In a major shift of operations, Google’s flagship browser – Chrome – announced that they will begin phasing out the use of third-party cookies in the next two years to help bolster privacy protections for users. This will have a monumental effect on how digital advertisers strategize and reach consumers. Nick Toombs, Schaefer’s Digital Media Planner and Buyer, dissects what this change could mean for businesses – and advertisers – if it takes effect.
Google is following suit with Safari and Firefox – who already don’t track cookies – by removing third-party cookies from Google Chrome. Google has to walk a fine line because they’re not a search engine or a web browser, they’re also an advertising platform. They can’t just wholesale quit tracking cookies – there’s a big bottom-line impact on advertising dollars. Right now, 3rd party cookies are the primary way advertisers track sales to an online ad.
Cookies are the primary performance tracker for digital advertising, and give digital marketers a way to directly track and attribute user traffic from one source to another. Google eliminating cookies means that it will be more difficult to track the direct traffic from online advertisements, leading to less transparency for publishers and advertisers. It also creates more ambiguity surrounding digital marketing strategies moving forward, and changes how we can track and attribute traffic and leads.
Over the next two years, there could be a shift in the way digital inventory is purchased and served, with a shift toward contextual advertising and targeted content, rather than user targeting. If Google actually phases out cookies, the change could have a tremendous impact on bottom-line performance for retailers who rely on retargeting strategies.
Since Google announced that they’re removing cookies in 2022, a lot of marketers are in a bit of a holding pattern to see what will replace the 3rd party cookie, and the capabilities therein. But, cookies are only one small aspect of digital marketing strategies, and moving forward without them isn’t the complete end of lead and traffic attribution. In fact, lead attribution has always been a key focal point in reporting the ROI of digital marketing strategies, and figuring out exactly where traffic came from is a never-ending conquest.
Moving forward, marketers can still look at their general analytics to attribute traffic to campaigns and online ads, it will just be more difficult to measure the exact number of leads that came from a specific campaign. At Schaefer, we take a holistic approach to observing traffic trends and reporting the analytical success of a given campaign. If Google eliminated cookies today, we would shift our focus to observe different analytical trends and rely on different KPIs to inform how we plan and report on out digital strategies.
Google may be phasing out cookies, but we still have plenty of other analytical tools to help us meet the various marketing goals of our clients.
For more detailed information on the move, we suggest checking out these articles:
Nick Toombs is a Digital Media Planner with years of programmatic advertising experience and managing paid digital media campaigns. He's responsible for the evaluation and implementation of multiple digital advertising tools and partnerships.