?

The potential remedy addresses an issue which is often overlooked in that the simple choice we mentioned earlier to accept or reject isn’t quite binary, there is a third option for the user - do nothing. In many standard cookie banner implementations, the banner will appear but the user can still browse the website and interact with all other elements on page. Indeed a user could complete their entire journey through the site without ever interacting with the banner, particularly if not obtrusively designed.

Although in many ways that sounds great in that a user was able to perform their intended actions onsite without being impeded by the banner it does mean you’ve lost all that fantastic data. So what we want to do here is compel the user to interact with the banner, without irritating the user into abandoning their onsite action.

‘Encouraged’ interaction

We have found through implementation across a wide range of sites that by decreasing the opacity of the background and removing the ability to engage with those background elements, the proportion of users accepting cookies has increased notably.

For one particular site we found that traffic was returned to the levels experienced prior to cookie management being implemented onsite. While for others, although maybe only experiencing a ≈10% increase in data compared to the figures post cookie management drop, that additional 10% could be crucial in providing insights into your site that might have been otherwise lost.

A problem solved but a more fundamental one remains

The solution discussed above is perhaps not appropriate for everyone but does seeks to solve the problem of indecision from a user. However, what remains is that even by encouraging a user to interact with the banner they can (and many will) still reject cookies - but why? 

As a follow up to this post we’ll take a look at the reasons why a user may want to reject cookies and provide some potential solutions as to how these concerns can be addressed.