Get the complete picture with cookie-less tracking

Combine cookie-less tracking with Google Analytics for the most accurate data

|David Steeb

Google Analytics is a marketer’s best friend, but you may not be getting as accurate a picture of your data as you think. Google Analytics leans heavily on cookies, and cookies are often blocked by users, extensions, or firewalls, which skews your data — often to a disadvantage. A cookie-less tracking tool can more accurately reflect the number of hits, users, and sessions your website is getting. By combining this data with Google Analytics, you can have more confidence that you are making the most informed decisions for your marketing strategy.

At b13, we combine a cookie-less tracking tool, Umami, with Google Analytics to get the full picture of our website user data. Read on to find out how you can get more accurate analytics.

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Privacy and security measures block cookies

With more stringent privacy and security measures, like the EU General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) or the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), users have more power over the tracking, sharing, and selling of their data. If users don’t consent to a website’s pop-up cookie banner, any data that was being tracked is now lost. Ad blockers, browser extensions, or corporate firewalls can also block cookies. Other tools, like a Pi-Hole on a Raspberry Pi or the browser “Brave” in “Shields Up” mode, can go even further. Both have the ability to block Google Analytics URLs and Google Tag Manager URLs, so your browser won’t even load the JavaScript associated with tracking and analytics.

While these tools and measures are a step forward for users’ privacy, they can also skew your data, sometimes radically so. Missing such a big chunk of data is directly incompatible with making the kind of data-informed decisions nearly every organization relies on, including our clients. We knew we needed to find an alternative.

Cookie-less tracking delivers a pleasant surprise

With the cookie-style of tracking, a script is triggered when someone visits your site. A user-specific id is then stored in a cookie and sent to the server with every request, so a tracking-server can accurately attach a user’s journey and other actions. If you delete the cookie or don’t accept it, there's no easy or reliable way for a tracking system to attach new actions to old ones.

This is how Google Analytics is able to get such a specific picture of user demographics and behavior. Even if there is no way of measuring that information on your own website, Google tracks your user-id across thousands of websites you see every day. Based on the sites you use, the queries you perform, even the kind of food you order, Google takes a highly educated guess whether you’re a conservative or a liberal, a sports fan or a music fan, wealthy or poor. 

Cookie-less tracking is different. It sends a set of basic information about the page you're viewing, what you click on, etc. to the analytics application without any cookies at all. This means you have no individual user-id attached to your session, your recurring visit, or any other websites you visit. This method helps us specifically capture the flow of data about, through, and on our website, instead of the data of an individual user.

There are many cookie-less tracking tools out there, both open source and proprietary, such as UmamiPlausible, and GoatCounter. We started using the Umami dashboard because it works well with our technology stack. Our initial exploration made a big impression on us: according to Umami, our number of visits was more than double what Google Analytics had reported. Imagine handing that pleasantly surprising KPI to your CEO! 

While that information alone might be enough to start you thinking, cookie-less tracking comes with a host of other benefits too.

Improve your user experience and page speed

The banner that pops up immediately when you enter a site can be annoying and distracting for users. Eliminating the cookie banner (which is what we do) makes sense when you do not need all of the funnels, features, and advanced tools Google Analytics offers. Removing it can reduce friction in the user experience, your bounce rate, and improve your page speed.

Stay compliant with GDPR and CCPA

Data breaches and subsequent privacy lawsuits are increasingly common and can cause any company’s reputation to take a hit. A cookieless tracking tool allows you to sidestep these delicate situations.

Receive and share more accurate insights

Without cookies, you will get a true picture of your data, which may be much rosier than what Google Analytics is telling you. Your marketing team can have more confidence that the critical data they’re sharing is accurate.

Stay ahead of the curve

Safari already blocks third-party cookies by default, and Google is slowly following suit, which means cookie-less tracking will only become more relevant. You can get a jump start by exploring your options now.

Stay with your users across devices

Many mobile devices, including Android and Apple, block cookies automatically, so many of your mobile users aren’t registering anyway. Cookie-less tracking works across devices, which gives you a more holistic view of your data.

Own your own data

Many of the cookie-less tracking tools available are open source, which means you own your data and it doesn’t pass through a third-party like Google. Your dashboard can even be run on the same domain as your website.

Simplify your data dashboard

Complex data dashboards can actually make decision-making more confusing; most marketers only need a fraction of the data Google Analytics serves up. Cookie-less tracking provides a different dataset that’s less overwhelming.

Our solution: use Umami side-by-side with Google Analytics

Cookie-less tracking tools like Umami are helpful for tracking the number of users, pageviews, sessions, and events (like button clicking). While Google Analytics may only be catching half of these numbers, it also has the special ability to track users across sites. This vantage point yields important user demographics (like age) and user behavior (such as what website a visitor came from or how often they return to ours). We need this user information in addition to the accuracy cookie-less tracking provides us, so we use both tools side-by-side. This way, we capture the fullest, most accurate snapshot of our users and our website’s data — and you can too!

Want the most complete picture of your website’s data with cookie-less tracking?

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