Third-party cookies have long been the way marketers and advertisers collect and analyze data to serve personalized ads to their target audience. However, because these cookies utilized such personal information about each internet user, there have been increasing privacy issues and concerns. Because of this, third-party cookies are going extinct, which means it’s time to find new ways to plan advertising campaigns that work. Read on to learn more about the coming end of third-party cookies and how to prepare for a cookieless future.
What Are Third-Party Cookies, and Why Are They Going Extinct?
Third-party cookies are hosted on domains other than the one a user is visiting. These cookies are used to identify users and target them with personalized ad experiences from other websites they’ve visited. The main reason third-party cookies are going extinct is because of the privacy issues they bring with them. While privacy has been a concern for internet users for a while now, in 2017, the GDPR began establishing privacy laws to protect individuals’ information. Even though the GDPR privacy laws are set to protect Europeans, any business or organization that targets or collects personal data related to the EU must adjust their tracking systems, even if they are in the US.
Internet browsers such as Safari and Firefox have already completely removed third-party cookies from their browsers, with Chrome set to do so by 2023. This is all in an effort to increase privacy measures for users browsing online and increase transparency around marketing efforts.
For a comprehensive guide on cookie management for major browsers:
What’s the Difference Between Third Party and First Party Cookies?
While third-party cookies are no longer available for marketers to use, businesses can (and do) still use first-party cookies. First-party cookies are set and stored by the actual website you are visiting. They enable websites to collect specific information to improve the user experience, such as language settings, login information, and filters. The use of these cookies must be made known to each website browser with the option to learn more about the collection and use of the data. As of now, first-party cookies aren’t going anywhere.
5 Things to Do to Prepare for a Cookieless Future
Whether you like it or not, third-party cookies are a thing of the past. This means advertisers and marketers must find new ways to engage and target their audience with relevant ad content and personalized messaging. While there is still a lot to learn about what comes next, here are five things you can do now to plan for a cookieless future.
1. Understand the implications of the loss of third-party cookies
Firstly, it is essential to understand what precisely third-party cookies provided your business. This way, you can clearly understand where the gaps are now that they are no longer an option for collecting data and serving personalized ads. Because effective digital marketing has relied on third-party cookies for many years, adjusting to a cookieless future may be a challenge at first. It requires a shift in how you approach advertising.
An excellent place to start preparing for this change is analyzing and understanding your current audience and market needs. Do you know who your target audience is? Do you know their demographics, interests, wants, and needs when it comes to engaging with your brand? For years, marketers have been able to rely on capturing this type of information from cookies. However, without cookies, you need to know more about your audience than ever before. If you haven’t already, now is the time to make sure you truly know your customer.
For more information on identifying your target customer:
2. Learn more about how to use first-party cookies for advertising
First-party cookies aren’t going anywhere, which means now is the time to strategize using these cookies to improve your advertising. In what ways can they fill in the gaps caused by the omission of third-party cookies? For example, contextual targeting is going to gain traction as a way to show relevant information to your target audience via advertisements. The data you do have about your customers via first-party data should become the foundation of your advertising efforts moving forward.
Because of this, it is also important to focus on growing your audience. Put strategies in place to increase your subscriber base, email list, and engaged followers. You can then serve these audiences with personalized content through other forms of advertising that don’t require in-depth data collection.
3. Identify tools to replace third-party cookies
What will replace the cookie? No one knows yet. There are claims of new tools and systems being created. One that Google recently announced it would be using is FLoC. FLoC creates “cohorts” of people based on their online viewing habits. These “cohorts” are identifiable, but the individuals within them are not, which is a solution to the privacy issue that started this change in the first place. However, it is unlikely that a one-size-fits-all solution will arise quickly. It takes time to understand and test the effectiveness of such systems. Here are the tools that are currently rising to the top which marketers can try:
- Privacy Sandbox (FLoC): presently being tested
- Real-Time Profiling: uses context to gain insights and relevant information about an audience
- Publisher’s First-Party Data: uses relevant data from publishers to better understand your target audience
- Unique ID: uses login information
For more information on building up your first-party data:
4. Invest in more meaningful and engaging content
While contextual targeting should have always been part of your marketing and advertising strategy, now is the time for it to take center stage. Here is how to effectively create a meaningful contextual targeting campaign using the information you have about your target audience:
- Use first-party data and other insights to learn about the contextual signals (time and day of a search, device models, etc.) to increase personalization.
- Create personalized visual and written content to engage your target audience further. The need for eye-catching visuals and engaging messaging is greater than ever before. Even without third-party cookies to personalize your content, you can still achieve outstanding results with the right creative elements.
- Use contextual targeting alongside audience targeting, compare results and make adjustments as needed.
- A/B test different contextual targeting strategies and campaigns to identify which works best for your brand.
5. Strategize your short-term and long-term approach to the cookieless future
While there will be challenges as you begin to navigate the cookieless future, you can get ahead of the game by strategizing your short-term and long-term approach to these changes.
Research and learn everything you can about advertising in a post-cookie world. You will then want to explain this to your marketing team. The use of third-party cookies affects many different departments, so everyone should understand the changes and need for patience as a new way of tracking audiences and serving advertisements arises.
In your research, be sure to gather information about what new tools and projects are being developed to support targeted advertising in a post-cookie world. Then, choose a few solutions you want to test and focus your efforts on which direction seems to be most beneficial for your business. Because this is a new way of doing things that impacts anyone and everyone who advertises, cross-collaboration is vital. A cookieless future is a significant change, but it’s happening — now is the time to prepare!
Wilson is the Sr. SEO Marketing Manager at AdRoll.