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Cookieless Tracking

Modified on: Tue, 5 Dec, 2023 at 9:22 PM

Cookieless tracking, as the name implies, is a feature that allows you to collect visitor data via the Siteimprove Analytics script without a cookie being set on the visitors' device.

To replace the cookie functionality, we are introducing a “Visitor Hash” technology that can track unique and returning visitors without the use of personal data. In addition, enabling cookieless tracking also activates an enhanced IP anonymization to ensure that no personal information is transferred and processed throughout the data pipeline. 

Cookieless tracking is available as an optional feature for all analytics tiers in the Siteimprove platform:

  • Marketing Analytics
  • Content Analytics
  • Traffic Analytics

Visitor Hash

When Cookieless tracking is enabled, it replaces the traditional use of cookies with a "Visitor Hash" made of non-personal information only. This information includes hashed IP and HTTP header values including browser type, browser version, browser language, and the user agent string. The Visitor Hash only consists of server-side attributes passed along by the website server. 

Note: Siteimprove analytics does not collect client-side attributes. The Visitor Hash is used for the same functionality as the cookie and nothing else. 

Enhanced IP anonymization

Enabling cookieless tracking in Siteimprove activates an enhanced anonymization of the IP address, where IPs are immediately truncated and hashed. The IP anonymization is instant and non-reversible, meaning that Siteimprove cannot restore an anonymized IP. The hashed IP is used in the visitor hash, but it is not stored individually. The truncated IP, where the last octet of the IP is removed, is used to determine the geographical location of the visitor and the Organization.

Cookieless tracking and the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation)

Siteimprove’s cookieless tracking, with enhanced IP anonymization automatically enabled, was designed to comply with the personal data regulations in the GDPR. This is because the anonymized IP addresses used do not provide information about each specific user and the data cannot be used to identify a person. 

Our Analytics tool is used to track visitor behavior for statistical purposes at a high level to monitor and evaluate website performance. Siteimprove has no interest or intention in identifying individual website visitors. Cookieless tracking is designed to make sure our customers are not able to identify any person who visits your website. Neither Siteimprove, the customer, nor our sub-processors will be able to identify a person by connecting that person to an anonymized IP address.

Does cookieless tracking require consent?

The laws about consent requirements for cookies and other tracking technologies vary in different parts of the world. Because laws regarding consent may vary by country, Siteimprove encourages you to do your own legal assessment of what laws apply to your organization and to determine whether consent is required prior to enabling Cookieless tracking.

How to activate cookieless tracking

  1. If you have a subscription to Marketing Analytics or Content Analytics:
    1. Once logged into the platform, navigate to the left menu and click on either "Marketing Analytics" or "Content Analytics", depending on your subscription.
    2. Scroll through the menu and click on "Analytics Settings".

    3. In the "Analytics Settings" list, find and click on "Cookieless Tracking" to open the "Tracking without Cookies" interface.

    4. On the right side of this interface, locate and click the "Enable" button to activate the feature.

  2. If you have a subscription to Traffic Analytics (as part of Inclusivity)
    1. To activate cookieless tracking, please reach out to our Support Team who will help you to set it up.

If you are unsure about your analytics subscription, please reach out to your Customer Success Executive.

Note that only Account Owners can enable cookieless tracking, but all user roles can access the cookieless tracking settings page to see the status. 

Cookieless tracking is enabled on an account level – meaning that the change will be applied to all sites on the account.

When cookieless tracking has been enabled, you will still need to configure your cookie consent banner to prevent it from including the Siteimprove analytics script if you would like to track visitors without the need for consent

Expected impact on data and functionality

  • Cookies are primarily used to identify unique visitors and returning visitors, meaning that our script looks for the cookie on the visitor’s device when they load a page that contains the Siteimprove analytics script. Since Visitor Hash is a different technology used to perform the same function, we expect the numbers for unique visitors and returning visitors to change once cookieless tracking is enabled. The changes can differ from website to website, depending on visitor behavior and characteristics. 
  • In general, Visitor Hash is expected to be more persistent, resulting in a drop in the number of unique visitors. Since cookies are known to have an increasingly short lifetime, leading to overestimated data about unique visitors, we consider the Visitor Hash technology to be more accurate at capturing information about unique and returning visitors. 
  • Geographical lookup is expected to be slightly impacted after enabling cookieless tracking. Since Siteimprove will be using a truncated version of the IP for the lookup, the precision in visitor location can be slightly less accurate. This will mainly affect data looking at user neighborhoods and is not expected to impact broader geographical analysis significantly.
  • When cookieless tracking is enabled, it will limit the ability to do data exclusion based on the full IP address and only allow for data exclusion based on the truncated version of the IP. If you have an existing data exclusion in place that makes use of IP groups containing specific IP addresses, note that we will exclude data based on only the first three octets of the IP address and will disregard the last octet. We recommend checking your data exclusion settings before enabling cookieless tracking. Data exclusion is available by going to Analytics > Analytics Setting > Tracking > Data Exclusion Settings.
  • An annotation will be automatically added when cookieless tracking is enabled or disabled to ensure transparency in the data shown throughout Siteimprove Analytics. 

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