Google Consent Mode v2: What you need to know

Laura Dean

Laura Dean

Significant changes are happening in the way visitor interactions are tracked on websites and the use of cookies. From March 6th this year, if you use Google services, you’ll need to implement Consent Mode v2 to make sure that you can continue to gather relevant data from users of your site.

Google first announced that it would be deprecating third-party cookies back in 2021, but it has been postponed multiple times, with Google stating that third-party cookies would be completely removed from 2023 onwards. The most recent update suggests that the plan is on track to completely deprecate third-party cookies by the second half of 2024.

To first understand why third-party cookies are being removed, it’s important to understand what they are, what they’re used for, and the difference between third and first-party cookies.

What is a cookie?

The HTTP variety of cookie is a small text file of data that is created by a web server when a user is browsing a site. These small files are placed on the user’s device by their web browser to track their activity.

What is a first-party cookie?

First-party cookies are stored by the website or domain when the user visits it. This type of cookie enables websites to store information that will improve visitor experience, such as login information and custom settings. This allows for a faster login or purchase experience when the user returns to the site.

What is a third-party cookie?

Third-party cookies are generally used for web tracking and contribute heavily to the online advertising ecosystem. If you’ve ever browsed a website to make a purchase and then left, viewed another site, and spotted an advert for what you were just looking at, that is remarketing; made possible by third-party cookies.

Third-party cookies are also used to facilitate elements such as placing social media sharing on a site and allowing users to directly copy content over to their personal social media accounts. Refusing these cookies can result in certain elements of a website not working correctly.

Some third-party cookies include embedded content that is shared from other sites, such as videos, images, maps, and social posts. Widgets such as those from external services such as payments, calendars, booking and reservation functionality may also use third-party cookies.

Why has this come about?

Google has for many years now discussed the need to provide more privacy to users through protection from advertisers. Their new Consent Mode v2 comes following new pressures placed on tech giants by governments, particularly in light of the Digital Markets Act and the European Union User Consent Policy.

What is Consent Mode v2?

Google Consent Mode v2 is the latest version of the mechanism used to update the functionality of Google tags based on the users’ consent for analytics cookies and ads. Google describes it as a mechanism that allows websites to gather data on conversions while respecting user privacy settings.

The recently updated and more advanced version of this mechanism, requires explicit visitor consent for cookies and data usage, specifically for personalised ads and analytics. The latest upgrade provides two consent states related to advertising; ad_user_data and ad_personalisation.

CookieInformation described the new Consent Mode as “more a requirement than an option for websites that want to accurately track conversions and effectively optimise their advertising spend moving forward.”

ad_user_data

This setting has two values, based on whether the user has given consent for personal data to be sent to Google. This includes services such as Google Ads, Google Shopping and Google Play.

The values of “granted” or “denied” will be applied based on the users’ response to the website’s cookie banner, however this will only happen if the banner’s language aligns with Google’s standards for compliance.

ad_personlisation

This setting defines whether personal data can be used for purposes such as remarketing. Again, it will have two values, “granted” or “denied” based on the user’s response to the advertising cookie banner. Once again, this assumes that the language is in line with Google’s standards for compliance.

Is it all bad for marketers?

Not at all. This Google initiative aims to promote and ensure compliance around the web, respecting end-users’ privacy and preferences. However, the introduction of Google Consent Mode v2 provides a solution that supports the advertising ecosystem, benefiting advertisers, publishers, and consumers.

Of course, many users will opt out of data processing, which can be challenging for marketers and advertisers trying to understand campaign performance. Google suggests that with Consent Mode v2, advertisers can retain some of their data through anonymised reporting. This aggregated data can provide a wealth of insights into user behaviour trends and campaign performance. Google also states that conversion data will be enhanced using conversion modelling for users who don’t grant their consent.

As with many aspects of Google’s services, AI is incorporated in their conversion modelling, using observable data and historical trends compared with data from consenting users, to predict and draw conclusions. Early studies suggest that 5-10% of lost conversions can be recovered by adhering to these changes, and marketers can still benefit from data that would otherwise have been lost.

One benefit that we can see is that the phasing out of cookies will force marketers to look at the full picture when it comes to interactions, instead of leaning on last-touch conversions. Whether we like it or not, this is the way forward for data tracking so tackling it now and getting to grips with other conversion tracking methods will help future-proof your marketing as privacy regulations develop.

When can you implement Google Consent Mode v2?

Google Consent Mode v2 is active and available now. Below we’ll outline the steps to implementation and our recommendations for a smooth transition.

What to do next

First and foremost, you must implement Google Consent Mode v2 on or before 6 March 2024 if you wish to keep tracking EEA (European Economic Area) user data. Without it, Google will block you from capturing any new EEA data, negatively impacting your GA4 reporting and sharing to Google Ads. You might find that you experience limited remarketing and you may see a drop in Google Ads performance.

To enable Google Consent Mode v2, you must have a consent management platform set up to ensure adherence to the new rules. This means having the correct language on your website cookie notice, and the essential link to Google that enables the consent signals for offline data to be sent to Google via an API.

As part of this process, we’d highly recommend conducting a third-party cookie audit to identify any areas of your website that rely on their use to support functionality. You may unfortunately find that removing certain cookies may break elements of your site’s functionality and could need additional attention to find a resolution.

The good news is, we can help with all of the above. We strongly recommend that you get in touch as soon as possible to book in these updates or discuss how your website might be affected.

Once we know your website is covered, it’s time to consider how you prepare for a cookie-less future.

Tech savvy marketers and those that have been heavily anticipating the extinction of cookies, will have been using other methods to measure the effectiveness of campaigns in advance. Incrementality measurements such as lift tests and media mix modelling uses data to determine performance correlations, so that you can understand the value of your ad campaigns, with or without cookies.

In anticipation of these changes, Facebook has invested in a Conversions API, which (with some dev work) can move conversion tracking to your website’s server. This means that it doesn’t rely on cookie tracking and gives you more accurate conversion information. Working similarly to Google’s OCT (offline conversion tracking) integration, you can better understand your campaign performance and also use that data to train the bidding algorithm for more valuable users.

Similarly, LinkedIn has developed an API that is less sophisticated than Facebook’s solution, but operates using the same principles and gives crucial insights in understanding how your ads impact your pipeline. Unfortunately, it cannot yet be used to train the algorithm.

 

As we navigate these changes together, we’ll bring you updates and insights to make sure your ad strategy is operating effectively and your user data is accurately maintained. Keep an eye on our knowledge base for new resources, and let us know if you’d like to book in a meeting to assess the impact on your current strategy.

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