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January 26, 2023
A lot has been happening the past 2 years on the cookie front and I think it is now crystal clear that every website has to have a cookie consent banner and follow the rules for GDPR compliance. Websites and services are expected to be transparent about their data collection practices and provide clear and concise information about the types of cookies they use, what the data is used for and most of all give their users the option of accepting or declining the cookies that gather data. If they do not, they could be facing fines or denial of access to services like Google Ads.
I will not go more in depth here into what cookies are, why you need them or how to implement a cookie consent. What I will focus on instead in this article is the effect the cookie consent has on the data you collect on your website (mainly the statistical marketing data). And, what we can do to get more users to accept cookies and improve this data.
When we implemented the cookie consent on our website morningrtain.dk, the traffic immediately dropped by ~40%. Let´s be clear, we did not get 40% less visits, but we did lose 40% of our data in Google analytics. That was quite significant for a company that depended on meticulous lead tracking and used the insights to guide our marketing strategy.
Since both the EU and Google now insist on all websites being compliant no matter which data they gather, it won´t do any good trying to avoid setting up a cookie consent. We had to instead find other ways to improve our data gathering.
And the only possible way to do this is to get the users on board and make sure more of them opt in and give their consent to cookies so we could continue collecting statistical marketing data.
Now, the rules for being GDPR compliant are strict and quite clear:
So, if we are not allowed to play around with button color and we are, more or less, locked in the content displayed in the cookie consent what is there left for us to do?
Well, there is still the position of the banner.
Of course the position of the cookie banner affects the opt-in rate. Users will be more likely to notice a cookie consent banner placed in a prominent position on the website. They will also be less likely to notice it or take time to read it if it completely blends in with the design of the page or is placed “out of the way” like at the very top of the page.
A study examining cookie implementation in Eu found that 64.6% websites place their cookie banner at the bottom of the screen, 27.2% place it at the top and only 7.8% of websites place it in the center. The same study also concluded that the opt was highest when the banner was placed in the bottom.
Speculations are that the placement in the bottom was more likely to cover the content of the website and encourage the visitor to action where the cookie banners placed in the top were easier to ignore (ignore, not oversee – important difference).
But just because users were more likely to take action doesn´t mean they were accepting cookies. And ignoring the cookies and declining them has the same effect as cookies do not start collecting data before the user gives consent.
So, if we run with this last speculation (of visitors being annoyed with the content that is covered and being “forced” into action if we looked at it from a more negative perspective), can we then “encourage” the users even more by using a full screen cookie pop up? And how would this affect the opt in rate?
We set up an experiment of our own to find out 😊
The experiment was set up using Cookiebot. Cookiebot has a log for each user interaction with the cookie consent that can be downloaded from their site.
We had our cookie consent window set to overlay (center position with the rest of the screen darkened) for 2.5 months, followed by 2.5 months of setting the consent banner to show at the bottom of the screen.
We also set up the same experiment (although reduced to a 2 month period) on several of our B2B clients to see if there were any significant fluctuations.
Why exclusively B2B clients? Well, B2B companies usually have a high number of visitors from other companies. These visitors are more likely to use a desktop device (Cookiebot uses different layouts based on device) and are more inclined to use which ever browser their IT team set up for them (most likely without any form of ad blocker or automatic cookie declining browser extensions). This helps us get data that is cleaner and easier to compare across different niches.
Our assumption was that the bottom bar was easier to ignore compared to the full screen pop up which prevented the user from seeing the content. The expected result was that there would be more users that opt in on cookies purely because there would be more users that were actively making a decision.
5 months passed and the results are in.
Placing the cookie consent banner at the bottom of the page resulted in 7.7% more opt-ins compared to a window positioned at the center with a dark overlay.
The bottom banner also has 18.3% less users declining cookies when compared to the window at the center.
Additionally, there is a drop in users who make adjustments to which cookies are accepted and which are not.
We also got similar results on the other websites where the experiment was conducted. The opt in rate was increased by 5-9%.
The results show without a doubt that the position of the cookie banner has a direct effect on the opt-in rate. But not in the way we anticipated.
I have to admit that this made us scratch our heads a bit and there was a fair bit of discussion as to why the bottom banner performs better.
We decided to ask our Senior Art Director Thomas Dyrehauge for his professional opinion and here is what he had to say on the matter:
“The full screen solution forces the user to make a choice, and it was not the choice they came to the page to make. And on top of that, this choice must be done before they can use the page.
The banner at the bottom is more subtle and they can perform the interaction they came for without having to make a choice on cookies, which also makes the user more likely to click away by allowing all cookies without thinking much about it.
The conclusion is therefore that if you force the user to make a choice, i.e. with a fullscreen overlay, the probability that they will either reject or allow only the necessary cookies is higher, as the user will often avoid making a choice”.
So all things considering, is this small increase in statistical data worth the time and bother spent in adjusting the cookie consent banner.
Well, it depends on your niche and business type honestly.
A B2C webshop with an average of 70 000 users per month is probably gathering enough data already and the data from these 7% won´t change their marketing strategy significantly.
A B2B company which makes fewer, but large volume sales distributed across a period of a year and whose business model depends on client retention and additional sales might also be very dependent on tracking down each and every lead that comes knocking on the door. Here the 7% data increase could make a difference on the direction of the marketing strategy the company decides to focus on. The additional data might also show potentials of a specific channel and scaling opportunities.
Seeing how website traffic, the number of conversions and turnover are so closely connected, we can set things a bit more in perspective. A company with a turnover of 30 million will in this way be able to see where exactly 2.1 million of their turnover originated from.
Also, if you use Cookiebot, it really won´t take you more than a couple of minutes to make changes to the position.
Well, if you ask me, my clear recommendation is that you place your cookie consent box at the bottom of your page to gather as much statistical data as possible.
But by all means, feel free to experiment with different positions. Analyse the data on user behaviour in order to determine the most effective banner placement. If you already have Cookiebot set up (like many sites already) then the data is readily available to you.