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.


Our New Appointment Scheduling App

Connect with us your way for Google Ads Strategy Calls

Our existing clients are seeing a new application this month to use in booking Google Ads strategy calls with our team. We are testing out Microsoft Bookings and would appreciate your feedback.

We send out links to our booking page monthly. You can view the invitation online at this link. 

Our clients will now be able to choose a 15 minute of 30 minute call. In most cases the call will be free but in some cases when you do not purchase more than 4 to 5 hours of time in a month for services, you may see a charge for the extra time for this call on your month end statement.

You will now be able to select to receive text message reminders of your appointment, select your date and time based on your own time zone in the calendar, and will receive a reminder email the day before and then 15 minutes before the call.

You will also be able to easily cancel or reschedule the call.

We will also ask what technology you want to use for the meeting – a simple phone call, Zoom video/screen sharing call, Google Meet video/screen sharing call, or the new Microsoft Teams call with the ability to simply join from a browser without a login or download.

We look forward to your feedback on using our new scheduling app. We are looking for ways to make the experience more user-friendly and better for your personal needs.

Privacy Changes Create Challenges for Google Ads Advertisers

Solutions Ahead Privacy Forward Marketing

Privacy challenges and changes are causing a paradigm shift in advertising. Not only is Google Ads impacted but all online advertising platforms including Microsoft Advertising, AdRoll, and others.

This is a complex topic, but I will work to make it easy to understand. Regulations and expectations have changed. The Chrome browser will be retiring the use of third party cookies in 2022. Many browsers like Firefox and Microsoft Edge are already providing users expanded privacy protection. With Google serving nearly 80% of digital advertising, it and the Google Ad platform will be hurt the most by these new privacy initiatives.

The bottom line is that third party cookies which are being degraded drive conversions as a user travels the web. Knowing more about you and what you share with Google (via cookies) and what browsers record about your activities online – drive conversions for advertisers. Take that away and advertisers will be less relevant to your needs. When advertisers struggle to make conversions and drive sales, Google is impacted as advertising dollars are moved to other advertising products.

81% of internet users this year became more concerned about privacy and personal data. 59% of internet users feel that their privacy is not sufficiently protected by the companies that they do business with. (From the Google Partner seminar on Planning for Privacy-Safe Growth.)

The challenges are real. Google has introduced an initiative to be used in Chrome and is hoping other browsers will embrace it. It is called FLoC Federated Learning of Cohorts. This initiative plans to anonymize data and then group users into clusters which it will use as audiences for ad serving. Already, Microsoft Edge and possibly even Firefox have said they will block FLoC tracking.

The difficulties are real for businesses advertising digitally. With less direct information, that was previously delivered by third party cookie tracking, the less relevant ads will be. Remarketing lists will be smaller as many users will not be able to be tracked.  Fewer conversions will be recorded in the Google Ads control panel to be used by the bidding algorithms to adjust bids to deliver optimized results. There will be less personalization and fewer personalized ad served to you after you have done a recent search for a product.  Google will have limited ability to create audience lists that will be meaningful that can drive additional conversions and sales. The list goes on.

These privacy changes are great for consumers, but for advertisers will require a shift in approach to reach relevant audiences to promote their products and services in a new privacy-safe way.

The key to this new world is the use of first party data. Here are my recommendations.

If you are not collecting email address for interaction with clients through form fills or purchases, you should plan on implementing that right away.

If you are not collecting client emails on a spreadsheet for marketing use, start now. If you are using customer relationship management software you should be downloading and then exporting your properly formatted customer list into Google Ads every six months (Google’s recommendation).

All businesses should be using Customer Match in Google Ads and then layer this audience over all campaigns. This first party data will help the modeling that Google will be doing in your account to help your advertising be more productive.

Review your Google Ads and Google Analytics tags – Google recommends use of the global site tag and an  upgrade to Google Analytics 4. You may want to consider moving to Tag Manager as Consent Mode will be turned on in the USA in the very near future. Add the  Google Tag Assistant to Chrome as an app then visit your website to see what tracking code version you are using now. You may need an updated.

Without data, Google expects to see conversions recorded in Google Ads decline. With data the hit may only be 5% or so. Google has stated that what data it cannot get from first party information, it will model. The less modeling the better.

It is important to know that even with these changes, your website is not impacted or your sales just your advertising. You still get the conversions it is just that the data on the sale or form fill no longer flows to Google Ads as it has before. With bidding algorithms using conversion/lead data to make bidding decisions it simply means that these tools become less effective in controlling costs and bidding effectively.

Overall, I want to express that I am not worried by these changes. In many cases I feel that the increased level of data protection is a good thing for the end user. What we want to do is to help all our advertiser embrace this new privacy environment and work to use that tools that are available to control the impact on their business.

We will be reaching out to our clients with an action plan to help address a number of these changes. Many of our clients have already been approached with a request to refresh customer match lists. More will be contacted in the near future to help them create customer match lists for the first time.

Our recommendation is to simply start by reviewing are you keeping a list of email address for customers and prospects. Can you offer a special download and get an email address in return to start building your first party data list? That is a great place to start.

Our team will guide you through the process in the month ahead with suggestions on steps you can take to have a privacy forward focus for the future.

For more information about McCord Web Services, a Google Partner, please visit our website to learn more about our mission and our services.

Update: as of late 6/24/21 Google announced that is delaying the Chrome cookie update until late 2023 due to advertiser concerns in embracing the new tracking technologies.