In a landmark move for online privacy, Google is phasing out third-party cookies from January 2024. This decision significantly impacts advertisers, marketers, and the entire digital ecosystem. In this blog post, we will delve into what third-party cookies are, Google’s proposed solution, the potential impact on advertisers, and what advertisers need to do to adapt to this transformative change.
Understanding Third-Party Cookies:
Third-party cookies, small pieces of data stored by websites on a user’s browser, typically track for advertising purposes. These cookies enable advertisers to collect information about users’ online behaviour across multiple sites. They allow for targeted advertising and personalised content delivery. For example, if you browse the internet for holiday information, you will then receive adverts for holidays when you browse the internet again in the future. While they have been instrumental in digital marketing strategies, growing concerns over privacy and user consent is leading tech giants like Google to re-evaluate their use.
Google’s Solution: Privacy-Focused Alternatives:
Four years ago, Justin Schuh, Director of Google Engineering wrote in a blog, ‘Users are demanding greater privacy-including transparency, choice and control over how their data is used – and it’s clear the web ecosystem needs to evolve to meet these increasing demands.’
In response to these escalating privacy concerns, Google introduced the Privacy Sandbox initiative. The Privacy Sandbox
aims to develop privacy-focused alternatives to third-party cookies, prioritising user anonymity and data protection. Google’s proposed solution involves the use of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). API’S provide aggregated and anonymised user data, rather than individual user tracking.
API’S will be integrated into Google Analytics 4 early in 2024 in response to the changes to tracking. The Privacy Sandbox technology allows advertisers to still reach their audiences after third-party cookies are phased out. API offers a novel approach to remarketing, reminding users of sites and products they have shown interest in, without relying on third-party cookies.
As of January 2024, Google began the gradual phase-out of third-party cookies. To facilitate testing, Google Chrome is restricting third party cookies on a randomly selected 1% of its users, i.e. Tracking Protection. During this period, they will address any concerns raised by the UK’s Competition and Marketing Authority. However, Google plans to implement the full phasing out of third-party cookies from Quarter 3 2024. The time to make changes to preserve your website’s functionality is now!
Have you already been affected? In January, Chrome users randomly selected for Tracking Protection received notifications, so if you didn’t receive a notification, you are unaffected at present. Those selected and experiencing serious issues can temporarily re-enable third party cookies, however, this is only temporary.
No Data Tracking? What’s The Impact on Advertisers:
With Google and, it is likely, other platforms removing the use of third-party cookies, advertisers heavily reliant on their tracking information for targeted ad campaigns are going to be severely affected. Without cookies tracking users’ online behaviour, advertisers will not receive insights into user engagement, conversions, and other crucial metrics. Without this information optimising ad campaigns will be impossible. Eventually campaign reach, frequency and conversion will diminish.
So, what can advertisers do about the changes to third-party cookies and reliable tracking? Advertisers must adapt to a more privacy-centric digital landscape because traditional methods of tracking user behaviour may no longer be viable. The change could affect the effectiveness of retargeting campaigns, audience segmentation, and measurement of campaign success. Nervous? Read on to see what actions you need to take.
What Advertisers Need to Do Now:
Audit Your Site for Third-Party Cookies:
What are third-party cookies? These are generally cookies sent in a cross-site context, for example iframes. These include embedded content shared from other sites, like videos, maps, or social posts. Additionally, widgets, such as social buttons, payments and calendars also appear under this umbrella. In 2019, browsers changed cookie behaviour restricting cookies to first-party access by default. Therefore, any cookies used in a cross-site context are prefixed the attribute SameSite=None. Privacy Sandbox outlines how you can audit these to prepare for the changes, click here for guidelines.
Embrace First-Party Data:
Advertisers should focus on collecting and leveraging first-party data directly from their audiences. This includes encouraging users to willingly share information through subscriptions, memberships, and personalised content interactions. Newsletters, for example, are a superb example of first-party data. By analysing this data directly from their own platform, advertisers can gain valuable insights into audience preferences, engagement patterns, and conversion metrics. Therefore, if you do not already offer your audience the chance to sign up to a newsletter for your website, now is the time!
Explore Privacy-First Technologies:
With the Privacy Sandbox initiative, Google is actively working on developing new technologies that prioritise user privacy. Advertisers, stay informed about these developments and prepare to integrate new tools into their marketing strategies. Visit Google’s AI essential checklist for Google advertisers.
Embrace Enhanced Conversions:
Enhanced Conversions for the web cater for advertisers tracking online sales and conversions. Capturing customer data, like email addresses, they hash the information and send it to Google. This information is then matched with Google accounts and a conversion is recorded on your account. Therefore, set up for enhanced conversions using Google Tag Manager, a Google Tag or the Google Ads API. Enhance Conversions in GA4 improves conversion tracking accuracy and ensures compliance with new regulations regarding data privacy.
Diversify Advertising Strategies:
As we can see, relying solely on third-party cookies for advertising strategies may no longer be sustainable. Advertisers must explore alternative methods such as contextual targeting, which focuses on the content of a webpage rather than individual user behaviour. Contextual targeting ensures adverts are more personalised, delivering relevant ads to the right people at the right time. In addition to this, consider Digital Out-Of-Home (DOOH) advertising and Connected TV Advertising as options to target your audience. Measurement for the success of these campaigns is different. Place more focus on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) such as Click Through Rate, Conversion Rate, and Brand Lift. You must monitor the success of new campaigns in detail, so you can adjust accordingly. Some strategies may work better than other, but now is the time to start trying, while this overlap interim period is still current.
Advertisers should closely monitor updates from Google and other industry leaders to stay informed about new developments. Google aims to implement its Privacy Sandbox solutions before completely phasing out third-party cookies. Consequently, this provides a transition period for advertisers to adapt to the evolving digital landscape. Therefore, make adjustments now!
Phasing out third-party cookies marks a significant shift in the digital marketing landscape, emphasising the importance of user privacy. Advertisers must proactively adapt to these changes by embracing alternative technologies, prioritising first-party data, and diversifying their advertising strategies. As the industry evolves, staying informed and agile will be crucial for advertisers to navigate the future of digital marketing successfully.
At ThisIsUs.Digital we want to help you stay ahead of these changes. Contact us here for more information on how we can keep you one step ahead of the competition.