Third-party Cookie deprecation Deepdive
What The Shift Really Means and How to Implement Effective Strategies
For years, third-party cookies have been the backbone of online advertising, enabling advertisers to track users across the web and deliver targeted ads. However, concerns about user privacy have led to a major shift in the industry, with the end of third-party cookies on the horizon sooner rather than later.
While 2024 marks the official end of third-party cookies, many websites and browsers have already restricted or even blocked them, making their effectiveness significantly reduced even before the deadline.
This is the best time to reconsider the measurement technologies used in your business, in order to respect user’s privacy while also being able to offer content that is relevant to your audience.
Before we dive into the solutions, a little bit of background information of the phasing out of third-party cookies might be helpful.
Timeline of key milestones of third-party cookies deprecation
Here’s a timeline of the key milestones in the process of third-party cookie deprecation:
2017: Apple takes the first step by implementing Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) in its Safari browser, making it more difficult for advertisers to track users.
2018: The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect in the European Union, giving users more control over their personal data and making it harder for companies to collect and share data without consent.
2019: Mozilla Firefox joins the fight for user privacy by blocking third-party cookies by default.
2020: Safari takes a more aggressive stance by blocking third-party cookies entirely. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) also goes into effect, granting California residents similar data privacy rights as those under GDPR.
2021: Apple introduces iOS 14, which includes a feature that allows users to opt out of ad tracking across apps. This significantly limits the ability of advertisers to track users on mobile devices.
2022: Third-party cookies lose access to a significant portion of web traffic, as more and more browsers and websites block them.
2024: Google Chrome, the world’s most popular web browser, begins phasing out third-party cookies. This is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
Turning a Major Challenge into Opportunity
The deprecation of third-party cookies presents a major challenge for advertisers who have relied on them for targeted advertising. However, it also presents an opportunity to explore new and more privacy-friendly ways to reach customers.
We already mentioned in our previous article (link to article) that there are solutions for this challenge, such as:
- Focus on first-party data: Collect and use data from your own website and other owned channels to build a better understanding of your customers.
- Invest in contextual targeting: Use contextual signals, such as the content of a webpage, to target ads to relevant audiences.
- Explore privacy-preserving technologies: There are a number of new technologies that allow advertisers to target ads without collecting personal data.
Now this still sounds a bit vague. Therefore, we provide you with some practical examples of each of these solutions.
1. Focus on first-party data
First party tools for website analytics
Utilize tools like Google Analytics 4 to gather insights about your website visitors, such as demographics, interests, and behavior on-site.
Some reasons why GA4 is a good solution to measure first-party data in a privacy safe way:
- GA4 is built with privacy in mind, offering features like data deletion, consent mode and enhanced conversions to manage user data responsibly. This helps ensure compliance with evolving privacy regulations and user expectations.
- Predictive Analytics features are built in: GA4 uses machine learning to identify trends and predict future user behaviour. This allows you to personalise experiences and marketing campaigns based on individual user preferences.
- Enhanced Conversion Measurement: GA4 offers features like enhanced conversions that leverage first-party data to improve accuracy and provide insights into offline conversions. This allows for more effective campaign optimization and attribution. Before, this was only available in Google Ads, but Google announced it will also be available within Google analytics 4.
Collect customer data through newsletter sign-ups or account registrations. Analyse email engagement metrics like open rates and click-through rates to understand customer preferences.
Send out surveys to gather feedback directly from your audience. Use the responses to tailor your products or services to better meet their needs.
2. Invest in contextual targeting
Three examples of how contextual targeting can help your business with personalized advertising:
- Keyword targeting: Place ads on websites or platforms that are relevant to specific keywords related to your products or services. For example, advertise running shoes on websites about fitness or marathons.
- Content categorization: Target ads based on the type of content users are consuming. For instance, if someone is reading articles about travel destinations, display ads for travel accessories or vacation packages.
- Geographic targeting: Tailor ads based on the location of the user. Show ads for a local restaurant to users within a certain radius, increasing the relevance and likelihood of engagement.
3. Explore privacy-preserving technologies
This is probably the most technical solution of all, and we warn that this is not for all advertisers. However, learning about new technologies early on can help you prepare for the future of cookieless measurement.
- Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC): Instead of tracking individual users, FLoC groups users with similar browsing habits into cohorts. Advertisers can target ads to these cohorts without accessing personal data.
- Contextual AI: Use artificial intelligence to analyze the context of webpages and serve ads based on the content, without needing to track individual user behavior.
These are some of many examples of what you can do to make advertising efforts relevant to your audience while respecting user’s privacy.
If you find this information overwhelming, consider signing up for a GA4 UP subscription. With this subscription, we audit your setup, implement new feature releases and update you on new privacy releases (stay updated with GDPR / CCPA) for a small monthly fee. This subscription allows you to focus on your priorities while the experts handle the rest. Learn more about how we can support you here (link to our GA4 subscription page).
Blog by Tika Spijkerman, Analyst at UP Analytics