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Google Third-Party Cookies are Phasing Out, Changing the Future

Google’s third-party cookies have been the secret weapon for marketers for years. Soon, they are going to become stale and obsolete starting in 2021, causing most behavioral advertising targeting to crumble. The goal of this initiative is to eliminate the violation of privacy while preventing ad fraud, but with that, will change every aspect of digital marketing – including tracking ad conversions. This is going to be hard to accept if your marketing is 100% dependent on behavior-based advertising. The sooner you can embrace the change, the further ahead of the curve you will be. 

Before we drown in the batter of information, let’s go over exactly what first-party cookies and third-party cookies are and how they differ.

First-Party Cookies
  • are directly stored by the website you visit
  • allow website owners to collect analytics data, remember language settings and the pages you frequent and perform other useful functions that provide a good user experience including how many times a user visits a certain website and what they did on the website.
Third-Party Cookies
  • track your search behavior and use your information to help paint a virtual portrait of you, such as your age, interests, recent life events, etc.
  • are created by domains that are not the website that you are visiting
  • are usually for online advertising and placed on a website through adding scripts or tags
  • are accessible on any websites that load the third-party’s server code

If you’re more of a visual-learner, picture this. Let’s say you visited Amazon and searched outdoor furniture sets. You’ll see an ad for that exact outdoor furniture set on another website you visit later in the day. If that other website you visited isn’t an Amazon-owned site, it’s very possible that this advertisement was triggered by third-party cookie data.

Now that you have digested the meaning behind first-party cookies and third-party cookies, let’s discuss what you, a business owner, can do:

  • Strike while the iron is hot (take advantage of what is available now because it won’t be around for long)
  • Connect with your agency to ensure that your campaigns are ahead of the curve
  • Invest in long-term customer retention
  • Get creative. There is no crumbling of creativity in this cookie jar. The more engaging and relevant your content, the better off you will be.
  • Make your content strategy a priority now, especially on social media.
  • Partner with an agency to build out identity-based audiences now.
  • Affiliate Marketing Tracking will be greatly impacted, and you will need to get creative for how you are going to track revenue and commissions from affiliates in the future.
  • Power up your first-and-second-party information gathering.
  • Develop a stronger conversion strategy that takes into account both online and offline activity. 
  • Take it from Google, “Having a strong online infrastructure is important for creating a data-driven environment for molding and mitigating further conversion loss.”
  • Invest in strengthening your organic search. 

Normally in life, when one door closes, another opens. In this case, although Google is closing the third-party cookie jar, there will be new alternatives to help keep your conversion tracking flowing. Google’s Privacy Sandbox initiative is to build a more private web through open standards, however, an alternative to the third-party cookies include testing out “Trust Tokens” to deal with fraud.

According to Google, Trust Tokens would be put into place to combat advertising fraud and identify real users. When verifying authenticity, Trust Tokens do so without revealing a user’s identity because they are all identical, thus preventing tracking across the web. 

While Google’s Privacy Sandbox and ‘Trust Tokens’ are in the oven, we need to start planning out what we can do now, while they bake. 

Marketing companies that solely rely on third-party data are going to need to take the next step and start conversations with the partners they work with (Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, etc.) about how they plan on or suggest handling this. Brands and digital buyers will need to transition from targeting specifically from third-party audiences to being able to champion machine learning and AI tech to help predict outcomes. 

“Publishers will need to continue to step-up their first-party data game to increase the value of their audience to buyers. The importance of context and how it can be used as a signal to understand intent or journey will continue to grow,” – Geoffrey Litwer, Vice President, Display & Programmatic Media at Tinuiti.  

The fact is, we know Google will be throwing out the third-party cookies and replacing them with healthier alternatives, geared towards the users’ privacy. We also know this with plenty of time to prepare and figure out what is best for your brand. Take comfort in knowing that you are not alone in this and we can help you get ahead of the curve now. There will be ways for you to use this to your advantage and not only discover a new way to track your conversions and target audiences, but to do it better than before.

To get started, contact us today. We’re ready to get your business in a place where this relevant change won’t disrupt your success.