Third Party Cookies

28 January 2021

That’s the way the third-party cookie crumbles

Greg McCann

2020 was a year like no other, and with all that happened in this now infamous year, you may have missed some big tech news. In January 2020, Google first announced that they were removing third-party cookies from Chrome stating; “it can sustain an ad-supported world while also rendering cookies obsolete”. 

What has changed over the last 12 months, why was this announcement made in the first place and what does this mean for your business?

What are third-party cookies?

Think of third-party cookies as tracking codes that are created by and stored under a different domain than you are currently visiting. They are mostly used to track users between websites and display relevant ads.

For example, after searching online for apartment rentals and the best places to eat in Barcelona earlier in the week, deals and promos for a weekend in Barcelona now seem to follow you everywhere. 

These are third-party cookies and as you’ll know, they are not new. For years marketers have been using cookies to track website visitors and improve the user experience by collecting data that helps advertisers target ads to the right audiences. So why are they changing?

Why are third-party cookies changing?

In a world with  GDPR, CCPA and ePrivacy Regulations, governments are looking to find new ways to protect the privacy of website users. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that Google would look to shake up their cookie policy. 

Google announced the news as part of a two-year phase-out saying “Users are demanding greater privacy and users want transparency, choice, and control over their data and how it is used. For this to happen the web ecosystem needs to evolve to meet these demands”.

Google stated their phase-out could happen over the course of two years as they are “working with advertisers to ensure this phase-out does not destroy online businesses”… 

It may also be because Google has a huge stake in this change with around 90% of its revenue generated through advertising and Chrome commanding over 50% of the market share – more than half of ALL global web traffic.

What has the reaction been?

The reaction at the time of Google’s announcement was a mixed one – of both mad panic and the lauding of positive change a long time coming. 

Although Google is not the first to stop supporting third-party cookies, it is the biggest. Firefox and Safari have blocked third-party cookies for several years now, but due to the gulf in market share between these two providers and Google, some believe this to be “the death of the third party cookie” and as a result it’s received a lot more attention. So, is it really time to panic? 

As with any major shift involving consumer privacy, advertisers, data marketers and business experts are reevaluating and planning how they will do business online moving forward. 

Google’s announcement could heavily impact areas of online marketing, but equally, there will be some areas that will remain relatively the same. As a way of discovering what the likely impact of this change was in August 2019, Google researched and published a controlled experiment which investigated the impact that disabling access to third-party cookies would have on the programmatic ad revenue of web publishers. 

Over a 96 day period Google discovered that the removal of third-party cookies would reduce publishers’ ad revenue by 52%. 

If you are a business or advertiser who has leveraged industries like publishers for third-party cookie data for audience targeting, then you might be forgiven for being worried. However, with big changes such as these, new data-driven alternatives will very likely emerge, so watch the space.

What do I do now?

Google’s third-party cookie phase-out is ultimately a plan to make the internet a safer place for users, and while this may seem daunting and shocking to some, this phase-out presents new and exciting opportunities for marketers. That is where we can help. 

Right now, marketers, advertisers, and data engineers are working to find solutions to what happens next. At Boldspace we are always on the lookout for new innovative ways to elevate brands and businesses. Our approach brings together brand building, communications and analytics to form what we call Whole World Brand View™, all of which we track in BoldLens™

What are the alternatives to third-party cookies?

The best advice is to stay up-to-date with news related to third-party cookies and other data privacy moves that could impact your business. If you are finding it difficult knowing where to start here are our top alternatives to third-party-cookie marketing and tracking:

First-party cookies*: Your cookie-led marketing strategies are still useful with no announcement (so far) to get rid of first-party cookies. 

*First-party cookies are tracking codes stored under the same domain you are currently visiting. If you are on boldspace.com, all cookies stored under this domain are considered first-party cookies.

Marketing with first-party cookies offers insights and data about what a user did while visiting your website. Data insights from first-party cookies can help develop an effective marketing strategy, with learnings such as demographic data or user interactions on your site.

Email marketing: Users who sign up to your newsletter are showing an interest in your brand, products or services. Emailing product offers to your email list is a low-hanging fruit opportunity as nearly 60% of consumers say email marketing influences their buying decision.

Email marketing also opens a new door for tracking as marketing emails are one of the best ways to discover what your audience wants to consume. For example, multiple blogs featured in a newsletter can be tracked to understand how many clicks each article is getting. The most clickable blog link is what your audience is most interested in and can inform the basis of your next strategy. 

Social media: Social media advertising tools allow you to launch targeted ads or targeted posts to specific audiences. B2C businesses can utilise platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, with B2B businesses leveraging professional networks like LinkedIn.

Social media provides you with a fantastic opportunity to learn more about your current audience as well as attract similar user groups. Social media data such as age, gender, location can demonstrate what users are engaging with. Combining demographics with a look at the competitive landscape, social media presents countless strategic opportunities.

Remarketing: Remarketing is the practice of serving ads to audiences that have already engaged with you. Upload contact lists to social media or search network platforms who then serve ads to audiences that share the same email or a similar audience that shares the same demographics to those in your email list. 

Remarketing is a fantastic opportunity to upsell to customers who have previously purchased or enquired with your business.

Contextual marketing: Contextual marketing is a strategy that is formed by the behaviours and conditions surrounding your marketing efforts so all content is relevant to the audience receiving it.

While marketing to user profiles will cease to exist, marketing to behaviours such as keyword search or personas remains. For example, if a user profile matches ‘interested in men’s apparel’ third-party cookies would have put your ad in front of the user. An alternative strategy is to target keywords such as “men’s apparel”, now your PPC ad could show up on men’s apparel/men’s fashion websites. 

Want to know more?

From the above list of third-party cookie alternatives or with any multi-channel marketing efforts, you are going to be juggling mass amounts of data from multiple sources. To combat this we created BoldLens™. 

Social insights, engagement, the competitive landscape, campaign and keyword performance across all media channels are monitored, tracked and evaluated in our custom and tailored data analytics platform. BoldLens™ negates the need for multiple analytics platforms open at one time which are not informing one another’s strategy. BoldLens™ collates these insights into one centralised location.

If you would like to know more about; the impact of third-party cookies, planning your marketing strategy moving forward or would like to start a conversation about collecting your data into one easy to use custom data analytics platform, do not hesitate to get in touch.