Google-phasing-out-third-party-cookies-

Google phasing out third-party cookies: impact and actions

By Matt Tilling, Head of Growth and Optimisation at Reckless.

5 minute read

On the 4th January 2024, Google officially started phasing out the use of third-party cookies for 1% of Chrome and Android users. This move mirrors actions already taken by Safari and Firefox, both of which blocked them a few years back to enhance privacy measures.

So what does Google removing third-party cookies mean for marketers? In this blog we’ll explain what third-cookies are, the impact the phase-out will have on marketing and alternative tactics to overcome the change.

What are third-party cookies?

Third-party cookies are placed on your device by websites that are different from the one you’re visiting. These cookies can be used to track user activity across multiple sites and social media platforms, collecting data such as demographics, interests and browsing patterns. Marketers then use this data to create targeted and remarketed ad campaigns, effectively reaching relevant audiences online.

For example, say you visit a clothing website and then start seeing ads for similar clothes on various other sites, that’s probably because third-party cookies have been tracking you all along. 

What are the advantages and disadvantages of third-party cookies?

Advantages of third-party cookies
  • Personalised advertising: You can effectively serve personalised ads to both new and existing website users, expanding your reach and increasing brand awareness. You can then retarget them with ads that encourage them to take an action, and enhance your user-experience by sharing valuable content that resonates.
  • Cross-site functionality: Third-party cookies allow websites to remember login credentials and user preferences. This enables convenient features like single sign-on across multiple websites, and easy content sharing through social media plugins.
Disadvantages of third-party cookies:
  • Privacy concerns: Companies use third-party cookies to collect high volumes of personal data and create detailed user profiles. The problem however is that many people don’t trust them due to the lack of transparency about how their data is collected, stored and used.
  • Security risks: Malicious actors can exploit third-party cookies for tracking, targeting, and delivering malware or phishing attacks. 

Why are browsers removing third-party cookies?

Browsers are removing third-party cookies largely due to escalating privacy concerns about how companies collect and manage personal data. Data privacy laws and regulations are evolving, and there’s a pressing need to enhance transparency and provide assurances that data is being handled securely and ethically. 

But Google’s phase-out of third-party cookies isn’t anything new because major browsers have been getting rid of them for years. Safari blocked them back in 2020, followed by Mozilla Firefox in 2023. Google however, was slow to follow suit and continued allowing them right up until January 2024. 

What does Google phasing out third-party cookies mean for marketers?

Marketers have heavily relied on third-party cookies to serve personalised and retargeted ads through platforms like Google Ads and Shopping. But by removing them, effective targeting is much harder as marketers lose access to crucial data regarding the users’ browsing habits, which is what made this tactic so effective. 

What should you do now Google is phasing out third-party cookies 

First of all, breathe. Remember that Google isn’t banning all cookies and there are still plenty of other ways to collect valuable marketing data and reach your audience.  For example, you could implement a first-party data strategy – that’s data about user activity on your own website as opposed to elsewhere  – or trial more traditional research methods like customer surveys. This is an effective, yet often overlooked, way to gain insights into your audience’s wants and needs, which you can then use to shape your marketing strategy. 

Additionally, make sure that the way your business uses cookies definitely complies with the latest data privacy regulations. For example, if you use any Google advertising products such as Google Ads, Shopping or GA4, you have until the 6th March 2024 to upgrade to Google Consent Mode V2, if you want to continue serving targeted ads within the EEEA.

What is Google Privacy Sandbox?

Another potential alternative to third-party cookies is Google’s Privacy Sandbox, an initiative designed to curb unauthorised data tracking whilst enabling targeted advertising in Chrome. 

Google is still developing Privacy Sandbox, but it says the three goals of the initiative are to:

  • Build new technology to keep your information private.
  • Enable publishers and developers to keep online content free.
  • Collaborate with the industry to build new internet privacy standards.

Keep an eye on the Privacy Sandbox website for monthly updates as the initiative develops.

Summary

Google’s phase-out of third-party cookies has been a long time coming, and it’s not too late to make alternative plans. The main thing is that you’re proactive in adapting to the change, and implement a contingency plan to reduce the impact. Finally, keep up to date with the latest news and developments around third-party cookies and data privacy regulations, they’re constantly evolving and you’ll find navigating the landscape way easier by staying in the loop.

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