Date posted

04 Dec 2023

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Using Consent Mode to improve your measurement

By the 6th of March 2024, everyone advertising in Google platforms must configure Consent Mode V2 if they are tracking users in the European Economic Area. Failing to do so may result in having activity suspended.

In this article we’ll look at how you can use Consent Mode to improve your measurement, including answers to questions we are frequently asked.

Let’s get started.

I only use the main Google products. Can I run tracking entirely cookieless using Consent Mode and get rid of my Consent Management Platform (CMP)?

The short answer is no. Under Consent Mode, running cookieless tracking for all users will not work, as interaction modelling requires a sizable amount of cookie-tracked data to model from.

In addition to this, while CMPs are often discussed in the context of cookie consent, regulations (particularly the ePrivacy Directive or ‘cookie law’) also cover the storing of data in a user’s browser via other means such as Local or Session Storage keys for non-essential purposes.

How does Google Consent Mode compare to setting up tracking via server-side GTM, or via platform-specific API?

You can think of Google Consent Mode as the start of the path, and the beginning of claiming back some of the ‘lost data’ that tightened privacy regulations have caused.

Whilst server-side tracking is ultimately a more robust, comprehensive and future-proofed way of tracking user activity, it does come with the obstacle of cloud storage being required to use it – along with recurring costs and implementation challenges.

You could also think of it as a stop-gap solution whilst Google are working on their own offsite tracking APIs, which they are hinting at increasingly for release in the next couple of years.

How can I implement Google Consent Mode?

The options to implement can be categorised into three main methods:

  • Using Google’s hardcoded script (gtag)
    By enlisting the help of developers, you can simply use Google’s dev guide to have the required functionality added to your site. It is not quite as simple as adding code into the page source however, as the control logic will need to be tied into the consent indicators being output from your CMP. This is especially important if you typically handle the addition of on-page scripts via user-friendly input boxes for the header and footer of the page, commonly used if the site is built on a platform such as WordPress or HubSpot.Consideration will also be needed with regards to code placement and timings in relation to any other tracking tags you may have and when they fire in the page load sequence. Getting the timing sequence wrong can lead to tag blocking or malfunction.
  • Native CMP integration
    Google has partnered with numerous CMP providers to allow them to incorporate Consent Mode controls into their product, which can handle the output of the consent denied/granted signal required for the compatible Google Tags to function on a cookieless basis. The level of functionality and control can vary however, and experience has shown that being listed as a CMP partner is not necessarily an indicator of offering a straightforward integration.
  • Google Tag Manager (GTM)
    Whilst it may be the method involving the most technical granularity, our preferred way of installing is via GTM. It’s important to note that this method does not simply involve placing the gtag hardcode into Custom HTML tags, as generally this can cause a range of issues and non-functionality. Instead, we recommend using a tag template such as Simo Ahava’s Consent Mode (Google Tags) which can be found in the Community Template Gallery within GTM itself. Note that this template has recently been updated to accommodate the new functions that V2 brings.From here, you can link-in logic from your CMP via the output into the Data Layer, first party cookies, or in some cases, with the help of some custom JavaScript.

What benefits can I expect after implementation?

At present, the cookieless data collected from opted-out users will aid conversion modelling in both the ads and analytics platforms, as well as behavioural modelling in GA4. You can expect to be notified when the modelling is taking place and output into the reporting data via in-platform messages, as there is an initial phase of time and data volume that needs to occur first after first integration.

These benefits can be further supplemented by also integrating with Enhanced Conversions, which ties encrypted first-party user data in for better cross-platform attribution, along with Google Signals (if eligible to use) which utilises aspects of a users behaviour that have been captured by their own Google account across a range of services.

As stated earlier, you will need to make sure you carry out what Google now call an ‘Advanced’ implementation to be eligible for these benefits.

If you have any more questions, or need support in getting Google Consent Mode configured, we can help: