How To Prepare Your Ads For 3rd Party Cookie Deprecation

Third-party cookies are being phased out by major browsers like Google Chrome by the end of 2024. What does this mean for marketers, and how should they adapt?

June 11, 2024

For years, customer data has been the lifeblood of marketing campaigns, allowing advertisers to target specific demographics and interests with laser precision. However, the impending deprecation of third-party cookies on major web browsers like Google Chrome signals a significant shift in the digital advertising landscape. 

With Google's planned removal of third party cookies in Chrome in 2025, and similar moves already made by Firefox and Safari, over 86% of internet users will browse cookie-free environments by default. This transition aims to enhance user privacy by preventing sites from tracking user activities across the web. But what does this mean for advertisers and marketers? How can you prepare?

Need Help Preparing Your Ads for Third-Party Cookie Deprecation? Let us help you with your ads & analytics!

What Are Third-Party Cookies?

Third-party cookies are tiny pieces of code placed on your device by websites you visit that track your activity across different websites. 

They allow advertisers to build detailed profiles of your interests and online behavior. Tools like the Meta Pixel, LinkedIn Insights Tag, and Google Tag leverage these cookies to gather insights and target you with personalized ads,  often for products you've recently shown interest in. 

While convenient for marketers, third-party cookies raise privacy concerns. Users are increasingly wary of being tracked across the web without their knowledge or consent. This is precisely why major browsers are taking a stand against third-party cookies.

First Party Cookies vs. Third Party Cookies

Unlike third-party cookies that track activities across different sites, first-party cookies collect data only from the website the user visits. 

They play a crucial role in retargeting audiences and analyzing user behavior on-site. Importantly, first-party cookies are not slated for deprecation and will remain a vital part of web functionality.

Preparing Your Google Ads for Third-Party Cookie Deprecation

If you skipped straight here, welcome to the fun stuff!

While there isn't a single solution for every advertiser navigating the cookieless era across all marketing funnel stages, we can explore alternatives for each phase. To ensure a robust strategy throughout the transition, we recommend investing in a first-party data strategy now.

Measuring Accurately

Without third-party cookies, Google Ads will have less granular data available for attributing conversions. This means traditional methods might not paint the whole picture. Here's what you can do:

Targeting your ads

Third-party cookie limitations will also impact targeting options like Affinity Audiences and In-Market Segments. Similar audiences have already been deprecated in Google Ads, and lookalike audiences will not be possible without third-party cookies. Google is developing the Privacy Sandbox to help improve its targeting, but users will be able to opt out. Here's how to adjust your approach:

Preparing Your Social Ads for Third Party Cookie Deprecation

Tracking & Optimization

With social platforms like Meta and LinkedIn relying on third-party cookies for pixel-based tracking, accuracy will diminish. To adapt:

Set up Conversions API: This tool facilitates the transmission of data directly from a server you control to the social platform, eliminating the dependency on third-party cookies. Generally, setting up the Conversions API involves configuring a gateway server that handles the data transfer.

For Meta users, the Conversions API can be implemented using solutions like AWS, Google Cloud, or Meta’s partner platform Stape. If you're using a WordPress website, the setup can be streamlined through a simple plugin.

More details on Meta setup.

Regarding LinkedIn, the Conversions API can be integrated using Google Tag Manager, Zapier, or via various other LinkedIn-approved partners, ensuring seamless adaptation to the new tracking environment.

More details on LinkedIn setup.

Targeting Your Ads

Much like with Google, Meta ads will have much less data to work with to determine the behavior of users on their platform, making custom-intent targeting much less accurate.

  1. First-party data: Once again, customer match audiences and retargeting audiences will be your friend. Use this data to target your ads to your audiences.
  2. Lookalike Audiences: Because social media platforms use behavior on their site to create lookalike audiences, social media ads will still be able to create them. Use lookalike audiences of your remarketing and customer match audiences to target much more accurately than the interest categories that partially rely on third-party cookie data.

Preparing Your Website & Analytics for Third Party Cookie Deprecation

Tracking

The transition away from third-party cookies will particularly affect multi-touch attribution. Google Analytics 4 (GA4), which primarily uses first-party cookies, will continue to function normally in most areas except for multi-touch attribution. This will make it so that attribution modeling will be much more difficult and much less accurate in GA4.

What You Can Do:

  1. Begin analyzing data from separate platforms: While GA4 may face limitations in attribution accuracy, setting up Conversions API can help bridge these gaps. By pulling data from various platforms, you can piece together a more comprehensive view of the customer journey.
  2. Consolidate that data in a Data Studio: To do this more easily, you can use a data studio, such as Looker Studio from Google to consolidate the information. We offer a data studio setup and can provide you with a monthly report that consolidates all of this data to make analysis easy. Ask us about it today!

Website functionality:

  1. Test Your Website: Some functions and integrations on your website might be using third-party cookies.some text
    1. In order to test your website, go to a Chrome browser and enter chrome://flags/#test-third-party-cookie-phaseout and enable the test.
    2. Then, go back to your website and explore. Look for anything that might be broken, and note it for your developer to fix.
    3. Once you’re done: Go back to chrome://flags/#test-third-party-cookie-phaseout and enable cookies again, if you prefer to keep third-party cookies enabled.

Conclusion

Adapting to a world without third-party cookies is manageable with the right strategies:

These preparations will equip advertisers to effectively handle the digital shift. As we move towards a cookie-less internet, these proactive steps will help maintain the effectiveness and precision of your advertising strategies.

Need Help Preparing Your Ads for Third-Party Cookie Deprecation?

Our team is ready to support your advertising and analytics needs during this transition. Reach out today for expert assistance!

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