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Why GDPR Might Be Killing Your GA

Why GDPR might be killing your analytics

Discover how being GDPR compliant might be negatively impacting your website’s analytics.

4 minute read

Disclaimer: We are not qualified to offer any kind of legal advice. This post is not intended to give and does not offer or represent any kind of legal advice. We would always recommend that you seek your own independent legal advice and work with your own legal counsel for any GDPR-related or other legal actions you may take.

GDPR: a hot topic for business owners

Over the last couple of years, we’ve supported many clients with their new website design and development. One topic that’s always high on the priority list GDPR compliance, particularly the complexities involved in ensuring a website is compliant.

The crux of website GDPR compliance generally focuses on the collection of personally identifiable data. There are many ways that a website can collect personally identifiable data, but two of the main ones are through contact forms and eCommerce checkouts.

Why has my traffic dropped?

If you’ve recently launched a new GDPR-compliant website or added any kind of cookie consent banner or popup to your existing site to make it compliant, then you may have noticed a dramatic drop in traffic.

While many elements could have caused this, it is likely a direct result of making your cookies GDPR compliant. Roughly 90% of users ignore cookie notifications which means that you’re only allowed to track the behaviour of the accepting 10%.

So, the good thing is that while your Google Analytics (GA) data might look like your traffic has fallen off a cliff, it probably hasn’t. Instead, it could just be that if your cookie banner is set up to prevent tracking until consent is obtained – which to be GDPR compliant, it needs to be. And 90% of users don’t acknowledge your banner; then your GA reports will only show the data for the 10% that have given their consent for cookie tracking.

Possible solutions

There are ways around this, and it comes down to the difference between personally identifiable data and non-personally identifiable data. GDPR compliance focuses on personally identifiable data, so the first thing to do would be to understand whether your website needs to ask for consent.

If you’re only tracking basic first-party Goggle Analytics data such as the number of visitors, bounce rates etc. (which is non-personally identifiable data), then you may not need to ask for consent.

If you’re collecting advertising data that requires personally identifiable information, such as demographic data, interest reports, or you’re using remarketing tools, then you may need to seek consent.

It’s also worth remembering that GDPR is not just about how you use (or don’t use) GA. It relates to all data collection on your website. This means that if you’re using any other tracking technology such as social share icons, widgets, or plugins with 3rd party tracking pixels that collect and share data, you may need to obtain consent.

To be safe, many organisations request consent by default to ensure compliance regardless, as you’re almost guaranteed to be using some kind of tracking on your website.

If you decide that you only need first-party data from GA, there is another solution whereby you use a cookie banner to differentiate first-party and third-party tracking. This banner would prevent third-party tracking from taking place until you obtain consent and assumes that first-party data is acceptable to collect with or without consent. This method means you will not lose traffic in GA. But you will lose the ability to remarket to users or see reports on their interests and demographic data like age or location.

These insights are taken from an extensive blog written by Brian Clifton, ex-Head of Web Analytics at Google, where he explores GDPR and tracking consent.

We’ll be covering this topic in more detail over the upcoming months, including tips when requesting consent from users and why you should be looking beyond Google Analytics when it comes to website analytics and performance.

But if you’re in any doubt about your website’s GDPR status, we’d always recommend seeking the advice of an appropriately qualified legal professional.

We hope you found this information useful. Be the first to hear about our latest insights by registering for our weekly newsletter.

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