Starting this month, Google’s Privacy Sandbox trials will expand to millions of users worldwide
The Privacy sandbox The trial population experimenting with Chrome’s new privacy features will gradually increase throughout 2022 and into 2023. Before users are added to trials, they will be presented with a prompt giving them the option to manage their participation. In order to give the web community more time to test the new provisions, Google Chrome’s support for third-party cookies has been extended until 2024.
Anthony Chavez, Google’s vice president of Privacy Sandbox, said in a blog post they plan to start phasing out third-party cookies in Chrome in the second half of 2024. The tech giant originally planned to discontinue that support this year, but the deadline has been extended to 2023, and has now been extended to 2024.
What are cookies and how are they used in advertising?
A “cookie” is a small file that is downloaded to your computer when you visit a website. First-party cookies and third-party cookies differ in the type of information they store and the websites from which they store it.
“First party” cookies collect information for the website you are visiting directly. These allow websites to remember settings and other useful information, as well as to collect analytics on how their users interact with their websites. An example of first-party cookies are settings that a web browser can store for login information, which means you don’t have to log into a website each time you view a new page on it.
“Third-party” cookies are created by domains other than the one visited by the user. These are often used for advertising purposes. For example, if a user clicks on an advertisement on Facebook or Instagram, these advertising platforms have traditionally used third-party cookies to know what action the user has taken once on the advertiser’s website, and, for example, to activate retargeting ads for users who add items to carts but do not complete a purchase. More generally, third-party cookies helped link purchases and other conversions to particular ad campaigns, allowing marketers to better optimize their campaigns.
Although useful for digital marketing, cookies have come under intense scrutiny from privacy campaigners. Some browsers – like Firefox and Safari – have already created options to block third-party cookies or block them by default.
What does this extension mean for marketing?
Chrome is one of the most widely used browsers, controlling 65% of market share worldwide. The degradation of cookie support has major implications for digital marketing. When Chrome is phasing out support for third-party cookies, hardly anyone will be using a browser that supports them.
Without third-party cookies, digital marketers will have to find another way to identify customers who are converting on their sites. Chrome’s extension of third-party cookie support means marketers and ad platforms have an extra year to potentially use them and the data they provide. However, third-party cookies will eventually be removed by Chrome, and many users (especially all iOS users) already face severe third-party cookie restrictions.
Google’s Chávez said the Privacy Sandbox API will be launched and generally available in Chrome in Q3 2023. This means that there could be further changes before then, which also adds potential for additional uncertainty.
What future without cookies holds for digital marketing
Although the era of prolific tracking cookies seems to be coming to an end, that doesn’t mean tracking won’t be an option when it comes to digital marketing.
The primary way advertisers can ensure ad platforms continue to receive the information they need to create relevant ads is by setting up server-to-server connections. This ensures that the advertiser communicates directly with the various platforms about interesting conversions that have taken place on their site/app. If information is no longer shared via third-party cookies, customer information can still be tracked via an API link, respecting confidentiality (information is hashed, anonymized and subject to consent rules before being set) .
Facebook’s server-to-server tracking, Conversion API, is the most established solution while Google Ads’ server-tracking solution is newer. Both can be implemented through Google Tag Manager, or a host of other integrations.
AccuraCast has helped hundreds of advertisers implement advanced tracking technologies, without waiting for third-party cookies to become obsolete. We strongly recommend that you do this as soon as possible.
Other Strategies for Digital Marketers
Doubling the amount of first-party data collected with consent can help marketers map user behavior. This also has the advantage that competitors will not have access to the same data! Online surveys, registration forms, newsletter subscriptions, and giveaways are just a few of the ways to increase first-party data collection.
Contextual advertising is another approach, especially for upper funnel goals. This approach focuses on the page the ads are placed on, rather than the user. Marketers position ads based on webpage content, expecting users with certain collective attributes to visit that content.
And when it comes to PPC advertising, AI-powered bidding can be a tremendous asset, identifying the keywords and trends that drive the most conversions and optimizing your bids in real time.
Finally, there is the previously mentioned Privacy Sandbox initiative. Google had initially based its approach on federated learning cohorts (FLoCs) and idea which it abandoned earlier in the year, in favor of the idea of ”Topics”. This last idea may still need to be refined and explains why the end of third-party cookies on Chrome has been pushed back a year.
Either way, marketers should implement server-side tracking as soon as possible. The end (of cookies) is near, there should be no complacency with this one year reprieve in terms of planning future marketing strategies!