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The Demise of 3rd Party Cookies: What does it mean for you?

Welcome to a world where third-party cookie tracking no longer exists.

Welcome to the world of “proper” permission marketing.

At 65%, Google’s Chrome has a large majority share of the web browser market. This means when Google changes things, the world sits up and takes notice.

In this post I’m going to discuss what the removal of third party cookies from Google chrome means and how SEO and capturing data the right way, is vitally important.

Cookies drawing

Digital marketing has often existed in a murky world of capturing data without necessarily asking for it.

This has made the online experience often feel a bit like the Wild West. 

Over the years Governments and technology companies are slowly trying to claw back control over where our data goes and what it is used for.

In 2020, Google announced its privacy sandbox and indicated the end was nigh for third-party cookies.

As of February 2024 the depreciation of cookie tracking is finally here. The timeline for the death of third-party cookies is due by the end of the year.

At the time of writing (February 2024) there are reports Google is being blocked from doing this in the UK.

This is, however, just delaying the inevitable. Businesses still need to prepare for the new world.
 


What are third party cookies? 

Cookies are text files that are stored on a user's browser whenever they visit a website. 

There are primarily two sorts of cookies:

First-party cookies

These are generated by the site the user is currently on.

These cookies recognise the user's device and remember key information to enhance their browsing experience, such as preserving items in a shopping basket or recalling the user's logged-in status.

Third-party cookies

In contrast, third-party cookies are set by a website other than the one being visited.

They track users across different sites, enabling the collection of data regarding their:

  • Browsing habits

  • Preferences

  • Interests

Why do cookies matter?

  • The data collected by cookies is used to craft personalised advertising experiences.

  • This is how advertisers serve remarketing ads, ads that follow the user around until they convert.

  • Cookies can be used to trigger automations based on user behaviour. 

  • Browsing data can also be used to create lookalike audiences on platforms like Meta.
     

Drawing of cookies

What is the problem with third-party cookies?

In exchange for optimisation services on websites, third-party cookies collect a significant amount of personal data from end-users.

This often happens without the users' explicit consent or awareness, and the data is subsequently exchanged, traded, and sold within the digital advertising sectors.

Digital marketers are all too aware of what goes on but the general public, not so much.

If you have ever wondered why the amount of nuisance calls has seemingly gone through the roof in recent years the answer probably lies in the data you’ve knowingly or unknowingly parted with via third-party cookie tracking.

The data isn’t limited to phone numbers or IP addresses though. More sensitive information is often given up too.

The issue with third-party cookies extends beyond the sheer volume of personal data they accumulate or the sensitivity of this data. 

All the information gathered can be amalgamated to construct comprehensive profiles on users, encompassing thousands of data points.

This could include everything from:

  • Your Google searches over the past five years

  •  Your credit card transactions

  • Your profiles on dating apps.

These profiles are then sold off and used by advertisers to create incredibly targeted, granular ads for things you didn’t even know you needed but seem strangely built for you.

This has been referred to as surveillance capitalism by some.

More details on this can be found on cookiebot.com
 


Why is Google removing third-party cookies?

It was inevitable something was eventually done to stop the misuse and mishandling of data. All the other major browsers including Apple and Mozilla already block third party cookies.

Apple has always been a leader when it comes to privacy, blocking third party cookies and giving users more control over how their data is used since 2020.

Google has done things a little differently, slowly removing what is available to users of its analytics and advertising tools over the years.

With GA4 there is a push towards machine learning and a new attribution model without relying on cookie tracking.

The scinics amongst us (UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) would say this is another power grab from Google, slowly removing control and keeping it all for themselves. 

But Google has amassed so much data they are confident they know user behaviour better than anyone.

person enjoying website

There has been massive pushback with critics arguing that this will hurt SME’s and startups.

Google however says their decision to remove Chrome’s third-party cookie support is part of a larger Privacy Sandbox launched in August 2019, a series of initiatives “to develop a set of open standards to fundamentally enhance privacy on the web.”

Marketers may already be noticing disappearing stats from Mailchimp for example. We’ve seen it for a while from users on IOS devices where there are unreliable numbers.

A sudden surge in open rates for example, with averages increasing.

On the face of it, none of this really benefits businesses or marketers but it should benefit the end user… in theory.


Is this the end of tracking?

No, of course not. We just have to adapt to a new world.

If anyone is used to this it is digital marketers. We have had to adapt to constant change, particularly in the last 5 or 6 years.

Provided consent becomes a priority and we work harder to actually help users the landscape doesn’t necessarily have to change that drastically.
 


Permission marketing as a strategy

Digital marketers should look at their campaign goals and think about the following:

  1. Adhere to consent mode to ensure correct tracking across Google properties is enabled

  2. Create dedicated consent campaigns at the awareness stage 

  3. Lead generation off-site

  4. “Clean” database building

By adjusting your content strategy to focus on answering users questions there is a quality consent strategy at your fingertips.


We recently worked on a client where funding for insulation training was granted with 1200 spaces to allocate quickly..

It required a sign up form which collected all the relevant information to sign the users up to the course but also allowed them to create an account on the client website, all very clearly signposted and with a compliant privacy policy.

We focused on generating form sign ups and collecting plenty of data to ensure the leads were qualified (as opposed to high volume lower quality leads).

The initial push came via PPC and emails but the pages were set up well in advance and quickly gained a strong foothold, attracting organic traffic for users searching for associated terms.

The sign up rate quickly skyrocketed due to:

  1. Highly relevant content matched with search intent

  2. Great offer for the audience (free online training)

  3. Clear call to action

Capturing their data on the landing page enables us to still tailor our marketing and upsell to the users who have signed up to the course. This is permission marketing done right.
 


Search Engine First Approach

 

By taking a search engine first approach to digital marketing you:

  •  aren’t overly reliant on methods that require granular targeting.

  •  looking to meet your audience on the platform that is encouraging this sort of thing in the first place - Google.

  • are prioritising your website and your brand being discovered on Google.

As much as Google isn’t a fan of SEO’s and giving up control, it still wants people to use its search engine.

By taking the “help don’t sell” approach, you are:

  •  prioritising trust and building a stronger relationship with your audience.

  •  more likely to be trusted and users will be more likely to give up their data willingly and knowingly.

And in 2024, email marketing is still where you’ll find your most engaged users. It is the channel that still offers the best ROI.

Tip: Make consent and permission marketing a goal in your marketing campaigns at the awareness stage. 
 


 

Watch: Our director breaks down E-E-A-T


Building trust is at the heart of what we do for our clients and using Google’s E-E-A-T guidelines as a framework for content helps us with consent.

In the permission marketing world, ensuring you are prioritising experience, expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness means you’re putting your audience first.

By putting your audience first you are more likely to engage them and have them sign up to your offering, consent to your marketing and convert them to customers.

If you need help with building a content strategy that does all the above, book a strategy call with us and find out how we can help your business!
 

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