Published: 10/01/2024

Updated: 06/07/2024

Google to Phase Out Third-Party Cookies for Chrome Users by 2024

Third-party cookies are soon to become a thing of the past, as all major web browsers will be blocking them.

Since the release of Safari 13.1 in spring 2020, Apple has been blocking all third-party cookies by default in its Safari browser. Safari thus became the second browser, following Tor, to block these types of cookies by default for all users. Firefox also bid farewell to third-party cookies in June 2021.

Back in May 2019, Google announced plans to block third-party cookies by default in its Chrome browser, but these plans have not yet been implemented. Now, in 2024, Google is starting to phase out third-party cookies for Chrome users. This marks the end of the third-party cookie era and our departure from this controversial tracking method.

In this article, we will delve into what this change means and how it will impact website operators and advertisers. We will explore the difference between third-party and first-party cookies and discuss how the Internet might change without the familiar third-party cookies. This shift represents a significant point in the history of the Internet and could profoundly alter how we interact online.

What are Third-Party Cookies?

Third-party cookies are small files stored on your computer by websites you visit. They are not set by the website itself, but by third parties – often advertising companies. These cookies track your online activities across various websites to understand your behaviour and preferences.

Why are they being removed?

The primary reason for the removal of third-party cookies is data protection. There are growing concerns about how these cookies collect and use personal data, often without explicit consent from users. The European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and other data protection laws have increased pressure on companies to handle user data more transparently.

Impact on Online Advertising:

  • Targeted Advertising: Third-party cookies play a significant role in targeted advertising. Without them, it will become more challenging for advertisers to place personalised ads based on users’ browsing behaviour.
  • Searching for Alternatives: Advertising companies will need to look for new methods to effectively reach their target audience. This might include relying more on first-party data, which comes directly from the user (e.g., through login information on a website).
  • Impact on Advertising Revenue: Websites heavily reliant on revenue from targeted advertising could suffer financial losses, as the effectiveness of ads diminishes without personalised tracking.

Data Protection and User Experience:

  • Increased Privacy: For users, this means enhanced privacy as their online behaviour will be less extensively tracked by third parties.
  • Altered Advertising Experience: The ads that users see might become less relevant, as they will no longer be as closely tailored to individual behaviour.

Retargeting:

Google’s planned move to disable third-party cookies in Chrome will particularly affect retargeting campaigns. Retargeting, also known as remarketing, is an online marketing technique that enables advertisers to target users who have already visited their website or interacted with it. Here are some key points on how this change might affect retargeting:

  • Loss of Tracking Data: Third-party cookies are a central tool for retargeting, as they gather information on how users visit and interact with different websites. Without these cookies, tracking user behaviour across various sites becomes more challenging.
  • Limited Personalisation: Retargeting campaigns are effective because they are highly personalised. They are based on specific user behaviour and interests. The absence of third-party cookies could significantly limit the ability to display personalised ads.
  • Searching for New Solutions: Advertisers and marketing specialists will need to develop new strategies and technologies to carry out retargeting without third-party cookies. This could involve the use of first-party cookies or other methods of data collection and analysis.
  • Changing Advertising Strategies: Companies may need to reconsider their entire online advertising strategies, focusing more on contextual advertising, content marketing, or direct marketing through email campaigns.
  • Focus on Privacy: This change is also a step towards greater privacy on the Internet, a demand made by many users and data protection authorities.

In summary, Google’s decision to limit the use of third-party cookies will transform the digital marketing landscape, especially in areas like retargeting that heavily rely on tracking user behaviour. Advertisers and marketing experts will need to adapt to continue running effective campaigns.

Search Engine Marketing:

Google’s planned action to disable third-party cookies in Chrome is expected to have minimal or no impact on pure search campaigns based on user search queries. Here are some reasons for this:

  • Loss of Tracking Data: Third-party cookies are a central tool for retargeting as they gather information about how users visit and interact with various websites. Without these cookies, tracking user behaviour across different sites becomes more challenging.
  • Search-Based Advertising: Search campaigns, like those run through Google Ads, are primarily based on keywords entered by users into the search engine. This type of advertising leverages the user’s intent at the moment of search, without relying on long-term tracking of user behaviour across various websites.
  • Direct Audience Targeting: When users actively search for a product or service, they already demonstrate clear interest or need. Advertising based on these search queries is therefore targeted and effective as it is relevant to the user’s immediate needs.
  • Conversions and User Interaction: As search campaigns respond directly to the current search query, they remain an effective means of generating conversions. Users searching for specific products or services are often in a decision-making phase, increasing the likelihood of conversion.
  • Independence from Third-Party Cookies: Unlike many forms of targeted advertising that heavily rely on third-party cookies, search campaigns do not require such tracking. Instead, they are based on information entered by the users themselves.
  • Privacy-Friendly: Search-based advertising is often considered more privacy-friendly, as it is less invasive and does not rely on extensive tracking and profiling.

Overall, search campaigns are expected to remain a vital component of digital marketing even after the discontinuation of third-party cookies by Google and will continue to effectively generate conversions.

Tracking, Data Analytics & Reporting:

The increasing restrictions on cookie usage, particularly the planned discontinuation of third-party cookies in Chrome and existing limitations in other browsers like Firefox and Safari, necessitate a shift in how online marketing campaigns are tracked and analysed. Several approaches and strategies can be considered:

  • Loss of Tracking Data: Third-party cookies are a key tool for retargeting, gathering information on how users visit and interact with various websites. Without these cookies, tracking user behaviour across different sites becomes more difficult.
  • First-Party Data and Consent Management: Companies should focus more on first-party data, which is data collected directly from users on their own website. Consent Management Platforms (CMPs) can assist in managing user consent for data collection in a transparent and GDPR-compliant manner.
  • Server-Side Tracking: Server-side tracking is likely to gain importance. This approach involves collecting data directly from the server rather than the user’s browser, offering more control and privacy. This can counteract ad blockers and browser restrictions while improving website performance.
  • Contextual Advertising: Contextual advertising, based on the content of the page rather than user behaviour, may play a more significant role. This form of advertising is less invasive and more privacy-friendly.
  • Using Machine Learning and AI: Implementing AI and machine learning to analyse patterns and trends in collected data can provide insights, even with less individual user data available.
  • Unified Customer Profiles: Creating unified customer profiles by integrating various data sources can offer a more complete picture of customer interactions. This can include CRM systems, email marketing data, and other first-party data sources.
  • Advanced Attribution Models: Developing and using advanced attribution models to better understand the impact of various marketing channels on conversions. Considering multi-touch attribution over simpler models like last-click attribution.
  • Privacy-First Approaches: Adapting strategies with a focus on privacy and transparency. Building trust with users through clear communication about data usage.
  • Future Technologies and Standards: Observing and possibly participating in the development of new technologies and industry standards for tracking and reporting, such as Google’s Privacy Sandbox.
  • Diversifying Marketing Channels: Not relying too heavily on a single channel or method. Investing in a wide range of marketing activities, including social media, influencer marketing, and offline channels.

Overall, the changing landscape of online marketing requires flexibility and a willingness to explore new technologies and approaches. The key is to develop effective strategies that respect privacy while offering valuable insights for optimising marketing campaigns.

From Third-Party to First-Party

The gradual phasing out of third-party cookies is significant, as current client-side tracking largely relies on these cookies, while server-side tracking mainly depends on first-party cookies. Should browsers also block first-party cookies in the future, it could have far-reaching consequences for website functionality. After all, first-party cookies are essential for numerous website functions, such as logging in, operating shopping carts, security aspects, and storing language preferences and other user preferences

The need to rethink and adapt tracking, data analytics, and reporting is evident. New strategies and approaches are required, particularly regarding server-side tracking focused on first-party cookies. This shift opens up new possibilities for respecting privacy regulations while simultaneously developing effective marketing strategies.

Need help or support?

For businesses and marketers navigating this new era of digital marketing, it’s crucial to connect with experts experienced in these rapidly changing fields. If you need assistance in adjusting your online marketing strategies or have questions about dealing with these changes, feel free to contact me. You can reach me via email at ortwin@oberhauser.com or through the office of bobdo.com at the phone number +43 5574 32032.

Author: Ortwin Oberhauser
INITIATOR OF SEOLOGY & WORLD’S FIRST SEOLOGE

BSc Applied Computer Science
SEM / SEO & Conversion Optimization Geek


Founder of Oberhauser.com
Co Founder of bobdo.com International Film & Digital Solution Agency
film production . web design . app & web development data driven performance search & social media marketing ai and search engine content & visibility optimization conversion optimizing . datacenter for web data analytics
Bahnhofstraße 10 . 6900 Bregenz . Austria

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