The End of Third-Party Cookies (and What This Means for Digital Marketers)
Cookiepocalypse. Cookiegate. The cookie is crumbling.
Well, not really.
With Google’s most recent announcement that it will block third-party cookies from Chrome in 2024, a move already made by Safari and Firefox, this effectively marks the end of the cookies era.
This phase-out comes on the tail of recent trends towards enhanced user privacy. Governments around the world have been actively investigating and cracking down on data privacy issues. In September 2020, Apple made a bold move by blocking cross-app tracking.
Now, Google’s phase out of third-party cookies has marketers a little concerned. How will the loss of this data impact their digital marketing strategies? Is there an alternate tool that will replace that lost data?
What will marketers do now? Luckily, there’s a lot that can be done. And even better news is there’s lots of time to prepare.
Third-Party Cookies vs. First-Party Cookies
Cookies are essentially small digital text files that are used to collect and store user data. Where these cookies are embedded is the difference between first-party cookies and third-party cookies.
First-party cookies: are created and used on a single domain and the information that is collected isn’t shared with other websites or advertisers.
So, if a user visits your website and opts into cookies there, this is first-party cookies. But the caveat here is that they have to visit your website, rather than other websites and locations.
Third-party cookies: are the same as first-party cookies, except that they are created on one domain and shared across multiple third-party domains. This is what allows marketers to gather and share information that informs their display ads and targeted marketing decisions.
Sounds like a marketer’s dream, right?
As one can expect, Google’s phase-out is going to have a massive impact on digital marketing strategies. When the news was announced, over 80% of marketers anticipated this phase-out would have a moderate impact on their digital marketing efforts.
That’s not something to ignore. But, thankfully, there are a few alternatives that are effective. It just may take a bit of savvy and strategy to pivot.
Privacy is at the Core
While cookies have been a core staple in the user experience, as well as digital marketing, there are growing concerns about privacy.
Essentially, the data collected through HTTP cookies also leave users and their information vulnerable to cybercriminals. On top of that, users are wanting more autonomy over what is and isn’t collected through cookies, and where that data ultimately ends up.
This is entirely reasonable. More robust privacy policies and practices benefit everyone. It’s finding a viable, effective alternative that should be top of mind.
Alternatives to Using Third-Party Cookies
While the post-cookie ecosystem is still a little uncertain, there are plenty of tools digital marketers can use to amp up their marketing efforts.
First Party Data
Because first-party cookies are going nowhere, this leaves us with the option of maximizing first-party data. And given the lead time to Google’s final phase-out in 2024, now is the time to work on obtaining first-party data.
Enriching your database with leads that have consented to data collection is a critical step for marketers.
Zero Party Data
With the issues raised about third-party data collection, zero-party data has quickly risen to the top, filling the vacuum that third-party cookies will leave behind.
The primary reason for this is that the user data that is collected is done so with explicit, intentional and proactive permission by the user.
If you’re confused between zero-party and first-party data, you’re not alone. The primary difference between the two is that the collection of zero-party data results from a direct interaction with your audience. Conversely, first-party data is based on insights from analytics and user behaviours.
Zero-party data is an attractive option for a number of reasons:
- It’s more trustworthy than third-party data
- Can help with brand trust as users are willingly offering their information
- More accurate because users are entering their data directly
A lot of zero-party data can be collected through interactive funnels and gated content. Surveys, forms and offerings available by signing up with an email address can be fun, engaging and effective ways to collect user data.
Contextual targeting is serving ads on websites based on that site’s particular content. This works similarly to cohorts, as the likelihood of demographic crossover on one particular site is quite high.
This type of targeting allows marketers to target URLs with specific keywords and pages that focus on content that is relevant to their ad campaign. Basically, it’s zeroing in on user interest with a healthy dose of prediction involved.
With the sunset of third-party cookies, now is social media’s time to shine.
For marketers, identity is a non-issue with social media as users are already logged in with personally identifiable information (PII). There are no third-party cookies.
Not just that, but social media platforms come with their own collection of analytics, data and campaign tools. In 2021, an estimated 44 percent of users stated they used Instagram for purchasing, a figure which has outpaced Facebook and is only expected to grow. In addition, 57 percent of people stated they like seeing polls and quizzes from brands on Instagram.
These tools help brands identify target audiences and build brand trust, and all without the use of third-party cookies. For some brands, the entire marketing funnel is contained within the social media sphere, from initial exploration to buy-in.
What You Can Do Now to Prepare for the End of Cookies
Unfortunately, Google’s phase-out of third-party cookies means marketers have to do some savvy pivoting. But there are ways to do this that just might be even more effective than using third-party data.
Build Your Newsletter Database
The email isn’t dead. In fact, quite the opposite.
Almost 60 percent of US consumers said marketing emails directly influenced their purchasing decisions. Even without cookiepocalypse, email marketing should be a staple in your marketing strategy.
When it comes to marketing, email is still in the running and going strong. Email opt-ins are a great way to build your database, and help build trust, brand authority and loyalty.
The power in a newsletter database is that prospects have actively agreed to receiving your content. They’ve checked out your website or social media, discovered your brand and now they are committing to more from you. That’s a great thing.
Another awesome thing about email marketing is that you can tailor your email campaigns to user profile and activity. You can use email marketing as a gentle reminder or targeted towards particular activity or even abandoned carts.
Additionally, you can cluster your email lists to send specific emails to specific demographics.
Make Social Media Your Best Friend
We’ve touched on this above, but it’s worth saying again that social media is prime ground for digital marketing strategies.
Social media platforms like Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook have a robust suite of advertising tools that allow you to create hyper-targeted ads to people in a variety of demographics. You can also target cluster demographics based on data that show similarities in visitors and engagement.
Once upon a time, social media ads were used only for B2C marketing purposes. But with the growth of social media as a sales platform, B2B brands are now making use of social media ads.
So, start planning your social media strategy.
Don't Forget About Your CRM's or Website's First-Party Data
If you’re using your website’s CMS for analytics, you’re already gathering first-party data. Most CRMs, like HubSpot, already collect first-party cookies to track demographics like visits and visitor preferences.
With this data, you can create solid campaigns and content strategies. Which leads us to…
Up Your SEO Game
Third-party cookies phase out won’t affect searchability. That means your site, all your landing pages, and your carefully curated and quality content will be ready and available for Google crawlers.
Without third-party data to actively reach target audiences, you’ll need to make sure your website is even more searchable than before. But this is okay! In fact, it’s a really great thing and something you should be doing anyways. Better yet, pair PPC with organic SEO for the best results.
When strategizing your SEO, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Build an SEO strategy that works for B2B
- Optimize for voice search
- Focus on long-tail keywords as well
- Become familiar with advanced SEO and how it can help you build a search presence
- Hire an SEO/SEM expert to help you with this
Leverage Google Analytics 4
Replace Panic with Proactive
So, with third-party cookies phasing out, do you need to panic? Is it really the cookiepocalypse? Do we need to go into survival mode?
Not at all. Like everything, this is another phase towards improving not just the user experience, but ensuring our customers have the safest experience. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles.
Want to find out how you can pivot your marketing strategy? Contact us today to speak with one of our digital marketing experts.