The Death Of The Third Party Cookie: What Marketers Need To Know About Google’s Looming Privacy Pivots

What do marketers and monsters on Sesame Street have in common? They love cookies.

For years, brands have been using them to track website visitors, improve the user experience, and collect data that allows us to target ads to the right audiences. We also use them to learn what our visitors are checking out online when they are not on our websites.

However, the way we use cookies and Google ad tracking tools could change dramatically if Google tries to expire a third-party cookie in Chrome browsers by 2022.

The third-party exit was originally announced in February 2020, but Google increased excitement this month when it was announced that it was not and we will not be creating “alternate identifiers” to track people while they browse the internet use in our products. “

“We understand that this means that other providers may offer a user identity for web ad tracking that we won’t – like PII charts based on people’s email addresses,” one Google wrote -Post. “We don’t believe these solutions will meet growing consumer privacy expectations, nor will they withstand rapidly evolving regulatory constraints, and so are not a sustainable long-term investment. Instead, our web products are powered by.” Privacy APIs that prevent individual follow-up while delivering results for advertisers and publishers. “

Below, I’ll provide a brief overview of how the third-party cookie leakage and Google’s linchpin for security tracking came about. Then I’ll highlight a few things marketers should be aware of as we approach 2022.

A brief history of third party cookies leakage

While this may be your first time seeing this news, we’ve been following it since 2020 and we just recently updated this post to reflect the latest statements from Google.

In February last year, a Google blog post announced that the exit was the first reason for the pivot. Like the statement mentioned in the intro, Google also stated that this step was taken to protect users asking for more privacy.

“Users are demanding more privacy – including visibility, choice and control over how their data is used – and it is clear that the web ecosystem must evolve to meet these increasing demands,” the post wrote.

Though Firefox and Safari have already expired the third-party cookie, Google’s post stated that its changes will be made over the course of two years as the tech company works with advertisers to make sure this hinge of the online advertising business isn’t destroyed.

“Some browsers have responded to these concerns by blocking third-party cookies. However, we believe this has unintended consequences that can negatively affect both users and the web ecosystem,” the blog post said. “By undermining the business model of many ad-supported websites, blunt approaches to cookies encourage the use of opaque techniques like fingerprinting (an invasive workaround for replacing cookies) that can actually compromise user privacy and control. We believe that we as a community can and do have to do better. “

While Chrome isn’t the first browser to expire a third-party cookie, it’s the biggest. At the end of 2019, Google Chrome accounted for more than 56% of the web browser market. Chrome also accounts for more than half of all global web traffic.

Most used website browsers.

Source: Statista

Safari and Firefox, which have been blocking third-party cookies since 2013, come in second and third place.

With Chrome, Safari and Firefox no longer supporting this type of data tracking until 2022, publications like Digiday are calling Google’s exit a “death of third-party cookies”.

What happens next?

As with any major shift in privacy, data, and advertising, businesspeople and publications have been talking desperately about how Google’s opting out and opting out of ad tracking will change the way we do business online.

But do we really need to panic?

The truth is that Google Chrome’s privacy efforts could severely impact some areas of the marketing and advertising space while leaving other tactics largely unchanged.

However, if you are an advertiser or marketer who is taking advantage of third-party data or custom data for targeted online audience targeting strategies, you may be concerned about how to navigate this pivot.

While some major changes may be underway, new alternatives are emerging as well. In order to prepare you for a world without third-party cookies, you should pay attention to the following four points the last time cookies expire.

4 Things to Know About Google’s Cookie Exit and Privacy Pivots

1. Google does not prohibit all cookies.

If you think that all of your cookies-powered marketing strategies will soon be out of date, take a breath.

So far, Google only plans to expire a third-party cookie in its browsers. However, first party cookies, which collect basic data about visitors to your own website, are still safe.

In Google’s 2021 announcement, the tech giant described first-party relationships as “important”. Ultimately, all of the first party data that you get from your website visitors across all browsers will still stay in touch.

Still not sure about the difference between first-party cookies and third-party cookies? Here is a brief breakdown.

First party cookies

A first party cookie is a code that is generated by default and stored on your website visitor’s computer when they visit your website. This cookie is often used for user experience as it is responsible for storing passwords, basic data about the visitor and other settings.

With a first-party cookie, you can learn what a user did when they visited your website, how often they visited it, and get other basic analytics that you can use to develop or automate an effective marketing strategy. However, they cannot see any data about your visitor’s behavior on other websites that are not connected to your domain.

Have you ever wondered how Amazon always remembers your login information, the language you speak, the items in your shopping cart, and other important things that make your user experience so smooth? This is because Amazon uses first party cookies to remember these basic details.

However, if you are a marketer who runs a website on a CMS, you will have access to analytics dashboards that collect first party cookie data. For example, you can usually view basic analytics, such as: For example, the number of web sessions on a page, the number of pages clicked during a visit, basic browser types, geographic demographics, or even referring websites that visitors clicked a link to your site’s URL. However, this data does not inform you about everything your visitors do online.

Third party cookies

Third-party cookies are tracking codes that are placed on a web visitor’s computer after being generated by a website other than your own. When a web visitor visits your website and others, a third party cookie tracks this information and sends it to the third party who created the cookie – possibly an advertiser.

If you are an advertiser, you can use third-party cookie data to obtain information about the general online behavior of your web visitor, such as: B. About frequently visited websites, purchases and interests that he has shown on different websites. With this detailed data, you can create robust visitor profiles. With all that data, you can then build a retargeting list that you can use to send ads to your previous visitors or people with similar web profiles.

Would you like to visualize how third-party cookie data might work? Suppose you are doing research on Amazon for a specific smart TV. Then later in the day you go to another website and see an ad on Amazon for the exact same product. If you are not on an Amazon website, it is very likely that this advertisement was triggered by third-party cookie data.

While first-party cookies are automatically accepted, visitors must be informed that they are accepting a third-party cookie due to the amount of data companies can store from them.

The final result? If your only aim is to keep track of the behavior, preferences, and basic demographics of your website visitors while they are on your site, you probably won’t be deeply affected by this change.

However, if you are a marketer who relies on reliable data for online advertising, pop-up ads, or a targeted audience strategy, then you need to keep following the news surrounding that exit and consider an alternative -party strategies first, if you can the exit is approaching.

2. Many marketers saw the cookies leak.

While the “death of the third-party cookie” may seem shocking, it certainly came as no surprise.

Recently, governments around the world have been researching and addressing privacy issues. For example, during a restructuring in October 2019, the European Supreme Court ruled that users in the EU must actively consent to all cookies when they log on to a website. Otherwise, the website will not be able to receive, use or track user cookie data.

The GDPR ruling means that instead of websites informing new visitors that they are accepting cookies, visitors now have to hit an accept button like the following to accept a third-party cookie:

A banner asking users for permission to use cookies.

If your website is only for local or domestic users outside of the affected countries, you may not be affected. However, international websites have seen great reporting success because the numbers from Google Analytics – which is based on cookies – were inaccurately low.

For international brands that have relied on Google Analytics, this was a scary reminder that data-driven brands are prone to software problems. It also showed us how governance and privacy regulations can dramatically affect our strategies.

At the beginning of August, Google announced that a “privacy sandbox” was being developed. Although Google hadn’t created a product when it announced the move, a blog post stated that the tool could allow marketers to continue posting and distributing ads to the right audiences without having the same amount of user data.

“We have started sharing our preliminary ideas for a privacy sandbox – a secure environment for personalization that also protects user privacy,” wrote Justin Schuh, Director of Chrome Engineering, in the Google blog post. “Some ideas include new approaches to ensure that ads are still relevant to users. However, user data shared with websites and advertisers is minimized by aggregating user information anonymously and storing much more user information on the device only. Our goal is creating a set of standards that better meet user expectations for privacy. “

In an interview with Digiday in January 2020, Amit Kotecha, Marketing Director at data management platform provider Permutive, explained the main features of the proposed sandbox:

“The most important element in the privacy sandbox is Google’s proposal to move all user data into it.” [Chrome] Browser in which it is stored and processed, ”said Kotecha. “This means that the data remains on the user’s device and complies with data protection regulations. This is now table inserts and the gold standard for privacy. “

Between the choices the Privacy Sandbox and GDPR made that impacted data tracking, it became clear to marketers that the third-party cookie was at risk of governance or other changes by the tech company that could make it obsolete. It was so evident that advertising software companies and publishers were already considering alternative solutions before the official news about Google’s exit from cookies became known.

Currently, data management companies like Permutive are trying to develop alternative tools for advertisers that make greater use of first-party cookies and divide visitor profiles into more anonymous “segments”, similar to what is expected by the Google Privacy Sandbox.

3. Marketers don’t just care about data.

While eliminating third-party cookies on Chrome will be impractical for some, marketers are also concerned about Google’s reasons for opting out.

Without third-party Chrome-based cookie data, you can still enjoy and target Google Ads, which is based on Google Chrome’s first-party cookies and privacy sandbox tools. However, some advertising software and platforms that require third-party data will have great success without Chrome’s support.

“While this move is theoretically good for consumer privacy, it will likely harm most third-party ad platforms that use these cookies to generate revenue,” said Matthew Howells-Barby, director of acquisition at HubSpot.

“The big question behind all of this, for me, is what motivates Google to expire third-party cookies. Is this an improvement in privacy for the end user or further control over the ad market by forcing the introduction of Chrome?” own first-party cookies that would likely result in many of those dollars previously being spent on third-party platforms to improve Google’s bottom line. “

Howells-Barby isn’t the only marketer with these concerns. In a joint statement, the Association of National Advertising and the American Association of Advertising Agencies called on the tech giant to disrupt healthy competition in advertising space.

“Google’s decision to block third-party cookies in Chrome could have a significant impact on competition for digital businesses, consumer services and technological innovation,” the statement said. “It would threaten to disrupt much of today’s internet infrastructure with no viable alternative, and it could stifle the commercial oxygen that startups and emerging businesses need to survive.”

Later in the statement, the two advertising groups asked Google to postpone the “moratorium” on third-party cookies until advertisers were given effective and meaningful options.

4. Google doesn’t stop tracking people completely.

While Google won’t invest in technologies that people track on an individual level, it will invest in alternatives. Together with the development of the Google Privacy Sandbox, the company has already achieved successful advertising results from FloC, a technology that tracks groups of people rather than individuals.

“Our latest tests from FLoC show a way to effectively remove third-party cookies from the advertising equation and instead hide people in a large crowd of people with common interests, “explained Google’s latest announcement.

“Chrome plans to make FLoC-based cohorts with origin tests available for public testing in the next version of this month. We expect to start testing FLoC-based cohorts with advertisers in Google Ads in Q2. Chrome will offer that too. ” first iteration of new user controls in April and will expand these controls in future releases as more proposals reach the origination phase and they get more feedback from end users and the industry, ”the post added.

5. This step still opens the door to innovation in advertising

While things look grim for one type of cookie, it might not be a bad thing for skilled and adaptable brands.

While this move is a cause for concern, Google and other browsers continue to advocate user privacy. With data protection laws still in place, this can be a great opportunity to look into other less vulnerable advertising alternatives in the event that different governance makes one of your marketing tactics or processes appear out of date.

Why? As a marketer with an innovative mindset, you should always ask yourself questions like, “Are we too dependent on this technology?” or “What happens if and when our strategy is regulated?” Innovative marketers will be able to come up with smarter alternatives and ads that identify with the crowd – aside from just hyper-targeted content or annoying popups.

Another area that could be innovated is the way we use and use data. As mentioned above, data management platforms are now looking for alternative tools that advertisers can use to track data in a way that makes the most of the third-party cookie. These options may differ from your third-party cookie solutions or require a new strategy. However, they enable you to address and get to know relevant target groups without being intrusive.

What do you do next

No panic. Right now, marketers, advertisers, and data engineers are actively looking for solutions to help determine what will happen next. And since the third-party cookie was already weakened by blocking Safari and Firefox ads, it probably wasn’t the strongest advertising tool anymore anyway.

For now, the best thing you can do, as a marketer, is to keep staying updated on news related to third-party cookies and other privacy measures that could affect your business.

If your advertising strategies rely on third-party data, consider alternatives now. While you continue to follow the news related to the opt-out, you should also review any software or solutions that may help you better deviate from these types of cookies.

For example, while marketers are wary of Google’s move, the tech giant’s privacy sandbox could still serve as a valuable alternative for ad targeting. You can also consider strategies or software to make better use of first-party data.

In addition, you can also revive older strategies like contextual advertising. While third-party data allowed you to serve ads right in front of people who matched specific user profiles, contextual advertising allowed you to serve PPC ads to websites that rank for keywords similar to your ad. This will allow your PPC ad to show when selling sportswear on sport-oriented websites.

In order to make your brand as safe as possible from future governance or monopoly guidelines, you should develop even more fundamental strategies with which you can reach your target groups without cookies, hyper-targeted ads or large amounts of data. That way, even if you can take advantage of the latest tracking software, you are less vulnerable to technology.

Disclaimer: This blog post is not legal advice for your company on compliance with EU data protection laws such as the GDPR. Instead, it provides background information to help you better understand the GDPR. This legal information is not the same as legal advice, where an attorney applies the law to your specific circumstances. We therefore insist that you consult a lawyer if you want advice on your interpretation of this information or its accuracy.

In short, you should not rely on it for legal advice or as a recommendation of any particular legal understanding.

Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published in February 2020 but has been updated to reflect Google’s recent announcements in March 2021.

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