Digital Marketing In a Cookieless World

ARE WE THERE YET?

This is the nail-biting question on the lips of marketers everywhere more than a year after Google announced it would end support of third-party cookies in its Chrome browser by 2022. With third-party cookies already blocked by the world’s second and third most popular browsers, Apple’s Safari and Mozzilla’s Firefox which combined account for nearly 23% of browsers globally, Google’s Chrome joining the trend with its 64% means third-party cookies will be blocked in nearly 90% of browsers by 2022. And that in a nutshell is why we find ourselves on the road to cookie-gedon.

 

WHAT ARE COOKIES AND WHY ARE THEY CRUMBLING? 

Let’s start with a digital marketing 101 refresher on cookies. Cookies are small text files that store themselves on the computers or smart devices of internet users as they visit websites. They are currently ubiquitous and form the foundation of measurement, analytics, retargeting, site optimisation and a whole lot more for digital marketing, but all cookies are not created equal. First-party cookies are created and stored by the website a user is visiting directly and in addition to providing the site owner with analytical data they carry out functions that improve user experience. Third-party cookies however are set by a website other than the one a user is currently visiting resulting in users’ data being shared far beyond the scope of their awareness.

Over the past ten years, third-party cookies have transformed digital marketing. We use them to increase the precision of targeting and tracking based on users’ online behaviour, and that’s the rub. That magical window cookies provide into users’ behaviour comes with privacy implications that an increasingly tech-savvy public is no longer so willing to tolerate. After the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect in 2018 and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) followed in 2020, a change in digital privacy practices was inevitable.

 

WHAT DOES A COOKIE-LESS WORLD MEAN FOR MARKETERS?

Any way you slice it, Google’s move to block third-party cookies spells unpredictability for digital marketing. This leap forward in improving data privacy and user anonymity has us all scrambling to come to grips with its implications for our future digital strategies and campaigns. As users become less identifiable through the removal of cookies and iOS app-tracking, third-party data providers will likely become obsolete. So what will this mean for targeting and attribution? Well according to Milina Magnus, Digital Account Director at Mediatropy, targeting will become more reliant on 1st-party data, publisher data and contextual targeting, post-cookie.

“As a result, conversion attribution and reporting will likely take a hit as user behaviours will no longer be as easily tracked across devices or from browser history,” shares Magnus.

“All of which will create new challenges when trying to effectively target audiences at different stages in their user journey and report back on their actions or conversions to measure the success of a campaign.”

 

HOW CAN MARKETERS PREPARE FOR THE POST-COOKIE WORLD?

So what now and what’s next? Preparing to face a cookie-less world will be challenging as the landscape is changing by the day with new facts and considerations continuously popping up on the horizon. However, by adopting a two-pronged approach of looking back and looking forward, marketers can get ready and stay ready to face what will come.

 

LOOK BACK: REFOCUS ON MARKETING FUNDAMENTALS

  • Leverage your 1st-party data and publisher data, refine your contextual targeting and pump up the quality of your creative output. Now’s the time to tighten your CRM processes and address any issues you’ve been neglecting around the storage and organization of data because you are going to need that data more than ever quite soon.
  • Take a closer look at your publisher relationships, drill down on the data and insights they make available to you and use that information to improve your contextual targeting strategies.
  • Use keyword and URL targeting to help you strengthen your contextual targeting practices. Once hyper-targeting and re-marketing are no longer possible, your ads will have far fewer chances to hook their targets.
  • Last but not least, develop your content marketing strategy, and make better ads.

LOOK FORWARD: SCAN FOR NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN TARGETING

Stay up-to-date on any new or alternative targeting options to avoid being left behind. On that note, Google has been making quite a stir with its own plan for replacing third-party cookies.

 

FEDERATED LEARNING OF COHORTS (FLOC)

Google’s Federated Learning of Cohorts or FLoC for short is a Privacy Sandbox initiative developed to provide users with data anonymity while using browser APIs to allow advertisers to continue behavioural targeting. Based on machine learning, FLoC allows any browser* to anonymously study how users are browsing and then based on their similar habits and interests, it groups the users into ‘cohorts’. After a cohort is formed it is given a category or label, which is then announced to every single website that the members of the cohort visit. Learn more in Google’s FLoC whitepaper.

 

HAVE YOU BEEN FLOC-ED

What we know so far is that FLoC entered testing with digital advertising in April of 2021, with 0.5% of Chrome users unknowingly taking part. If you would like to find out if you are part of the mass trial to find the new cookie test your browser here: https://amifloced.org.

*At present FLoC isn’t being embraced by any of Google’s peers in the browser space but this will definitely be an area to monitor closely in the coming weeks and months. 

 

Unsure about how to navigate and survive cookie-gedon? We can help with that. Get in touch with us to prepare for the post-cookie world.

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