Google Analytics and our Cookie Consent Tool

By: Richard Beaumont | Wednesday, July 13, 2011 | Tagged: Google Analytics | 1 Comment

Much was made of the ICO's 90% drop in visitor stats after they implemented their cookie consent solution on May 25th.

We implemented our own beta tool on July 4th, and are now ready to reveal our initial insights into the impact it has had on our own site statistics.

Like the ICO solution, the tool on our site waits until visitors have given their consent before dropping the Google Analytics code onto the site pages.

This means that, also like the ICO, if visitors do not allow cookies, we cannot count their visits to our pages.

We therefore fully expected to see a drop in our overall visitor numbers being tracked, and we were not disappointed.  However, what did surprise us was that the numbers did not drop instantly. 

In the first couple of days following the implementation, we saw our visitor stats drop to about 50% of their previous levels, followed by a further drop on the next day to a bottom of about 20% of past levels.

This may be because, like the ICO, a lot of those early visits were from people who were interested in the behaviour of our tool, and were allowing cookies partly just to see what would happen.

However, the fact that we bottomed out at about 20% demonstrates that it is possible to get different results, and the 90% drop the ICO experienced, may not be typical of general behaviour, as I argued in an earlier post.

It gets more interesting though when delving deeper into the behaviour of visitors who have consented to our cookies.

What we have found so far, although it is still early days, is that our bounce rate has halved, and our pages per visit have increased, as has the average time on site.

This tells me that those visitors we are tracking, are more engaged with us - they are more interested in what we have to say.

And these are exactly the sorts of visitors that are most valuable to any website owner.  So although we can only really 'see' a smaller proportion of our visitors now - at least they are the visitors that we most want to be able to see.

Our trackable visitor numbers are rising again now, which is great.  We don't yet know if they are an increasing proportion of the total, or if the total is just rising, we may not know that for some time.

However, this was always the way with any kind of analytics, you only ever saw a sample of the total.  Our sample is now smaller, so in one sense we know less overall, but perhaps in being smaller, it is allowing us to look more closely at those visitors who want to engage with us.

Which in turn means we can better understand what their needs and interests are, and deliver to those needs better.

We are not afraid of entering the 'post consent' era, and for all the negativity surrounding the cookie legislation, it may actually prove to be a benefit to those companies that want to engage better with their online audiences, by giving them a better insight into those that want to engage with them in return.

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