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Stop data loss from cookie consent in 3 steps

30/08/2023

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Dave Karellen
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*This content was originally recorded in 2022*

Today, we’re talking about the cookie consent configuration in 2022 and the wider scope of that, ie. privacy. We’ll also touch on preventing data loss by not jumping the gun. 

 

Privacy is a huge topic in 2022, although the conversation got going in 2021 a bit before that. But, 2022 really seems like it’s going to be the time when Google in particular starts raining down the privacy blows on us. 

Google To Move Away From Third-Party Cookies

Let’s start with a bit of background; Google as an industry has announced that it’s going to start moving away from third party cookies.

The estimated date for this is at some point in 2023, it was going to be in 2022 but it’s been knocked back a little bit. Shame.

 

Privacy Leads to Data Loss

We’re all for privacy, there’s nothing wrong with privacy, however there’s obviously a lot of consequences with it from a digital marketing standpoint. The removal of third-party cookies is going to come with a loss of data and data is absolutely crucial to advertisers. This is very similar to the iOS updates that Facebook endured in the previous year (2021), which demonstrated that loss of data can really hurt.

Google is going to be moving towards privacy-centric metrics as they call them, so things like Enhanced Conversions, Consent Mode and GA4. This is all going to be very very important in terms of being able to transition, but what’s important is that we need to transition, and at the right time.

 

1. Don’t Set Strict Compliance Measures Until Necessary

A lot of developers are already scrambling around the importance of privacy and how crucial it is to start setting up websites to make them as compliant as possible. 

What happens however is that developers jump the gun a little bit and they look for the most privacy compliant measures possible. 

This is usually by setting up cookie consent forms which are the strictest they possibly can be. This is preemptive – there’s no need for it right now – we aren’t moving away from third party cookies just yet. 

Unfortunately what tends to happen when developers set this up is that they don’t tell anybody else. What you end up with is developers implementing these cookie consent forms, not telling anybody and then, all of a sudden, all the data drops off, and no one knows why because it’s just a tick box that the developer sorted on the website. 

What this can lead to, as previously mentioned, is massive data loss. A disaster of Icelandic Volcanic proportions. Kind of.

 

2. Spotting Data Loss

The video above shows a prime example of this, illustrating what would happen to the PPC traffic. This isn’t just a PPC issue either, it’s also the same on Organic as cookie consent results in data loss there too.

The way to spot this is a massive jump in Direct as well as a reduction in Paid. Even though these are reductions in traffic they’re not complete declines or cliff edges and so can be easily missed, particularly when it coincides with expected data.

For example, when you move out of December on a highly seasonal client then that might be expected to extend so it can mask this, particularly if nobody tells you otherwise. With regards to the impact on PPC specifically, when the Session Data and, more importantly, the Revenue Data doesn’t get tracked into Google ads, the bid strategies start to notice that there isn’t enough revenue coming in. They then adjust themselves accordingly as per the automation that’s supposed to make PPC easier. As a result, the spend is reduced back down because there isn’t the observed amount of revenue and conversions coming through the system.

This can pull back your campaigns when, in fact, they’re performing very well, which is obviously a big issue and something that needs to be unpicked.

So, how do you actually go about spotting this? Again, it’s simply to have a look for any big spikes in Direct traffic. Don’t solely focus on PPC metrics, lest you miss a trick.

 

3. Mitigating Data Loss

Somewhat obviously, be sure to have good communication going with developers. Anything between a developer and an end client should also be communicated with advertisers, as it has a massive impact on advertisers, and the data that’s given to them. 

Data loss can be slightly mitigated in a sense with things like Google consent mode. These tools aren’t really (and Google will probably be the first to admit this) where they need to be yet. They’re still developing these tools and moving us all towards them, so the main solution in all of these cases is to revert it.

Stop it, change it, get that cookie consent configuration completely off and back to how it was.

Looking to the Future

Cookie consent will need to come at some point, there’s no use hiding away from that fact; it’s something that we are all going to have to transition towards. Yet when we reach the point that it’s an involuntary issue and our hands are forced, you’d hope that Google’s solutions are going to be a lot more robust.

If they are a lot more robust then that means that we don’t need to worry about any of this and there’ll be ways to get around the loss of data. It will all be a moot point.

What seems to be happening at the minute is a lot of developers having an “early bird catches the worm” mentality. They’ll assume putting on the cookie consent form as early as possible is most beneficial. Err, they’re wrong.

In fact, what it actually amounts to is a ‘herd of gazelles” and the first one “jumping out at a pack of lions”.

We need to wait. It doesn’t need to come yet. 

 

If cookie consent and the privacy jobsworths are getting your hackles up, it might be a good time to get a PPC audit, or call in some PPC mercenaries. Contact Dark Horse.

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