(web) Cookies are going - How will this impact your digital performance?

A big part of digital advertising for both companies and marketers are Cookies, and I don’t mean the chocolate chip kind. Due to increased public concern over privacy, governments worldwide are creating policies to add additional layers of protection online.

 

Every time a website is clicked on or used, a digital data-trace is left behind. This data, which is collected by the websites, are ‘cookies’. It helps companies and their digital marketing agency understand who comes through their websites in order to create better experiences.

 

Early last year, Google Chrome made the announcement that the use of third-party cookies will eventually be ‘phased-out’. Thus, directly addressing the questions of user privacy that has naturally blown up over the past decade.

 

Their aim is to have this implemented by the end of 2023. However, first-party cookies (which we break down below) will still be supported and endorsed for use.

What are Cookies?

According to Google’s Privacy Policy, cookies are small data files created and sent to your browser when visiting a website. The data holds information from your time on their website. For instance, you accidentally leave the site but you had items in your shopping cart pending. The cookies will have them remembered and still loaded for a period of time for when you return to the site.

 

For example, cookies remember your preferred language or passwords for logging in to a particular site. In addition, cookies also help advertisers tailor their digital marketing services to show ads more relevant to you.

 

Essentially, cookies are used to improve the browsing experience for both the user and website owners.

First-Party vs Third-Party Cookies

Not sure exactly of the difference between the two? 

 

To start off, both cookies basically work the same way. They both collect data of website users and send it to the browsers. What separates them is how the data is collected and what they are then used for.

 

For first-party cookies, they are generated by the website the user visits and the data is stored on their host domain. The data that is collected can include methods of payment and language preferences, usernames and passwords, and so forth. The website owner can see how often you visit, what you did while on the site, and any other analytics to aid with their marketing. An example that most if not all people would know is Amazon. Existing users will find login information that is already loaded as well as the three items in your cart. This is because they have first-party cookies in use on their site.

 

Here is how third-party cookies differ. Instead of being made by the website owner, they are generated by a different domain altogether. So when users visit a site, third-party cookies gather data but send it to the third-party that generated the cookie. This could be an advertiser and support chat widgets, for example. Third-party cookies enable tracking of users across different websites (cross-site tracking) to display personalised ads and build wholesome visitor profiles. A social media marketing agency and Google Ads specialist will use third-party cookies to run targeted ads matching your interests. Unlike first-party cookies, users must be notified of third-party cookies in use and prompted to accept by entering the site. This is due to the quantity of data that is retained by companies.

Why are Cookies Important?

Despite the concerns around users’ privacy in recent controversies, cookies have their uses. Cookies are used to optimise users’ web experiences. For example, think back in the early 2000s and how far website design has come. Tracking how users interact with websites, gives a web design company the ability to learn what visitors like and dislike. In addition, we all get a little annoyed by the ads interrupting us halfway through a YouTube video sometimes. Can you imagine how much more annoyed you would be if the ad had absolutely no relevance to you whatsoever? Cookies give marketers the ability to limit that by matching ads with your interests and lifestyle choices. So basically, they are like little behind-the-scenes workers that make internet surfing a breeze.

 

There are different types of cookies or data that can be collected and here are four of them listed below:

 

  • Strictly Necessary Cookies: a user cannot access the website’s features without these. These are used to distinguish when a user has logged in, remember previous information on forms, and security authentication. It is not used for ads or communications.

  • Functional Cookies: these are for personalised experiences such as remembering a user’s language preference, layout, font size, and whether they elected to complete a survey.

  • Performance Cookies: these are used to gather information around website traffic and visitor profiles. They collect information on “how users use the website, which pages they visit, which links they click on” and more. They cannot, however, identify individuals.

  • Targeting Cookies: these are in advertising campaigns and are based on the user’s navigation and behavioral data. For example, they can use this data to show you ads on other sites that would appeal to you.

How will this Change Impact Digital Marketing?

Since the announcement from Google, many digital marketing companies have expressed their disdain for the change. While that was occurring, GetApp was conducting surveys around the potential impact of the decision. Their survey revealed that just over 40% predict they will need to increase their spending between 5% and 25% just to reach the same goals as last year. Also, “41% (of marketers) admit the biggest challenge will be tracking the right data.” In addition, marketers will look to invest in other channels such as email marketing to strengthen their overall strategy.

 

So companies relying heavily on third-party cookies will be dealt a heavy blow in terms of campaign reach and targeting. There will be limited to no visibility on audience behaviour other than your own website via first-party cookies. Also, ad blockers count on third-party cookies and with them gone, they definitely will be needing a new strategy. Without cookies, marketers are going to have a tough time accurately delivering targeted ads suited to the appropriate online audience.

 

What does this mean for the users, though? Internet surfing without cookies working in the background shows promise of more security for your personal information. The intention of the change is to aid this at the cost of a less personalised browsing experience. The digital landscape will change along with this incoming remodeling.  Ultimately it is up to marketers using Google Ads and social media marketing services to be proactive about it. What alternatives will come to light and how will this impact advertisers and online users is the ultimate question.

Alternatives to Cookies

Let’s look at some alternatives that you can explore in the meantime. It is best to be as proactive as you can so that you can adapt accordingly. Below are some examples of things you can try:

 

  • Creating a Privacy Policy: this shows that you are transparent and can gain the trust of your web visitors. The policy must be available on your website in clear language and clearly advise how their data is being used. Also, you can show the users how they can control their data. For example, opt-out of the company’s records or customise what information can and can’t be stored. 

  • Direct Data Collection: as in collecting your data directly from people. What was life before cookies were available? It looked like market research surveys and interactive content. You can also explore the use of social media polls or rewards in exchange for users’ data.

  • Privacy Sandbox: Google has brought forward Privacy Sandbox, which is an initiative to allow websites to access and collect user information without compromising privacy. Its purpose is to replace third-party cookies’ role in the online advertising space. It definitely pays to look into this as it is looking to be the future of safe data collection at the present time.

     

  • Be Transparent with Users: people’s personal information shouldn’t be seen as just data. It should be treated as property and when dealing with people’s property, there’s no room for smoke and mirrors. People want and need to know what you are doing with their data as well as how you are obtaining it. It is not a legal requirement but it builds immense trust with your users.

How to Prepare

So, what can you do in the meantime to prepare for this impending change? For starters,  don’t panic. Everyone is looking for solutions and there is bound to be something that works for everyone. You should stay up to date on announcements around third-party cookies and other privacy changes that may affect your revenue. You should also keep an eye out for software and strategies that are bound to take their spot. Another strategy to focus on is growing your database while cookies are still in play. You can also maximise the use of first-party cookies to make up for the loss. Promote the opt-ins for emails and improve your email marketing strategy. 

 

What is also important while you still have the opportunity to do so is to test and monitor different tactics. Take advantage of this time to assess what works best for you and will take you through the incoming storm.

 

Lastly, there is no better time than now to hire an SEO agency and beef up your organic reach. Search engine reach will remain untouched and one of the most effective marketing strategies. While the landscapes shift, making sure you have your SEO in order will continue generating new and previous visitors. Gaining organic traffic to make up for the loss will do wonders down the track.

Conclusion

The internet is a vast ocean that is made up of trillions of droplets of water that never really ‘disappear.’ We all search online and use many websites but our first thought is never about the trace we leave behind. The phase-out of third-party cookies was evident as more and more privacy laws came into play. It was definitely hard news for some but it didn’t really come as a surprise.

 

The best thing to do, going forward, is to create a new marketing strategy and soon. Have you hired the right SEO agency to future-proof continued success? Can you grow your email marketing list and deliverability? How will this impact your Google Ads management and social media ads? IM Creative is a digital marketing agency that offers complete digital solutions to help weather this post-cookie storm. Jot down your alternatives, get them action-ready, and test them out before 2023 rolls on through. Strengthen your basics and maximise the use of your first-party cookies. Especially if you relied heavily on third-party cookies. The future is looking to be cookie-less so the time to adapt is now.

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