Cookie Consent Management: Everything You Need to Know

13 minutes read
cookie consent management guide

If you’ve ever clicked “accept” on a pop-up without a second thought, you’re not alone.

Cookies help make websites work better and more personal. However, they also involve collecting data about visitors. That’s why laws exist requiring websites to get clear consent from users to use cookies.

Managing cookie consent effectively is crucial for website owners, SEO specialists, digital marketers, or analytics experts.

What This Means for Website Owners

Effective cookie consent does more than keep you legal—it builds trust with your visitors. When people understand what data you’re collecting and why, they’re more likely to feel safe on your site.

Here we’ll talk about how to handle cookie consent well, ensuring you stay compliant without sacrificing user experience.

Let’s break down what cookies are, how they benefit your site, and how to manage them responsibly.

Table of Contents

What is Cookie Consent and Why Does it Matter?

Cookie consent is about asking website visitors for permission to gather and store their data. It involves informing users about what data will be collected and how it will be used. This permission must be granted actively by the users before the website can store cookies on their devices.

The Importance of Cookie Consent in Modern Web Usage

Privacy laws such as Europe’s GDPR and California’s CCPA require websites to obtain this consent. These laws aim to protect user privacy and ensure data transparency.

When you’re open about what data you collect and how you use it, people feel safer on your site. This can lead to better engagement, more conversions, and a stronger online presence.

cookie statistics


How Do Cookies Function on Your Website?

Understanding how cookies work is essential for managing user data effectively. Let’s explore the basics of cookies and the different types that play a role in enhancing user experiences.

What Are Cookies?

Cookies are small text files that a website stores on your device through a browser to remember information about you.

They track details like your website visits and preferences, making your online experience smoother and more personalized.

This helps website owners enhance user experience and perform various functions like keeping you logged in or remembering what’s in your shopping cart.

Types of Cookies

Essential Cookies

Essential cookies are necessary for basic website functions like navigation and access to secure areas. They do not require user consent and are crucial for the website to operate smoothly.

Performance Cookies

Performance cookies collect information about how visitors use a website, such as which pages are visited most often. This data helps improve website performance and user experience.

Functional Cookies

Functional cookies enhance user experience by remembering choices users make (such as language preferences) and customizing the website accordingly.

Targeting/Advertising Cookies

Targeting or advertising cookies track user behavior across websites to deliver targeted ads based on their interests. While these cookies can personalize ads, they also raise privacy concerns and require user consent.

Session Cookies

Session cookies are temporary and expire when the user closes their browser. They are used to store information specific to a particular session, such as items in a shopping cart.

Persistent Cookies

Persistent cookies remain stored on the user’s device for a specified period, even after the browser is closed. They help websites remember user preferences and settings over multiple sessions.

First-Party Cookies

First-party cookies are set by the website the user is visiting. They are used for essential functions, performance tracking, and functional purposes.

Third-Party Cookies

Third-party cookies are set by other domains, often for advertising and tracking purposes. They are subject to stricter regulations and require explicit user consent.

Adhering to legal standards is crucial when managing cookie consent on your website. Let’s explore the key regulations that govern cookie consent and data privacy.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a comprehensive data protection law that came into effect in the European Union on May 25, 2018.

It sets strict guidelines for how websites must handle user data, including obtaining explicit consent for the use of cookies, providing transparency about data collection practices, and giving users control over their personal information.

Under the GDPR, website owners must clearly inform users about the types of cookies used, the purpose of data collection, and how long the data will be stored.

Users must be given the option to accept or decline cookie usage, and their consent must be freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous.

California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is a state-level privacy law in California that came into effect on January 1, 2020.

It grants consumers more control over their personal information and requires businesses to disclose their data collection practices, allows users to opt out of the sale of their data, and provides mechanisms for users to request access to or deletion of their personal information.

The CCPA applies to for-profit businesses that collect personal information on California residents, have annual gross revenues over $25 million, or derive at least 50% of their annual revenue from selling consumers’ personal information. Website owners must comply with the CCPA if they meet these criteria and have visitors from California.

Other Global Privacy Laws Affecting Cookie Consent

In addition to the GDPR and CCPA, various other global privacy laws impact cookie consent practices.

These laws vary by region and may include requirements for transparent data collection, user consent mechanisms, data protection measures, and user rights regarding their personal information.

For example, the ePrivacy Directive, also known as the “Cookie Law,” is a European Union directive that complements the GDPR and specifically addresses the use of cookies and similar technologies. It requires websites to obtain user consent before storing or accessing information on a user’s device.

Consequences of Non-Compliance with Cookie Regulation Laws

  • Legal Penalties: If you don’t follow cookie laws, you could face hefty fines from regulatory authorities. For example, under the GDPR, you might be looking at fines of up to €20 million or 4% of your global annual turnover.
  • Reputational Damage: Not playing by the rules can damage your website’s reputation.
  • Loss of User Trust: Ignoring cookie laws can make users wary and less likely to engage with your site, leading to higher bounce rates and fewer conversions.
  • Data Breach Risks: Non-compliance increases the risk of data breaches and cyberattacks, putting your users’ sensitive information at risk.
  • Legal Action by Users: Users have the right to take legal action against websites that don’t comply with cookie regulations. This could result in costly lawsuits and harm your brand’s reputation.
  • Limited Business Opportunities: Not following the rules may limit your business opportunities. Partners and advertisers may be hesitant to work with websites that don’t prioritize data protection.
  • Operational Disruption: Facing regulatory investigations and penalties can disrupt your website’s operations, leading to financial losses and operational challenges.

How to Make Your Website Cookie Compliant

Follow these steps to ensure your website is cookie-compliant:

1. Conduct a Cookie Audit

  • Identify all cookies used on your website.
  • Categorize them based on purpose. (essential, performance, functional, targeting/advertising)
  • Determine which cookies require user consent.
Free Tools to Run Cookie Audit

2. Develop a Cookie Policy

  • Develop a comprehensive cookie policy that outlines the cookies used and their purposes.
  • Explain how users can manage their cookie preferences and the consequences of their choices.
  • Ensure the cookie policy is easily accessible from your website’s footer or privacy policy page.

3. Implement a Cookie Consent Solution

  • Choose a consent management platform like CookieYes, Cookiebor, and Termly.
  • These tools will allow users to manage their cookie preferences and ensure you’re only collecting data with their consent.

4. Design a User-Friendly Banner

  • Create a visually appealing and mobile-responsive cookie banner.
  • Use clear and concise language to explain the purpose of the banner.
  • Provide a link to your cookie policy for more detailed information.

Here’s a good example of a Cookie consent banner:

Design a User-Friendly Banner


5. Obtain Explicit Consent

  • Require users to actively opt-in to non-essential cookies.
  • Offer options to accept or decline cookies clearly.
  • Avoid pre-checked boxes or implied consent.

6. Respect User Preferences

  • Honor user choices across your website by ensuring that accepted cookie preferences are respected throughout the user’s browsing session.
  • Do not set or access declined cookies to maintain user trust and comply with their preferences.

7. Provide Transparency

  • ​​Communicate data collection practices clearly in your privacy policy and cookie policy.
  • Allow users to access, download, or delete their data upon request to enhance transparency and empower users to control their personal information.

How to Manage Google’s Cookie Changes in 2024

You’re probably aware of the big changes to Google Chrome’s cookie policies in 2024. With Chrome being used by around 65% of internet users worldwide, these changes will have a major impact on how you run your website and advertising.

Understanding the Privacy Sandbox

Google’s Privacy Sandbox is their way of reducing cross-site tracking while still keeping the internet accessible and useful for everyone.

They’re introducing new technologies and standards that will enable targeted ads and measurement without relying on individual user tracking.

Now, let’s talk about the timeline for these cookie changes. Starting January 4th, 2024, third-party cookies will be restricted to 1% of Chrome users.

By the third quarter of the year, this will extend to 100% of users, pending approval from the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority.

Setting Up Consent Mode V2 for Google Tags

As Google phases out third-party cookies, it’s crucial for website owners to implement Consent Mode V2 to ensure compliance with evolving privacy regulations. Here’s how to set up Consent Mode V2 for your Google tags:

Before You Begin

  • If you use Google Tag Manager (GTM) and want to maintain your own consent banner, load the banner through the GTM container.
  • Create a consent mode template using the GTM-specific APIs for managing consent states.
  • If you use gtag.js, ensure you have installed the Google tag on every page of your website.

Step 1: Update Google Tag Manager Configuration:

  • Go to your admin dashboard

Update Google Tag Manager Configuration:

Step 2: Go to Container Settings

Go to Container Settings

Step 3: Click ‘Enable consent preview (BETA)’ – and ‘Save’

Click ‘Enable consent preview (BETA)’ – and ‘Save’

Step 4: Go to Tags, and click on shield button in the top right-hand corner

Go to Tags, and click on shield button in the top right-hand corner

Step 5: Select all the tags that are required and then click on the shield with a cog in it in the top right-hand corner

Select all the tags that are required and then click on the shield with a cog in it in the top right-hand corner

Step 6: Check the box labeled ‘Require additional consent for tag activation’. Then add the necessary consent variables before saving your changes.

Note: Beyond the ‘ad_storage’ and ‘analytics_storage’ variables initially presented in Google Consent Mode version 1, version 2 further necessitates the inclusion of ‘ad_user_data’ and ‘ad_personalization’ variables.

If your tags aren’t set up correctly, they’ll land in the “Not Configured” section—kind of like the ‘oops’ pile. To make sure everything works smoothly, you need to organize your tags based on the consent rules you’ve got in GTM.

This means setting up certain rules and settings that match what users are okay with when they visit your website, making sure you follow the laws about keeping their information safe.

Check the box labeled 'Require additional consent for tag activation'. Then add the necessary consent variables before saving your changes.

How Does Cookie Consent Affect Google Analytics and SEO?

Integrating cookie consent with Google services impacts how user data is processed in tools like Google Analytics.

When a user opts out of cookies, Google Analytics is restricted from collecting data that identifies the individual.

To manage this, Google has developed features like Consent Mode, which allows businesses to adjust how Google tags behave based on the consent given by users.

This setup ensures compliance with privacy regulations while still allowing some level of tracking for analytical purposes.

The Impact of Cookie Consent on SEO

  • Data Availability: Cookie consent can limit the amount of user data available, which may reduce the effectiveness of personalized SEO strategies. Limited tracking due to non-consent affects how thoroughly user interactions and preferences are analyzed.
  • User Experience and Site Performance: Cookie banners can impact site speed and user experience, influencing SEO-critical metrics like engagement rates and engagement levels. A slow-loading banner can put users off, negatively affecting SEO.
  • Trust and Credibility: A well-implemented cookie consent process boosts user trust and site credibility, increasingly crucial factors for SEO rankings. Compliance with privacy laws and clear data collection practices enhance your site’s reputation.
  • Compliance and Transparency: Ensuring your website complies with privacy laws and is transparent about data practices can positively influence your SEO. Compliance not only avoids penalties but also reassures users, potentially leading to better engagement and lower bounce rates.

Tips for Maintaining SEO with Cookie Banners

  • Optimize Banner Placement: Position the cookie banner so it does not obstruct important content or navigation, minimizing its impact on the user experience.
  • Ensure Quick Loading: Design the banner to be lightweight, ensuring it does not negatively affect page load times, which are crucial for SEO.
  • Conduct A/B Testing: Test different banner designs and placements to see which ones perform best in terms of user engagement and SEO metrics.
  • Provide Clear Information: A clear and concise cookie consent banner can help reduce user confusion and bounce rates, indirectly benefiting SEO.
  • Stay Updated: Regularly update your cookie consent practices to align with the latest legal standards and technological best practices, ensuring optimal performance and compliance.

That’s it for now!

Managing cookie consent is more than a compliance checkbox; it’s about enhancing trust and optimizing the user experience on your website.

With the right strategies, you can safeguard user data while boosting your site’s performance.

Looking for assistance with GTM tracking and cookie consent setup? Our white-label SEO services are here to support agency owners. Let’s connect and set up a privacy strategy for your client’s website.

Note: The information we provide on this page is for informational purposes and should not be taken as legal advice. We recommend that you seek legal advice if you are unsure about achieving compliance. Please remember that while our guide is comprehensive, additional requirements specific to your situation may apply.

  • Narayani is an SEO Analyst at E2M, where she applies her years of experience to enhance the online visibility and performance of clients' websites. She is proficient in on-page, off-page SEO and content marketing, and constantly updates her knowledge with the latest marketing and SEO trends. She loves to unwind with some soothing music and a cup of tea after a day of optimizing websites.