Referred to as an extinction level event in the digital marketing ecosystem, the death of third party cookies has been worrying marketers for years and yet few are prepared for what’s next. With revenue at risk, it’s vital that marketers adapt to meet their targets and protect themselves from the same fate as the dinosaurs.
In this article, we explain the current landscape, why it is shifting and how you can stay on top.
If you’re familiar with cookies and the upcoming changes, skip to What can I do about it.
If you need a recap — cookies are text files that are able to collect data about your online behavior and remember your actions. From improving your online experience to remembering your login information, some cookies exist to make life online easier. These, first party cookies, are stored on your website and do handy things like remember your customers’ language preferences for the next time they visit your site. Third party cookies on the other hand, track data which can then be passed on or sold to advertisers; they track your interests, location, age and search trends.
As a marketer, if you rely on third party cookies to tightly target your adverts to demographics like user age, location and browsing history then you need to be preparing for their phase out now.
Why are third party cookies being axed?
A whopping 72% of Americans report feeling that all, almost all or most of what they do online is being tracked by advertisers. It’s not surprising therefore that Google cites a lack of trust for their reason to ax third party cookies. In addition a shift in legislative attitude in recent years has resulted in a flurry of new data privacy laws, GDPR in Europe, CCPA in California with Virginia and Colorado set to join the bandwagon in 2023.
Although the why may be obvious, it’s important that marketers take this on board if they are to gain consumer confidence.
When is it happening?
Third party cookies have already been dropped from FireFox and Safari browsers. Google however, is a little late to the party. This is perhaps unsurprising considering their $209 billion advertising revenue in 2021. Although they announced their intention to ax third party cookies in Chrome in January 2020, Google has pushed the date back twice since then. It is now scheduled to happen by the end of 2024 but don’t let that fool you into a false sense of security. This temporary reprieve gives you the time you need to minimize risk if you act now.
What can I do about it?
As a marketer, customer data is the lifeblood of your workflow. So how can you keep reeling folks into your funnel without the sweet, sweet data third party cookies give you?
There are a few options available to you.
1. Zero party data (ZPD)
Zero party data is data that your customers willingly share with you. A great way to collect this is through quizzes Buzzfeed style *pauses in Millenial to check that they’re still a thing*.
Pros: ZPD gives your consumers a fun way to engage with your platform while giving you the data you need to nurture them along your sales funnel with personalized content. I mean, who doesn’t want to know what type of bread they are?
Cons: You can only collect this data from consumers already in your funnel, it won’t help draw more people to you.
2. Social Media advertising
Social media platforms still allow marketers to target ads to tight demographic groups where permitted by the user’s operating system.
Pros: You still have a multitude of paid digital channels at your disposal which support personalized advertising.
Cons: Although social media sites themselves permit personalized ads, external factors are limiting who they reach. Apple for example, has positioned itself against personalized ads on Meta products, meaning that the effectiveness and ROI of your ads its likely to reduce as more and more users run iOS 14 and later models.
3. Wait for Google Privacy Sandbox
Google Privacy Sandbox is Google’s answer to the end of third party cookies, a suite of tools designed to protect user privacy while providing marketers with enough data to support the ad industry and keep content free.
Pros: When it’s launched it will offer a less intrusive alternative to third party cookies and fingerprinting. Data will be stored and processed in the user’s browser making it privacy compliant whilst allowing you to target customers according to a small selection of interests.
Cons: This solution only promises to limit covert tracking, we will only know how much its widespread use reassures consumers after its launch. Google has already pushed the launch date back twice, creating uncertainty and delaying action. The fact is, most marketers still don’t know exactly how or when they will use it.
At the risk of sounding like a populist politician — it’s time to take back control of your marketing strategy.
4. Inbound marketing and PR
Increase your organic visibility in search results with an inbound marketing strategy and PR — yes, PR. Marketers that overlook PR do so at their peril and vice versa.
Pros: Inbound marketing is cost effective, shuns untargeted spray and pray tactics, builds consumer trust and can establish you as a thought leader in your industry. It checks a lot of boxes.
Cons: When you’re not used to PR it can be tricky knowing how to measure your efforts.
Don’t worry though, we’ve got your back with our breakdown of PR goals and how to measure them
How to use inbound marketing to increase lead generation
1. Bring PR into your marketing strategy
Use the PESO model to integrate your PR and marketing efforts. Developed by Gini Dietrich, PESO stands for paid, earned, shared, and owned media. You can use it to audit how your marketing activity is weighted between each of the categories to ensure that your strategy includes each of these channels. Pay special attention to your earned media. As a marketer your media relations is probably lagging behind your other activity.
2. Create remarkable written content
The age old saying ‘content is King’ remains as true today as it ever was. While some over-excited junior creatives might shun the format in favor of more glamorous mediums, your written content is what drives your SEO and leverages the power to build your inbound traffic. Without it you’d be lost in an infinite sea of competitors.
Your landing pages, blog and news should all tell a compelling story that makes readers want to stay on your website for as long as possible. This means writing well and writing for humans, not just Google’s algorithm. If you’re more comfortable crunching data than writing, find someone who has a way with words and add them to your team. If you’ve already got PR colleagues they’ll likely be best placed for this - PR professionals are some of the best content creators in the whole industry.
3. Increase your findability and domain authority with an online newsroom
Regularly publishing your news via an online newsroom is an easy way to increase your brand awareness, boost your search rankings and increase your earned and shared media. Here’s how:
Firstly, an online newsroom published on your domain gives you complete control over the narrative of the news you share and can boost your entire website’s ranking in search engines — our users’ newsrooms rank number 1 (under ‘brand name news’) on Google search. Pretty neat, huh?
Secondly, and I don’t mean to shock you with this revelation but… journalists are people too. In order to get the most out of your earned media channels you need to understand their pain points as if they were potential customers. Luckily for you, we’ve done the hard work by designing a newsroom solution which meets their needs and yours. Zip files and PDF press releases be damned — once your UX is as slick for journalists as it is for your customers, you’ll see them subscribing to your updates, chomping at the bit to share your updates.
Thirdly, we have the icing on the cake; hosting an online newsroom will increase your domain authority.
As a marketer, you likely hold a greater budget than your PR counterparts and are used to leading innovation in your organization’s comms space. This puts you in a great position to spearhead your newsroom project. In doing so, you’ll be empowering your colleagues to increase the impact of their work whilst secretly enjoying the fruits of their labor. The more high quality news they publish, the higher your domain authority, and therefore your ranking on search engine results pages. It really is win, win.
Harriet is Head of Copy & Communications at pr.co.. Connect on LinkedIn or send an email