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The Cookie Banner: A Cookie Explainer Series

Cookies resting on top of an i-pad on a table which reads 'Cookie Banners'.

The Cookie Banner Blog

This blog is part of a series about maximising data insights from your website whilst still ensuring you respect people’s tracking desires (whether they choose to be tracked or not). In our first installment, we’re taking a look at the first stage of cookie acceptance. This includes the most common thing users typically think of when it comes to controlling how they are tracked online – cookie banners.

Any recommendations, suggestions or ideas within this blog should be consulted past your designated organisations GDPR specialist before implementation, to ensure they are appropriate for you and your organisation.


What is a Cookie Consent Banner?

A cookie banner is a notification that displays on your website which informs users about the cookies being used on your website, which gives them the option to provide consent before you deploy tracking cookies.

We will cover how banners can work correctly (or not as is so often the case) in a later blog. For now, we’re keeping things simple and light! We’ll discuss what its function is, how it can aid users in their consent choice, and how your company can aid users in understanding the importance of cookies.

Please be aware that any installation of a banner which is connected to cookie consent will have an impact on your data. This can massively vary depending on how the banner is installed and its function. Within this blog we approach this as marketers and strategists trying to maximise the data you can obtain for your marketing. 

Cookie Banner Examples

The Function of the Banner 

Cookie consent starts with one key decision: Ask users to opt-in or give them the ability to opt-out. Whichever method is the best one for your organisation, the first interaction users have with the cookie banner is crucial. It needs to be clear to the user what their options are (and if available) what non-interaction means.

It’s essential to consider the impact of cookie banners on your website data. If you are asking users to opt-in to tracking, they will not do so if there isn’t a sense of trust between you and the user. So consider everything you can do to encourage users to opt-in, including emphasising the benefit to you as a charity. This helps to build trust between you and the user. There is nothing worse than a hard opt-in, but a soft banner.

The Design and Placement

The design and placement of your banner can have a substantial impact on the data you collect. Typically, there are three main ways website’s implement a cookie consent banner. Below we discuss the pros and cons of each:

Banner at the edge of the page with opt-in/opt-out buttons. 

  • Advantage: Least disruptive to the user experience.
  • Negative: Has the lowest un-promoted interactive, leading to greater data loss. It can also lead to tainting data due to people iterating later after the attribution has gone.

Sticky banner pop-up banner with opt-in and opt-out buttons.

  • Advantage: Forces the confirmation of the users cookie preferences as they have to select to opt-in or opt-out before engaging with the website. It provides the least risk on data issues.
  • Negative: Could lead users to leave the site as they don’t want to engage with a cookie banner.

Cookie consent pop-up with granular cookie management options.

  • Advantage: Gives the user full control over their cookie preferences, with the ability to manage individual categories immediately.
  • Negative: ICO specifically references that you should not be using pre-ticked options for non-essential cookies. Having too many options can also be overwhelming for the user, and may lead to people leaving the site.

The impact of the banners placement and design will be tenfold if you are asking users to opt-in to cookie consent. When a user ignores or does not see the banner, then you lose the opportunity to gain that insight. If your site asks users to opt-in, consider having a pop-up which restricts access to the website until the user confirms their preferences:

Screenshot of the cookie banner in place on the Royal Voluntary Service website.
Example of cookie banner placement and website access restrictions.


Wording of Cookie Banner Text

We’ve all been to sites where the trust immediately leaves your body as soon as you hit enter. The first impression you give users is vital to creating and maintaining a positive interaction, with the aim of developing a long-term relationship.

One of the first interactions a user has with your website is the cookie banner. This should clearly explain what it is, what its purpose is and what the benefit is to the user of confirming their preference.

Too much jargon here and you risk scaring off the non-tech savvy. On the other hand, if you don’t provide enough information, people will assume you’re being deliberately vague. It’s best to keep things simple:

  • Explain what this pop-up is for
  • Make the users’ available choices clear
  • Provide the benefits to both you (as an organisation) and the user of them accepting cookies.
  • Ask them to confirm their choices
  • Provide details of how they can adjust their choices in the future.

It’s also important to make it clear what entities of your site they are opting in for cookie tracking. Most people will assume that their preference will be respected across any mini-sites, sub domains or any other websites your organisation owns. 

They may acquiesce to a request to re-confirm their choices on one of these sites, they will not accept their previous choice being ignored entirely.


Test, Test, Test

The above is not a black and white, one-size-fits-all methodology. You need to factor in your organisations data privacy policies and requirements, as well as your own individual audiences’ needs.

You should be looking to continuously improve on your cookie opt-in uptake, and supporting users in understanding the importance of cookies. This isn’t about coercion, it’s about education.

Some key things to test:

  1. The wording, and phrasing of the banner. Tweak how you describe cookies and monitor the impact on your cookie opt-in. How does it impact Opt-in if you provide more specific detail versus more generic descriptions?
  2. The colours used in the banner. Does aligning with the theme of the website work better than more traditional traffic light colours?
  3. The interactions available on-site without interacting with the banner. What impact does completely removing interaction have, versus allowing scrolling but no clicking?

There’s many more elements to test, and allow you to continuously improve your data collection, once you’ve done these why not start back at number one and test some new phraseology. 


What’s next?

That’s it for Cookie’s part #1: the banner. Next we get a bit more technical about the impact of the banner on your tracking (including some admittedly scary numbers). We’ll explore: 

  • The immediate impact a banner can have on performance
  • How to use platform data to understand your data-loss
  • Why you might see direct/(none) traffic jump!
  • … Or worse direct/(none) become your top converter!
  • Other common mistakes and pitfalls

In the meantime if you have enjoyed the read please hit the like button, and if you have any comments, questions or queries please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

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