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How to Adapt to Google Phasing Out Third-Party Cookies

Nicki Betterbid

In August 2020, Google launched its new initiative called Privacy Sandbox. This Google announcement outlined a new set of privacy standards for internet users while stating that third-party cookies would be eliminated on its Chrome browser over the next two years. For most digital marketing teams, this announcement may not be cause for concern. However, for others, it is definitely a game-changer.

Among today’s most popular web browsers – Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge – Chrome is by far the largest, with approximately 2.65 billion internet users and 63.58% browser market share.

While Safari and Firefox had long ago eliminated third-party cookies, some advertisers rely heavily on Chrome’s third-party cookies for critical customer-centric data. They then use that data to identify, pursue and engage their audience.

Google’s decision to eliminate third-party cookies has obviously sent shockwaves across the digital marketing landscape. It has put several advertisers on the defensive and forced them to rethink their digital strategies. So, what does all this mean for those advertisers, and what should digital marketers do moving forward?

Understanding Cookies

It’s important to note that Google only announced the phasing out of third-party cookies. Nothing has been reported concerning first-party cookies. So, what’s the difference between first-party cookies and third-party cookies?

Chrome’s first-party cookies track basic data about your website visitors. It’s an automatic tracking code initiated when a visitor arrives on one of your landing pages or goes to your website’s home page. A first-party cookie improves the customer experience by remembering the user’s preferences, auto-filling their username and password, and retaining other user-centric data.

First-party cookies provide you with data about which users visited your landing page, where they went, where they came from, how long they spent on a given page, and what actions they took. This data is specific to your website. You can easily view this data and your website’s analytics and metrics through Google Analytics. Ultimately, your digital marketing team can leverage all that data to enact multiple digital advertising strategies.

Third-party cookies are entirely different. Other websites initiate third-party cookies. Third-party code tracks a user’s online activities long after they’ve visited a given website. It provides advertisers with critical information about the types of websites users visit, the products and services they purchase, and other actions they take online. That data is then leveraged to define unique customer profiles that advertisers can continuously target.

Understanding Google’s Announcement

When this announcement was made, digital marketers, advertisers, and businesses wondered aloud how Google’s elimination of ad tracking would impact how some advertisers reached and engaged their audience.

While it will impact advertisers relying on third-party data, everything else remains the same. If you only rely upon the metrics and analytics from your website, then you have nothing to worry about. However, if you’re an advertiser relying upon third-party data, you must stay up-to-date on Google announcements, emerging trends, and news. Keep an eye open for other solutions and start thinking about new strategies to replace the data you’ll no longer have once third-party cookies are eliminated. Here are some things to consider.

Understand You’re Not Alone

Right now, there is an entire network of businesses, tech-savvy marketers, and advertisers looking for solutions. All these resources, along with Google itself, are focused on making the transition more accessible while also hoping to find a viable alternative. Staying up to date with news is critical moving forward. Take solace that you’re not alone and don’t have to solve this issue all by yourself. Other interested parties are invested in finding a solution.

Google’s Privacy Sandbox Alternative

While Google’s Privacy Sandbox is still in development, it may very well become an ad-targeting alternative to third-party cookies. Google has promised to find a viable option to protect user rights to privacy while also allowing advertisers to use ad-targeting approaches through Chrome. Ultimately, it’s in Google’s best interest to find a solution, so, at this point, some advertisers just have to wait and see how things play out.

Use the Data You Already Have

Think about all your existing data. Think about how long you’ve been gathering that data. While customer preferences do indeed change, the reality is you have vast amounts of customer data and will continue to have that access for the next two years. This gives you ample time to develop new engagement strategies while still leveraging the data you’re gathering.

Start Researching Alternatives

Keeping up-to-date with news and emerging trends is one part of the solution, but the other part is ensuring that you do your due diligence on any alternatives. Don’t be too quick to rush in on an unproven solution or software once it becomes available. Governments worldwide have enacted multiple laws governing internet privacy, and the last thing you need is to pursue an unproven alternative that doesn’t comply with global regulations.  

This Might be a Blessing in Disguise

It’s never a good thing to become too reliant upon something without having a ready-made backup to take its place. The bottom line is that third-party cookies may have made things all too easy for some advertisers. This change may force some advertisers to revisit older strategies or brainstorm new ones. It could lead to newer ad-targeting methods that respect users’ privacy while still providing critical customer-focused data. The idea here is not to allow this news to distract you from your objective of finding new strategies to engage your audience.

Reinitiate Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising

Now is the time to reinitiate contextual advertising. Without third-party data, some advertisers will have to increase their marketing budgets. However, investing in PPC advertising is a viable solution, especially when considering how easy it is to deliver focused advertisements to an audience you already know plenty about.

Again, as an advertiser who has relied upon third-party cookies, you have all kinds of data on customers. Revamping some of your old PPC strategies will allow you to start replacing the data you’ll no longer have in two years. Start now, and you’ll find it much easier to optimize your PPC campaigns long before third-party cookies are eliminated.

Connect in Organic Ways

Eventually, third-party cookies will become a thing of the past. Something will replace it, or you’ll no longer have access to third-party cookie data. Either way, you’ll be forced to find different ways to engage your audience. So, why wait?

Think about organic ways to connect to your audience while gathering essential data. You may need to redouble your content marketing efforts, spend more time on social media outreach strategies, leverage influencer marketers, or use other content mediums. Doing nothing is not an option. Enacting a plan is the best way to deal with a change you’ve not initiated and cannot control.

Tailor-Made Solutions with PBJ Marketing

At PBJ Marketing, we’re used to an ever-changing digital marketplace. Our team is focused on helping customers navigate these changes without seeing a drop in their customer engagement initiatives. We can help do the same for you. If you’re interested in working with a digital marketing partner that can help you navigate this recent Google change, then contact us now.