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Google's consent mode FAQs: understanding consent management platforms

By Kerry Dye | Head of SME SEO

Vertical Leap


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May 27, 2022 | 5 min read

Consent mode is Google’s answer to managing users’ privacy settings, allowing you to collect data while respecting their consent choices. Instead of missing out on all data when users opt out, you can continue to track non-identifying data, as a minimum, from every user. Kerry Dye, head of search engine optimization at Vertical Leap, tackles some frequently asked questions.

Vertical Leap look at how brands can make the most of Google's Consent Mode.

Vertical Leap look at how brands can make the most of Google's Consent Mode.

Google’s consent mode is a cross-platform content management system that allows you to control how tags behave in Google Analytics, Google Ads and other platforms, depending on options chosen by users. It remembers users’ privacy choices across platforms and allows you to collect non-identifying data, even if they decline all consent options.

It's designed to help website owners manage consent and respect users’ privacy preferences in the age of regulations like GDPR and the phase-out of tracking technology like third-party cookies.

With it, you can adjust how your Google tags behave based on the consent status of your users. You can indicate whether consent has been granted for analytics and ads cookies. Google's tags will dynamically adapt, only utilizing cookies for the specified purposes when consent has been given by the user.

The system enhances the functionality of popular consent management platforms (CMPs), remembering user settings across Google platforms. It will play an important role in the future of privacy-centric browsing.

1. Why should I use Google consent mode?

We’ve discussed the benefits of using consent mode elsewhere. Here’s a quick summary.

First, privacy regulations: use it to adhere to privacy regulations, including GDPR, more easily.

Second, consent mode helps you to fill data gaps. With it, you can collect non-identifying data from all users and fill in data gaps using machine learning when users deny consent.

Third, it aids conversion tracking. You can measure conversions without identifying data when users opt out of consent.

And finally, it lets you manage consent across platforms, including Google Analytics and Google Ads.

With consent mode, you can track users as normal if they accept all consent options. More importantly, you can keep tracking non-identifying data even if they opt out of everything. Likewise, you can leverage Google’s machine learning technology to fill in data gaps when users opt out and continue measuring conversions without using personal data.

This means you’ve always got some data to work with rather than missing out on everything when users opt out.

2. How can I use Google consent mode?

You can implement consent mode in Google Tag Manager (GTM) or use JavaScript code with 'gtag.js'. But first, you need a consent system that allows users to select privacy settings. You can code these manually or use a consent management platform (CMP) that supports consent mode.

A CMP helps you add a consent request to your website, mobile apps and other platforms, normally without writing any code. Not all CMPs currently support consent mode, so you’ll need to check compatibility before selecting a CMP or switching to one that provides support.

CMPs that support consent mode normally provide GTM templates that you can use to create your tags in GTM and/or JavaScript code snippets that you can copy and paste into your gtag.js file.

3. Which CMPs support Google consent mode?

The consent management platforms that support consent mode are listed on this Google Analytics documentation page.

Consent mode isn’t GDPR compliant out of the box, but it makes it easier for you to adhere to privacy guidelines, including GDPR. You still need to set up your consent system and consent mode correctly to satisfy privacy regulations, though.

Unless you’re developing a custom consent system, the easiest way to do this is to use a CMP that supports consent mode. This will help you set up your consent system and consent mode to comply with GDPR and other privacy regulations.

4. Does consent mode make Google Analytics GDPR compliant?

Google is rolling out Google Analytics 4 (GA4), which uses a different measurement model from its predecessors. This is important because the old session-based model, which relies heavily on third-party cookies, has come under scrutiny for violating GDPR guidelines.

Google has designed GA4 to be more GDPR-friendly by default but you still have to set it up and implement a consent system properly to adhere to privacy guidelines. Consent Mode alone doesn’t make Google Analytics GDPR compliant but it will help you manage consent across Google products while complying with privacy regulations.

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