Cookies are the gooey core of digital advertising as we know it today. Marketers and companies rely on cookies to understand customer behavior on their website and beyond.

In March of 2021, Google Chrome announced the phase out of third-party cookies. By late 2023, third-party cookies will no longer be supported on the search engine. However, first-party cookies will continue to be supported and encouraged for marketers’ use. With Google Chrome currently claiming 56%+ of the web browser market and over 50% of global web traffic, this phase-out will have a large ripple effect through digital advertising. Preparation and a strategy will be important for brands as they adjust to the new normal.

How Are First-Party & Third-Party Cookies Different?

The crucial difference between first-party cookies and third-party cookies is if the data stored directly on your domain is created and managed by the website’s owner or if it is created and maintained by sources outside of your website.

First-party cookies feature data stored on the host domain that is maintained by the website owner. The website owner has access to login information, language preferences, items added to shopping carts, privacy controls, and much more. This type of cookie is harmless and serves to improve the user experience.

On the other hand, third-party cookies are created and maintained by third-party sources. Examples of this include online marketers and support chat widgets. They can track users and display more personalized ads across websites.

How Will This Change Impact Marketing?

An estimated 80% of advertisers rely on third-party cookies. Campaign reach and targeting will be heavily impacted by the absence of third-party cookies. Specifically, visibility on audience behavior beyond your website will be limited or completely lost. Marketing tactics like retargeting and audience extension will be difficult to execute and monitor. Marketers and ad publishers will need to find new alternatives to reach their audiences across the web.

Additionally, campaign testing and measurement could be less effective with the phase out. Basic capabilities like A/B testing and frequency capping will be challenging for marketers who depend on third-party cookies. Historically Google Analytics leverages third-party persistent cookies to track users across multiple sessions and help their tool understand multi-touch attribution. However, this approach will prove difficult with the absence of third-party cookies. Brands will need new ways to quantify campaign performance that inform business decisions.

Alternatives to Third Party Cookies

First-Party Data

Thankfully, first-party cookies are not going away. As marketers prepare for this change, obtaining first-party data will become a necessity when targeting your consumers. Enriching your database with data that consumers have consented to providing will play a critical role for brands in absence of third-party cookies. It is a necessary step to capture some of the data that will be lost.

Universal IDs

Another alternative to third-party cookies are universal IDs. Universal ID is a user identifier that provides a shared encrypted identity to users in an ecosystem without the use of third-party cookies. This approach could improve user identification, targeting, and privacy compliance. However, this is not foolproof, marketers can run into issues of data-syncing different user IDs.

Contextual Targeting

Contextual Targeting provides an alternate way of serving ads on websites based on the site’s content. Marketers can target URLs with keywords that discuss topics relevant to the campaign. This way, marketers can reach their target audiences on the websites that they are likely to visit. This approach relies on high-quality keyword-optimized content. For support on keyword optimization and SEO, contact us.

What To Do Now?

1. Grow Your Database

As mentioned earlier, adopting first-party data tactics will be critical for compensating the third-party cookie loss. If you are not doing this already, encourage opt-ins and authentication for users on your website. This approach can strengthen consumer relationships as you are able to serve content your users have consented to receive.

2. Leverage Google Analytics Server Tracking

Utilizing a cloud server and ‘first-party’ to set the analytics cookie makes it a first-party cookie allowing you to track users without breaching privacy laws. With the ever-changing nature of cookies, segmenting out users by the type of browsers that they use accommodates for the inconsistencies across search engines.

3. Test and Monitor

Developing a testing plan will help determine the success of the alternatives highlighted above. Unlike traditional A/B testing, brands need to create new benchmarks to properly quantify new advertising solutions. Smart brands will charge ahead with adopting new solutions and testing said solutions before the phase-out in 2023.   

4. Strengthen your Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Now more than ever, brands need a strong SEO strategy. Searchability will remain untouched with privacy changes. As the advertising landscape changes, establishing a well-optimized presence will help users find your content and services across the web without the need for cookies. In the long-term, organic traffic can yield bountiful results which could compensate for the loss in advertising reach. An SEO Audit is a great first step to creating an implementation SEO strategy that will have measurable results.

Do You Need Help with Campaign Data Integration?

Bold Orange manages innovative paid media campaigns across channels and we also help brands manage modern customer data collection and storage systems. For a detailed analysis and advice on your current situation related to data privacy, don’t hesitate to reach out.