How to track 50% more traffic

The 2 main things that limit the number of people you track are:

  1. Cookie consent banners
  2. Ad blockers

Depending on the profile of your visitors, these things alone, can stop you from tracking more than half of your visitors. How can you prevent that from happening?

This article is based on episode 10 of our Growth Detectives podcast

How to track visitors irrespective of their choices in a consent banner

Privacy laws in over 60 countries require website owners to request consent from their visitors before tracking them. This consent should be obtained by asking visitors to click a button in a consent banner. However, a significant number of visitors do not do this, which means they cannot be tracked.

So what to do about it? Should you just not respect that and risk being fined?

There are better solutions.

The key point is that you should only ask visitors for consent when you intend to track their personal information and/or use techniques that can identify them. One example of such techniques is cookies, which are commonly associated with the consent banners. However, there are actually many other techniques that fall into this category (but we will not talk about them here).

So what to do about it?

  1. Do not use a tracking tool, that tries to identify your visitors or collect their personal information.
  2. or use your tracking tool in a privacy mode (can come under many names, e.g. consent mode, no-cookie mode, private mode, etc.).

If you do that, you won’t have to ask visitors for consent and will be able to track many more visits (although a little bit less accurately).

However, there is still one problem, that can stop you from tracking a large portion of your visitors – ad blockers.

How to prevent ad blockers from blocking tracking scripts

The thing is that ad blockers not only block ads, but also prevent tracking.

They do it either by blocking scripts from specific sources (like Google Analytics) or by stopping them from sending data to tracking platforms.

However, there are 3 ways to make it more difficult for them:

  1. server-side tracking,
  2. local hosting,
  3. and file proxying.

Server-side tracking

The way server-side tracking works is simple. When a visitor does an action on their browser that you want to track, it is not sent directly to the server of the tracking platform. Instead, the information is sent to your server and only then to the server of the tracking tool.

The downside of this, however, is that your server has some additional work and may work slower. So this solution may sometimes require a server upgrade.

Next we have local file hosting.

Hosting tracking scripts locally

Some ad blockers block scripts that come from domains owned by tracking companies. However, if the same scripts are loaded from your own server (and renamed), they will not be blocked!

The downside of this solution, is that only few ad blockers can be cheated this way and the tracking file needs to be frequently updated.

Domain proxying

Last, but not least, we have tracking file domain proxying.

The idea behind it is similar to the above one, but the tracking file is still kept on the server of the tracking tool. It is however proxied through some fancy DNS setup of your own domain to trick ad blockers into believing that it is in fact hosted on your own server. This technique however has the smallest impact of these three.

Recommended tools

From the article above it is clear that it is best to use a tool that does not require visitors consent and – if possible – offer server side tracking option.

At the moment, however, there are not many that can do that.

One of them is Simple Analytics, which however may be too simple for most of the site owners.

Next, we have Plausible Analytics, which does not require cookies. Here, however, you will not be getting server side tracking, but only local file hosting (this will be soon available in WP Full Picture Pro).

And finally, we have Matomo. It may be used in the “no-cookie mode”, and, when installed locally, its files will be coming from your own domain.