No, Cookie Walls Do Not Work. No, You Should Never Use Them.

As a result of the GDPR, some websites have begun requiring that users consent to tracking cookies. This does not, nor will it ever, be a feasible tactic. Here’s why.

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation has been described by some as the death knell for programmatic advertising (via Ad Exchanger). Its strict rules surrounding personal data and consent make learning about and targeting one’s audience with personalized marketing significantly more difficult. Some websites and publications have created a new type of content wall — the cookie wall. 

It’s not as delicious as it sounds. On the contrary, it’s one of the stupidest, most blatant attempts at data harvesting yet. Locking off content until a user agrees to give you their personal information is not consent. 

Per TechCrunch, regulators even confirmed this in 2019, noting that the consent obtained from cookie walls is neither specific, informed, nor freely given. Nor is it consent if a user continues to passively browse your site without hitting ‘accept.’ And no matter how much you claim to respect everyone’s privacy, the use of such a scummy technique demonstrates that you don’t care about your audience.

You’re just interested in harvesting your audience’s data. 

In 2021, that kind of attitude is both archaic and unacceptable. At this point, some of you are probably wondering what alternative even exists. How can you effectively monetize your content and target your advertising without the capacity to collect user data? 

Simple — by being completely transparent with your users about what you’re doing. If you must request customer data, do not block out any of the on-page content. More importantly, give them the option to reject your tracking cookies.

Will that make targeted advertising more difficult? Probably. Will it make market research more challenging? Certainly. 

But the marketing landscape has been moving inexorably away from advertising for decades now. In 2018, reports Forbes, analyst firm The McCarthy Group released research indicating that 84 percent of millennials neither liked nor trusted traditional marketing, though 58 percent don’t mind paid promotions viewed to support their favorite influencers. 

There are other ways to learn about your audience without violating the GDPR, as well: 

  • Offer discount codes/special deals to customers who fill out a survey or consent to ad tracking. Note that you need to explicitly establish what you’re doing and why to ensure consent is informed. 
  • Interact with your customers as people, not leads. Engage with them on websites like Facebook and Twitter. Learn about who they are, what they enjoy, where their interests lay. Instead of using ads to push your products, provide them with an experience. 
  • Collaborate. Find other businesses that cater to your target audience, and reach out to them. Work with them to create marketing partnerships that benefit both parties. 

The GDPR represents the first death knell for traditional data collection and marketing analytics, but this is hardly a bad thing. Advertising has been stagnant for several years now, with agencies skating by on passively-harvested data. We believe that the GDPR and other similar regulations are just the kick in the pants it needs to start genuinely innovating again. 

Author: Terry Cane

Terry Cane is a technical writer for, a reliable and supportive SEO hosting partner.