27 Jul 2022

Google’s Third-Party Cookie Phase Out and What It Means to Digital Marketing

Google’s plan to phase out Third-Party Cookies for Chrome, announced in 2020, will come into play late 2023, with the aim of creating a more private digital world for tracking individuals on the web, with more control over how a users data is used and stored. 

This will not come as a shock to the digital world. Google is not the first company to phase out Third-Party Cookies. Apple phased this out for Safari searchers, while Mozilla’s Firefox tackled their cookie-less world in 2019. 

Consumers who are concerned about their privacy can also download extensions that disable Google’s third-party cookies.

With 63% of the global market share using Google Chrome, the cookie-less era will have an impact upon digital marketers, however this does not apply to all cookies. But what is the difference between first-party and third-party cookies? 

The website (or domain) you are visiting stores first-party cookies. These cookies allow website owners to collect analytics data, remember language preferences, and perform other services that help users have a better experience.

Cookies from domains other than the one you’re visiting are known as third-party cookies. These are typically used for online advertising and are included on a website via a script or tag. Any website that loads the code from the third-party server can access a third-party cookie. Third-party cookies are also used for retargeting purposes. 

Blocking third-party cookies will inevitably impact how an ad is served and delivered, however it is foremost important to understand some of the changes it will make to advertisers campaigns;

  • Because frequency capping (e.g. displaying an ad to someone multiple times) relies heavily on third-party cookies, this feature will be phased out in its current form.
  • Most forms of dynamic creative targeting, including retargeting, will become obsolete.
  • Audience targeting from third-party cookies will become unusable. 

However, the elimination of Google’s third-party cookies does not mean that marketers are without options; it simply means that they must adjust their methods to rely solely on customer-provided data.

Instead of tracking consumers through their devices, marketers may collect data directly from them via websites and apps they use (first-party). Predicting what a customer will buy next is a lot more simple through the use of first-party data.

Digital fingerprints are an alternative to third-party data. When a user visits a website, a device fingerprint tracker (typically a piece of JavaScript) collects all relevant information about their device, such as their browser version, operating system, language settings, and IP address fingerprint to create a profile of individuals. In terms of marketing, when a user visits a website for the first time, they may be targeted with a pop-up sale, which can only be used once since the sale is for new users.

Another approach is through Contextual Marketing. Instead of advertising that matches their data, users are targeted with adverts that match the content they’re seeing. This sort of marketing matches the keywords and topics on the website. E.g. a user will search the web for a new car, later that day they are targeted with car ads. 

Since Google believes businesses and developers should still be able to make money from advertisements and apps, they’ve created the Privacy Sandbox, to help overcome and replace the loss of third-party cookies through the use of browser API’s (a piece of software that allows other programmes to communicate with other programmes). These APIs will replace cookies, providing marketers with aggregated data on conversion and attribution.

Google’s end goal is to rely on anonymous data signals rather than cookies within the browser to gain access to its users’ web activity. The death of Google’s third-party cookies does not mean the end of digital advertising. Marketers, on the other hand, must rethink their strategies and consider alternatives in order to reach their target audience.