In January 2020, Google announced its plan to eliminate third-party cookies from Chrome. Many users see this decision as a step in the right direction where consumer privacy is concerned, but the digital marketing world is preparing for what they see as a monumental shift in online advertising. Digital advertisers will now have to seek out new ways to track conversions, retarget website visitors, and serve relevant ads without relying on third-party cookie data.
As of now, Google plans to remove third-party cookies from Chrome by the second half of 2024. Given the fact that the web browser dominates the market share, taking up 63% compared to others like Safari and Firefox, their initiatives in the digital space give competitors no choice but to follow. But even though browsers like Firefox and Safari have blocked third-party cookie usage already, Google’s authority has the ability to create a digital future that we have no option but to settle into.
Advertisements are truly everywhere you look nowadays. Whether you’re perusing a news article or scrolling through Facebook, you’re likely going to run into an ad. Although many people express their annoyance towards online advertising, 71% of people in a recent study say they don’t mind ads, so long as they’re relevant and tailored to their personalized interests and habits. But the extent to which ads are able to be personalized and tailored to users’ online habits will change once Google begins its effort to create a cookieless world. Or, at least a world where user privacy is more respected.
What are tracking cookies?
If you’re familiar with tracking cookies, the phrase “cookieless tracking” may sound like an oxymoron to you. To an extent, it is. Cookies were created solely to track users' web browsing habits and online interests.
However, third-party cookies are in a class of their own, not to be confused with first- or second-party cookies. First-party cookies are commonly used on websites to store basic data that can reveal what a user did on your website and save their preferences, such as language settings and login information. Second-party cookies store information that’s communicated within a data partnership. So, data that is communicated between banks and credit unions to help determine if you’re eligible to apply for certain credit cards would be considered second-party cookies (although many argue these aren’t cookies at all).
Third-party cookies follow you from one website to another, tracking your website history, behavior, and interests. These are beneficial when it comes to effective advertising retargeting efforts and personalized ad serving. The biggest qualm when it comes to third-party cookies is the lack of transparency with how the data that's collected is used. Many online users aren’t fond of their information being tracked and stored without their knowledge or consent, which is the driving force behind Google’s new cookieless tracking era.
Entering into the age of cookieless tracking
Google hasn’t just declared an end to third-party cookies without proposing some alternative solutions. Google is currently developing its Privacy Sandbox initiative, which is intended to create technologies that meet this issue right in the middle, giving digital marketers the ability to enhance the quality of their advertisements and access user data, but all the while respecting people’s right to privacy.
Google states that its Privacy Sandbox’s mission is to “create a thriving web ecosystem that is respectful of users and private by default”. With Privacy Sandbox, Google also announced Google Topics. Google Topics is interest-based advertising that will replace their initial Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) proposal. Topics would work to help your browser (in this case, it would be Chrome) to determine relevant interests based on your browsing activity. Users would have the freedom to curate their list of topics, ridding of those they don’t like and keeping those they deem relevant.
The newest push to eliminate the use of third-party cookies has advertisers and marketers wondering where they’ll go from here. For most, the best they can do is to stay on top of the change and continue to be aware of the alternative solutions they have at their disposal.
The future of digital advertising
As interesting as it sounds, it’s good to keep in mind that Google Topics is still being tested and we have yet to see a final result. Topics is also just one of the alternatives digital marketers will have at their disposal to track digital marketing success once third-party cookies are gone forever.
Here are the current third-party cookie tracking alternatives:
- Using first-party data, such as website traffic data and CRM tools, to understand your users’ interests and intent
- Using Google’s Privacy Sandbox technology, which will include Topics API
- Contextual targeting initiatives, which serve ads based on a website’s content (which is helpful if users are visiting a site surrounding a niche or unique topic)
- Identity solution advertising, like Unified ID, which uses email addresses and phone numbers to match users to an ID to better understand their specific interests
Epic Web Studios stays on the cutting edge of digital marketing
Whether we’re talking about cookieless solutions or the latest industry trends in SEO, you can bet that Epic Web Studios is staying on the cutting edge and following new developments the minute they’re introduced. Our digital marketing department won’t just stay informed, but we’ll adapt and conquer every trend and update thrown our way.