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On June 24, Google announced the delay of the Third-Party cookie phase-out until late 2023

Crumbling Cookies: A Brief History of the Demise of Third-Party Cookies

Google announced on June 24 that they’d be delaying the Third-Party cookie phase out until late 2023. This long-term delay will allow advertisers to adjust their campaigns for compliance and prepare for changes in their digital marketing strategies. “The Delay” is excellent news for digital marketers that heavily utilize Google AdWords and other platforms with these behavioral data tracking features! Marketers already deal with privacy-first web browsers such as Firefox & Safari that have had measures in place to block third-party cookies for years. But while Google’s  change is delayed it is still inevitable and therefore companies who ignore the change for the short term do so at their own peril.

The need for third-party cookies has been debated by many companies in the last few years. However, with Google’s announcement, it seems like there are more questions than answers regarding what impact these changes may have on marketing strategies. The biggest question being: If you don’t use third-party cookies, how can you measure return on investment?

Why Delay the Death of Third Party Cookies?

Originally, we heard the news on cookieless tracking being implemented with an updated version release at some point during the 2019 – 2020 timeframe. Google’s announcement earlier this year brought us up to date on their timeline plans surrounding cookieless functionality implementation within their browser product line.

How should marketing teams be planning right now for this change in the future? Two words: Take action! Do not be complacent, thinking that, “2023 is a ways off! We can put this on the back burner.” Don’t bury your head in the sand, hoping for further delays. Don’t get comfortable, or worse yet, forget that it is coming. Google is still headed in the same direction: the end of the line for tracking cookies. The only change is the timeline. Data collection is still a crucial strategy of any marketing campaign. The definitive question becomes, “How to gather first-party data from customers in a way that both protects their data and respects their privacy?”

A Brief History of Cookieless Tracking

What is Cookieless Tracking?

Cookieless tracking is a form of web analytics that enables marketers to track users on their websites. It provides marketers who use Google Analytics and other similar tools the ability to better understand how customers interact with their websites without using cookies at all. When you send a request from your browser (or device) to be sent back by the server, this information will then be stored as “first-party data,” which can help create segments or profiles depending on what kind of analysis you want to do.

First & Third-Party Cookies: What You Need to Know

Cookies are little pieces of information that websites and online services can use to track users. First-Party Cookies are not going away. However, these types of cookies have a lot less power in tracking user behavior because they only collect data on one specific domain (the site where it was initially dropped). First-Party Cookies:

  • Collect data from your website for your Google Analytics to remember things like language settings, user type, etc.
  • Create segments and profiles
  • Powerful, but limited to your scope of operations

Third-party cookies are data collected by other domains aside from your own. This type of cookie is mainly used for advertising purposes to understand users better when they are not on your website. This is the part that’s going away, potentially impacting the effectiveness and accuracy of ad targeting if advertisers don’t take the necessary steps before it happens.

Third-Party Cookies are cookies that advertisers place on an individual’s computer to understand user behavior outside of your own website. This type does have its limitations; if someone switches browsers or deletes their browser history, all third-party cookies will be deleted too. Nonetheless, the data collected allows for much more customization as these types can store user preferences across multiple domains. Unfortunately, they’ll be gone soon, which isn’t welcomed news for advertising firms that have relied on this data.

In the future, third parties will only be able to access users’ data if they have given consent. Therefore, it is even more critical than ever to ensure websites get permission from visitors when asking for personal details such as location, email address, and other information.

Why Have Third-Party Cookies Depreciated in Value?

The privacy-first era has directly resulted from the increased demand for online shopping and the rapid growth of online marketing technologies and platforms. At the beginning of the internet, it was like the Wild West with very few gatekeepers, few rules and regulations, and an ever-changing landscape as things evolved quickly. Eventually, there were winners and losers in those early days. However, savvy entrepreneurs and marketers took advantage of the world wide web’s limitless possibilities as the internet evolved.

Third-party cookies became the de facto solution for tracking consumer information as they ended up being developed for widespread adoption across the internet. However, as consumers became just as savvy in their internet usage as the pioneering entrepreneurs and marketers, third-party cookies began to damage consumer trust. This damage caused consumer resentment, which led to the depreciation of third-party cookies as they face increasingly more substantial consumer backlash.

Google views third-party cookie removal as a way to repair the perceived damage that their presence has caused over the years:

  1. The decision to remove cookies was made to ensure that websites using them can continue offering their services.
  2. It is supposed to prevent other privacy concerns from arising when sites collect these small pieces of data without permission or knowledge.
  3. Google hopes that this will alleviate consumers’ trust issues with online companies and advertisers alike.

As internet usage increases, people have become increasingly aware of their private data being mined and tracked. The collection of personal information seemingly increases the power it gives to companies over consumers. Consumers have lost trust with these third-party trackers who do not respect internet privacy rights on the internet. The removal is a step forward for users’ online security and efforts to repair consumers’ loss of confidence. Consumers in the privacy-first era will be looking to take power back, leading to more solutions based on opt-in methods.

A Deeper Look at the Delay

The process of depreciating third party cookies isn’t just a cake walk. This data has long been at the core of programmatic advertising. The fact that a data powerhouse like Google wants to pump the brakes on this massive change emphasizes the incredible amount of legwork involved. Google made the decision to  slow down the process to work more closely with privacy regulators. For example, Google wants all technologies used by third-party cookies replaced as soon as possible because other browsers also have similar privacy concerns. Google wants to take more time and work closely with regulators to build technologies that will replace third-party cookies. They’ve introduced FLoC, which groups an individual’s data into cohorts. Unfortunately, even this solution has privacy concerns of its own and both regulators and other browsers shaking their heads. The change is a big deal for everyone involved since this impacts many different businesses across industries.

How Can Companies Prepare Right Now for Cookieless Browsing?

It’s essential to prepare for changes you might see in the next two years so that when Google rolls out its new search algorithm, your website is ready. We can not predict with certainty what Google’s long-term solution will be. For example, Google might deliver an entirely new ad layout. So the first thing you should do is have a well-built First-Party Data Strategy. It would be best if you didn’t rush into this without making sure the right tech is in place and that you’ve had time with it. Then find a partner like Enilon who can help create incremental tests for your business goals!

If incremental tests run like A/B testing, then get some hard data about what different implementations can do for your business. There likely isn’t going to be one solution for everyone, so that extra time will mean more opportunities! Prepare for changes you might see in the next two years so that when Google rolls out its new search algorithm, your website is ready.

By running incremental tests, a company can get hard numbers on the capabilities of each solution. This will help determine which strategies to go with before Google rolls out their cookie-free solution within the next two years. However, the time to take action is now. This delay means your competitors are also gaining more time to better prepare.

Any delay on your part could give them a leg up. It’s important to prepare for this now, to have a chance at success when everything changes later down the road. There’s no harm starting early! SEO isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so make sure you’re getting ahead of this wave as much as possible by testing different options/strategies now while time still allows – who knows how things could change until then?

Losing Your Cookies vs Earning Brownie Points

Cookieless browsing is coming, later than expected but the train is coming into the station. The bottom line is you need a proactive marketing strategy that puts you in control of the future. Plan to be proactive, or wait and find yourself behind the curve and left in the dust. Don’t give your competitors the chance to prepare more than you. The death of cookies opens the door for companies to earn brownie points with customers and potential customers by gaining their trust with permission based marketing solutions. Solutions that respect user privacy, value customer experience, reward loyalty, and protect personal information.

Work with Enilon to get your website ready for the coming challenges of the privacy-first era, the death of third-party cookies, and other digital marketing twists and turns. We have dedicated digital marketing experts for content creation, web design and development, digital strategy, SEO, paid advertising, social media campaigns and so much more. Partner with Enilon and you will be earning so many brownie points with your customers there will be no need to cry over spilt milk and crumbled cookies.