Changes to cookie law
What people refer to as the ‘cookie law ' is a new piece of privacy legislation that requires websites to obtain consent from visitors to store or retrieve any information on a computer or other web-connected device, like a smartphone or tablet. It has been designed to protect online privacy by making consumers aware of how information about them is collected by websites, and enabling them to choose whether or not they want it to happen.
1. Why are my Google Analytics stats so low?
If you have implemented the route of "explicit opt-in" as initially recommended by the ICO (Information Commissioners Office) a visitor can decide whether or not to allow non-essential or 3rd party cookies (cookies used by services other than your own website). As Google Analytics is classed as a 3rd party cookie, this means the visitor can still complete his / her journey through the website and make purchases or bookings without ever being tracked via Google Analytics.
2. Is there an alternative to explicit opt-in?
Yes, a few hours before the Cookie Law came into effect the ICO updated their information stating that "implied consent" is now valid for cookie compliance.
The "implied opt-in" is a significant change to the original specification, where consent had to be given via a click to allow non-essential and third party cookies. With implied consent when you move off a page it is assumed that you have consented to allow non-essential and 3rd party / tracking cookies, unless you have specifically opted out.
However, to remain compliant the website needs to fulfil the following:
The notification of cookie use has to be clearly visible (see BT.com, Virgin Trains or bbc.co.uk for examples)
Once consent has been given (either by pressing "yes" or clicking onto another page) tracking can commence.This means that stats for the entry page (whether the homepage, a landing page or DMS page) will not be tracked.
A user has to be able to change the cookie settings at any time during their visit in a "clear to understand and easy to use" fashion.
If consent has been given (either explicity or implicitly) then we can set a cookie on the visitor's machine for 28 days to track all further activity.
The "implied opt-in" method will still have a serious impact on figures in Google Analytics as statistics on the entry page of the first visit to the website are not collected!
As most visitors will enter your website via the homepage or key landing pages, the statistics for these pages will be worst affected. In Google Analytics the second page the visitor looks at will be recorded as the entry page. Similarly, if you have a PPC campaign running for your hotels page, stats will only be recorded for visitors who have already visited your website before.
Note that whereas visitors to BBC.co.uk for example may return on a very regular basis, visitors to accommodation websites tend to return more infrequently (after the 28 day cookie has expired). Consequently your bounce rate in Google Analytics will appear very low as bounces will only be counted for users who have visited the site within the last 28 days.
To check whether you are opt-in or opt-out get in touch with your website developer.