Who doesn’t love freshly baked cookies? Third-party cookies, that is, but they’ve earned themselves some notoriety because of how they track and serve ads. The only thing creepier than visiting a website and then having some other website stalk you with their products is merely whispering the words Taco Bell near your phone and suddenly receiving Taco Bell ads (true story).
So What are Cookies?
Simply put, cookies are a way for websites to store information such as your user ID, preferences, etc. The site’s web server generates small bits of information, and the web browser stores that information for a specific period, typically for the duration of the users’ visit.
Cookies with the same domain name as your website are first-party cookies. The website uses these cookies to ensure a seamless user experience by collecting information like your username, shopping cart details, and more. First-party cookies are usually considered helpful and reasonable– not a breach of privacy.
However, cookies that are dropped onto a website by domains other than the one a user is currently visiting are called third-party cookies. For example, if you visit a website called shop.com, any cookies put on the site by shop.com are first-party cookies, and all other cookies are third-party cookies.
Third-party cookies offer different advantages for marketers; however, the most common way of using information collected through third-party cookies is for cross-site tracking. The problem with third-party cookies is that. For many people, cross-site tracking is a severe violation of their privacy.
The Importance of Cookies
The primary purpose of cookies is to allow websites to store information once to prevent the need to perform the same task repeatedly.
First-party cookies allow online advertisers to track how consumers behave on their websites. The company then uses that information to fine-tune its services and products to impact user behavior positively.
For example, by using information from your shopping cart, they can guess what other types of products you might like and show you relevant ads in the future.
The most significant purpose of third-party cookies is tracking user behavior even when the consumer is not on your website. For instance, maybe they’re just surfing the internet or minding their own business. Third-party cookies are there in the background, minding their business too!
Why Do Websites Allow Third-Party Cookies?
There can be many reasons, but below are a few of the most common.
- They can charge a pretty penny for allowing third-party cookies on their website, especially if they are a website with a high level of traffic.
- They can share information with other companies to display targeted advertising that helps both companies, plus fine-tune their marketing strategies.
- They can use cross-site tracking to collect consumer data from numerous sources to help create a comprehensive picture of the consumer’s likes and dislikes.
However, with the rise of consumer demands for privacy, and the constant abuse of information-gathering technologies, almost all major browsers have stopped allowing third-party cookies, or soon will.
In particular, targeted ads can sometimes feel too well-targeted and cause people to question the website’s protection of their privacy, or rather, the lack of it.
How the Disappearance of Third-Party Cookies May Impact Marketing
Though banning third-party cookies may seem like a good decision on a surface level, there is a chance it could make room for a worse alternative. New tracking technologies like digital fingerprints may significantly compromise user privacy.
However, big companies like Google might not be affected by the ban on third-party cookies (shocker!) since they have significant real estate across the internet, enough for them to collect whatever information they want or need without help from third-party cookies.
Better Replacement for Third-party Cookies.
Google is developing a browser-based approach (think URL) called Topics API, which will replace the previously proposed FLoC.
With the predicted demise of third-party cookies on the horizon, advertisers and the internet’s gatekeepers are scrambling to develop better ways to serve users relevant ads. Google launched its Privacy Sandbox in 2019 to look into suitable alternatives, announcing FLoC (or Federated Learning of Cohorts) last year. The plan to roll out FLoC was delayed, and Privacy Sandbox faced regulatory scrutiny in the UK and the US. Today, the company announced it’s testing a new approach called Topics API, which will replace FLoC.
Topics API relies on the Chrome browser to determine a list of the top five topics a user is interested in based on their surfing history. Say, for example, you’ve visited camping or yoga websites. Chrome will count those towards your top interests for that particular week and share them with participating publishers, who can then show you ads for, say, athleisure or camping gear. Topics will select one area of interest from the past three weeks to share with each site and its advertising partners. Google says topics are “kept for only three weeks, and old topics are deleted.” The data and processing happen on your device “without involving any external servers, including Google servers.”
Where are we Without Cookies?
I know we all hate the idea of no more cookies. Yes, we’re talking about the editable variety.
The most educated bet for digital cookies is we’re going to land smack dab back in the 1950s of advertising: exceptional ideas, fantastic copy, and creative designs that spark the end user’s imagination will be the most critical formula for businesses looking to tell a brand story and market their services.
Some advertisers and marketers may feel ill-prepared for the lack of third-party user data and have to adjust their advertising and marketing strategies to supercharge the results. If you need help navigating those challenges, our team here at Stellapop is standing by, ready to chat.