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How to Cope in a 3rd party Cookieless World

How to Cope in a 3rd party Cookieless World

By & Aleks Nikitina   March 29th, 2021

Everyone in search advertising is aware it’s coming, and trying to figure out where the pieces will fall. How will it impact the industry and more importantly, you and your business ?

As tracking is a complex, granular topic, I’ve asked Aleks Nikitina, Senior Solutions Architect here at Marin Software, to go through this topic in more detail and provide suggestions on what to do next.

Can you tell us what the latest Google announcement is all about?

Aleks Nikitina (AN): Google is no longer going to use individual browser history on Chrome to target ads to users. Instead it will use what it calls and I quote “privacy preserving APIs, like the “Federated Learning of Cohorts API” (FloC), to deliver relevant ads.”. In a nutshell, Google will group users by interests instead of identifying them individually.

How does this link to cookies?

AN: Historically, Google used third-party cookies to target ads across websites. Now, they are moving from this cookie-based approach of targeting to instead target wider audiences and provide more privacy to individual users. Google moving away from third-party cookies is the next step in the trend the industry has been following over the last few years. Similar to Apple’s Safari ITP (Intelligent Tracking Prevention), Google is moving to what they call, the Sandbox approach.

Browsers are shifting the industry tracking to a new path that is all about user privacy. However first party tracking will be allowed. In itself, the cookie remains very much alive. 

First party data is the data that is tracked directly on brands’ domains. Some of our clients have their own internal tracking solution or use tracking vendors as a first party tracking solution, which will continue to work, however there are restrictions on the conversion window available to cookies in Safari.

What should the search marketer add to their to do list or goals beyond 2021 as a result?

AN: The first step is to make sure that your measurement system is using a first-party approach. The latest version of the publisher tracking pixels and Google Analytics are all first party. Even better is to consider a server-to-server approach that avoids some of the conversion window restrictions.

For advertisers relying on third party cookies for ad targeting, you should look to diversify your ad buys to account for potential lost opportunities as these options go away.

Do we know when this change will happen?

AN: It looks like Chrome will turn off third party cookies in some time in 2022, but the Privacy Sandbox will make its way into Chrome in April 2021. And of course Safari already blocks third party cookies, so I would recommend looking into alternative solutions as soon as you can.

What about our users at Marin, how can we help them in this transition?

AN: Marin Software users should reach out to their platform representative to start the conversation, who will bring in the help of the Professional Services Team where I work.

To give you an idea of how the different integrations will be affected, I cover below the main 3 tracking setups:

  • Marin Tracker: The main Marin Tracker solution is used by clients’ placing Marin conversion and click tags directly on their websites or via tag managers. This serves as a first party solution, which will continue working in today’s world. Marin also offers a server-to-server integration for our clients, where the clients’ server is making a call to Marin’s server to pass on details about the conversion event that took place on the client’s website. Server-to-server solution is the way forward with the industry’s path change. Here, clients fully control what their partners (third parties) have visibility on.
  • Google Analytics: Similar to Marin Tracker option, clients are setting up GA tags on their website as a first party solution, which will continue working across browsers after this update, as it does today.
  • Revenue Upload: This will depend on where the data is coming from. If the client is sending Marin data from a third party, then they need to connect with their selected data vendor to identify next steps. However if the client is already sending Marin data from their own cookies, then there is nothing for them to do here.

These industry breaking changes are right around the corner, are you ready? Get a deeper understanding of these changes and learn about Marin’s privacy focused solutions here.