Goodbye, Third-Party Cookies. Hello, Meaningful Marketing.

cookies on a baking sheet with a dark overlay

Have you ever complained that it seems like someone is following you on the internet, watching your every move and then strategically placing an ad for a product you looked at earlier? That’s because—basically—they are. Each time you visit a site, you drop what is called a cookie, allowing your activity on that site to be tracked. That’s how sites remember your login, saved items in your shopping cart and other pieces of information to improve your user experience. Those tracking codes are called first-party cookies, and they aren’t going anywhere. As web users, we expect that kind of interaction.
Third-party cookies, however, are placed on a user’s computer by a third party in order to track activity and report back to the creator of the cookie. That explains why you can click on an item in an online store and then an ad for that item shows up when you’re on a completely different website.
Due to increasing privacy concerns and regulations, Google announced in January 2020, that it would begin phasing out third-party cookies over the next two years. With 2021 almost halfway gone, we’re nearing the end. Safari and Firefox had already phased out third-party cookies, although they make up a small market share of web browsing as compared to Chrome, which accounts for more than half of the world’s web traffic.
Google has no plans to offer an alternative third-party solution at this time, saying it will focus instead on first-party data and customer relationships. Thus, web advertisers will have to rely more on directly interacting with consumers and improving data collection methods on their own sites. The move back to keyword targeting and contextual advertising will encourage website owners and developers to create useful content and ads that make sense – and don’t give you the impression that you’re being followed.
Concerns among advertisers and ad agencies hinge upon the theory that consumer privacy is just a front for Google to tighten its hold on web marketing. By eliminating healthy competition among advertising platforms, companies will be more likely to use Google ads and keywords.
Regardless, marketers must admit that cookies aren’t the greatest advertising solution to begin with – they only boast a match rate of 40-60% (why you see weird ads when you’re browsing), and they’re device specific, so a customer’s journey cannot be tracked as he or she switches from a laptop or tablet to a smartphone. Plus, a large number of cookies are rejected by browsers in the first place.
So, what does this mean for small businesses trying to reach a broader audience online? Exactly what we’ve been preaching for years: create meaningful content, relevant ads and focus on providing the best user experience a customer can have on your site. Whether it’s titled first-party data, people-based targeting or any other catchy industry term, at Pleth, we call it good marketing.
For a free consult, give us a call. We’ll review your website and offer content and/or development updates to improve your user experience and maximize your marketing budget.