What to Know About the Future of Web Cookies

sStack of chocolate cookies

The future of the Worldwide Web is cookie-less. Google has announced that the Chrome browser, which has a market share of 66.6% (as of December 2021) will drop third-party cookies in 2023. Most other browsers already allow you to block third-party cookies, but we expect all browsers to follow suit with total blocks of third-party cookies in 2023 or earlier.

So what? You may say, but for the world of online advertising, this change is and a really big deal. How so? By blocking third-party cookies, conversion and reporting data will be less accurate and may even impact how willing businesses are to spend cash on paid advertising.

Here are just a few ways that third-party cookies are used:

Google Analytics uses third-party cookies to track user behavior and return the website traffic stats that we all love to use.  With 55.2% of all websites using Google Analytics this loss of data may impact marketing decisions and lower the accuracy of results reported in Google Analytics.

Google Ads remarketing programs use third-party cookies to serve ads and track activity. The loss of relevant data and the inaccurate recording of conversion activity may lower the realized relevance of Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising programs as businesses struggle to make a case for high ad spend budgets with lower reported results.

Google Ads uses third-party cookies for conversion tracking data in Google Ads. Without strong conversion metrics, some advertisers may search for alternative opportunities to generate website activity and lower their footprint in paid search advertising.

Facebook uses third-party cookies to deliver ads in based on your online activity. With the changes that Apple made in late 2021 to require users to approve cookies set on their device, Facebook advertisers are reporting a drop in conversions and higher conversion costs.

What is Being Done to Help Advertisers with Cookie-Less Reporting Issues?

Google has been very proactive in seeking solutions for third-party cookie retirement, but with minimal industry participation. This past year most mainstream browsers refused to join Google’s initiative called FLoC. This was Google’s program to solve the third-party cookie program, but getting all browsers to work together to create audience groupings. Due to the lack of interest, Google actually abandoned their program and pushed the self-imposed deadline of dropping third-party cookies back one year.

Google has still not announced a clear resolution that is embraced by browsers on how to solve this issue.

For now, we see Google pushing users into the new G4 Analytics by announcing the dropping of UA Universal Analytics later this year.  Google stats that G4 will be able to use cookie-less data and then extrapolate based on trends and machine learning to fill in the gaps in activity. Clearly this is why there is such a push to get websites and advertisers to embrace G4 quickly.

Google is also pushing the use of Customer Match lists in Google Ads. As these lists are first-party data, Google is hedging bets that it will be able to record the conversions and activity from these data sets to boost reporting performance.

At issue for us with Customer Match, is the difficulty for some businesses to map data from their CRM into Google’s data fields. But most of all once the list is loaded, Google sometimes has such a woefully low match to mapping these users to users it knows of that customer match lists becomes meaningless.

For example one of our clients sent us a 10,000 member list to load and Google was able to only map 400 members. You need 1,000 members on the list to use the list in search ads which renders the time and exercise to clean up a customer match list a waste of time.

As this is a difficult problem without a clear path to a resolution, this topic is one you will want to watch this year as Google and Facebook seek cookie alternatives.