I’ve been reading up on Google’s decision to phase out third-party cookies in its Chrome browser. It’s a crucial development for digital marketers, but it’s also a little complex.
To oversimplify, third-party cookies are the bits of code websites use to track you across the web – that’s how that ad for a pair of shoes follows you from site to site. They are different from first-party cookies, which track behavior only on the site where they originate – keeping you logged in on future visits to a site, for example.
Apple’s Safari browser and independent browser Firefox have already made moves to limit third-party cookies, citing privacy concerns. I agree with the majority of industry observers who say it was inevitable that Google was going to have to do this as well. Users, rightfully, are getting more concerned about online privacy.
Google says it will phase out third-party cookies within two years and will offer new solutions that will split the difference between users’ privacy demands and advertisers’ tracking desires. We’ll see.
This story will continue to develop. Here are my three takeaways from what we’ve learned so far:
1. This change will hurt remarketing campaigns. Remarketing ads include the ones I referenced above, where your behavior on one site is reflected in targeted ads on other sites.
There will still be ways to remarket – for instance, within Google’s ecosystem, or within Facebook’s. But I expect it will be more expensive, too.
2. It will be good for Google’s bottom line. Google’s cookies will still track Chrome users across the web – and they have many ways to “cookie” you – Google search, YouTube, Google Drive, Gmail, etc.
So, in a way, Google is eliminating competitors by eliminating third-party cookies.
3. There’s more reason than ever to be a marketer that people can trust. If your content provides value, users will continue to visit, perhaps creating an account on your site or signing up for an email newsletter or digital download. That will continue to enable effective, non-intrusive, well-targeted marketing – the kind you should want to produce.
If you engage in creepy or scammy marketing, it will be harder and harder to succeed. That’s good, right?
In a MarketingLand roundup of experts’ reactions to Google’s announcement, this quote from Kristina Podnar stuck out for me:
“We will start to quickly see separation of those marketers and brands that have a trusted relationship with the user, and filter out those who do not, therefore underscoring that fewer but better engagements is what it’s all about.”