2022 was rumored to bring an end to third-party cookies advertising. Google, Apple, and Microsoft all aim to fundamentally enhance privacy on the internet and improve user experience. Canceling third-party cookies is definitely a step in the right direction. However, it leaves thousands of B2B marketers and ad tech companies hanging.
Today, we are looking into all the specifics:
- what the third-party cookies phase-out really means for marketers relying on ad targeting;
- why Google is pursuing it so vigorously;
- what the new alternative to Google’s Privacy Sandbox and FLoC proposal is;
- what you can do right now to not fall behind in the impending cookieless-era.
Author’s note: This post should not be treated as any form of legal advice. Data privacy laws in your country may vary from the one presented in this blog post, so we strongly encourage you to consult your legal partner about the appropriate privacy regulations prior to taking any action that may affect the legitimacy of your business.
First, we’ll quickly go over the basics and the general role of cookies in digital advertising. Feel free to skip straight to Part II to learn about the new Topics API proposed by Google last month, or to Part III for 5 actionable steps to keep your advertising running after Google removes third-party cookies.
Table Of Contents
- Part I. From cookie-based to cookie-less tracking
- Part II. What removing third-party cookies means for B2B marketers
- Part III. How we can prepare for the third-party cookies’ phase-out
- What’s coming next?
Part I. From cookie-based to cookie-less tracking
For years now, the word “cookies” has been synonymous with the advertising industry. Cookies have played a central role in advertising, marketing, and sales processes. And they remain an effective way of gathering valuable user information that helps enhance personalization today.
That’s why so many professionals were shocked back in 2019 when Google announced it was planning to ban third-party cookies.
We’ll skip the cliche confectionary pun.
A cookie is a small file stored in a web browser that collects personal data about user behavior online based on prior consent.
They help marketers make informed decisions in the core operations:
- improve user experience through segmentation and personalization;
- set up targeted advertising campaigns;
- gather insightful analytical data.
There are two distinct types of cookies used by web browsers: first-party and third-party.
What are first-party cookies?
Simply put, first-party cookies are set up on your own website domain. They analyze user behavior on your site to help you better understand your visitors and improve their experience.
Users also can benefit from these cookies in a number of ways, as they are great for remembering usernames, passwords, and language preferences for their favorite websites. Every time a person logs into their Netflix account, the platform is using first-party cookies to simplify their sign-in and update their movie library.
First-party cookies can show you a bunch of useful information, such as:
- How often a certain user is visiting your website
- What they are doing there
- Which website elements are interacted with the most
- Basic analytics information, such as the browser and device types, geographical location, some of the click data, etc.
What about third-party cookies?
When a user is visiting your site, a third-party cookie file is embedded on their computer. This file then collects data on the user as they browse the web outside of your site. Third-party cookies track users to learn what topics they are interested in, which other websites they visit, etc.
So, if you went on Amazon searching for some shoes, but later browsed Google for a brand new coffee maker, don’t be alarmed when Amazon offers you to check out their brand new offer for coffee machines.
Third-party cookies are invaluable for retargeting and targeting users, cross-site tracking, social media marketing, and more. An average consumer, however, doesn’t have much to gain from this form of tracking.
Why is Google killing cookies?
The overall concern about personal data privacy is growing and it is the prime reason why large companies, such as Google, have decided to discontinue the support of third-party cookies.
In fact, Google Chrome is quite late to the party compared to other browsers. For example, Firefox updated its user privacy controls in 2019 and Apple launched Internet Tracking Prevention (ITP) in 2020.
Google has struggled with the decision and could not abruptly end its support of third-party cookies, mainly because of its heavy investment in online advertising.
2024, however, is set as the final deadline for Google’s industry partners to bring their affairs to order and move on from the cookie-based tracking.
Which brings us to the big question: what will happen to an ad industry without third-party cookies?
Part II. What removing third-party cookies means for B2B marketers
While “the death of third-party cookies” makes for a good headline, things are not quite as dramatic as they may seem. In fact, in the long run, it will most probably prove to be beneficial for both users and marketers.
After Google’s announcement to remove cookies, 44% of marketers worried that they will need to significantly increase their advertising budgets in order to match the performance of 2021 once the phase-out is complete.
Yet, the change wouldn’t be as grand as it seems.
While removing third-party cookies will undoubtedly eat up the performance of programmatic advertising, the remaining parts of your marketing strategies should remain intact. After all, Google is not banning cookies completely.
Tracking will still be very much a thing fueling Google Chrome’s success with advertisers.
From Privacy Sandbox to FLoC to Topics: What is Google planning?
It’s still uncertain whether Google’s decision to remove third-party cookies is a social cause or another way a large corporation is trying to become even larger. From the looks of it, Google is simply paving the way for their own privacy-first initiatives that will help them collect personal data more efficiently.
You might have heard of the set of sophisticated APIs known as Google’s Privacy Sandbox or the Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC). At the end of January 2022, Google announced that their new proposal, called Topics, will replace FLoC.
Google’s Privacy Sandbox is an open-source initiative that aims to reduce spam, facilitate web experience, and improve advertising strategies. Some of its core goals are dedicated to preventing tracking in the browser, empowering publishers, and “preserving the vitality of the open web”.
FLoC, and now Topics, are the proposals within the Privacy Sandbox initiative.
Federated Learning of Cohorts
FLoC puts Google Chrome into the center of the advertising process. According to the original Google’s proposal, Chrome browser would analyze a given user’s browsing history, extract their potential interests based on it, and segment them into a dedicated cohort.
This way, instead of looking at one user’s specific interests and transmitting them to third parties, the tech giant would now group the internet users together and share the “estimated” data for advertisers to act on.
Similarly to FLoC, Topics will be an API-based initiative. Google plans on collecting valuable user browsing data for three weeks based on 300 predetermined categories. For now, they exclude sensitive points, such as race or gender.
Unlike FLoC, Topics will allow users to maintain control and review or remove certain interests from their lists, as well as to turn off the entire Topics API. Unfortunately, it means even less precision for the advertisers: Google will only share three randomly selected topics off the user’s list.
More information on Topics is available here
This leads us to the next big change. In a world where personal data will be so carefully guarded that it will be mashed together in a regularly updated yet still simulated representation of personal interests, first-party personal information becomes truly invaluable.
Growing demand for first- and zero-party data
Google’s decision to block third-party cookies caused the growing demand for marketing strategies and software that facilitate the collection of first-party data.
With first-party data you get to leverage your cookies to the maximum, learning what the user did on your website, for how long, and which products of your brand they were interested in specifically. So, basically, the data that first-party cookies collect automatically without causing any user privacy violation.
Zero-party data, on the other hand, presents all the meaty details we, marketers, care about the most, such as their name, email address, job title, company, etc.
These become paramount for successful lead generation, qualification, and nurturing.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that investing in marketing strategies that encourage customers to share their zero-party details (such as the popularization of gated content) is such a big trend these days.
In fact, it is the pursuit of such quality contact details that makes 23% of marketers seriously consider investing in a dedicated email marketing software upon Google’s announcement.
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Some of the ways you can access this type of customer data are through quality content, lead-generating forms, individual surveys, etc.
Of course, after Google blocks third-party cookies entirely, marketers will need to adapt their marketing strategies according to the new approach to consumer privacy and personal data.
And that’s exactly what the third part of this guide is dedicated to.
Part III. How we can prepare for the third-party cookies’ phase-out
The only thing people want more than the general respect for their privacy is personalization. 63% of online consumers consider personalization based on prior consent to be “a standard of service.”
With Google waging war against tracking cookies, it’s only reasonable to bet on other advertising and marketing strategies that will allow businesses to gain personal data. Another big trend will be working around cookies in order to access third-party information.
Below, we’ve selected 5 marketing strategies that will most likely help you stay afloat after the phase-out, even if your businesses depended on third-party cookies in the past.
1. Gain higher-quality user data with relevant content
You must have heard the expression “Content is king.” That’s probably why 96% of B2B marketers invest in the development of a potent content marketing strategy for their brand. In case free content is still not at the center of your marketing efforts, the third-party cookie phase-out should definitely bring it there!
According to the Content Marketing Institute, the most promising content distribution channels for B2B companies include:
- social media;
- their own websites;
- owned blogs.
By providing your visitors with researched, well-written, and truly helpful content, not only will you be able to generate more leads and engagement, but also you will gain access to valuable zero-party data.
A single, well-crafted blog post allows you to inform users of the most important changes to your offer and further personalize it without having to rely on third-party cookies.
If you are looking for powerful software to optimize your content marketing efforts – try GetResponse! Send timely emails and notifications, create meaningful landings for your gated content, set up data-collection forms, organize webinars, and more
2. Cooperate directly with publishers for contextual advertising
Contextual advertising had its own primetime before third-party tracking completely outshined it. Here, marketers rely on the context of the website a user visits in order to promote a relevant offer. With the ban on third-party cookies’ tracking codes, contextual advertising will be in demand once again.
So how do you do it, exactly?
First of all, you’ll need to start by identifying the context, a.k.a. the relevant publishers. Then, it’s a matter of negotiating comfortable terms of your partnership, and thousands of the platform’s users will be exposed to your ad, just like that.
As you could guess, the comeback of contextual advertising might not be the most desirable outcome for marketers and advertisers. Still, it definitely is among the silver-lining scenarios for the digital publishers selling ad space.
3. Invest in paid advertising and social media
While the third-party cookies’ demise will undoubtedly affect your targeted ads’ performance, there are lots of other ways to access the right audience.
Take a hard look at the budget you would previously spend on third-party cookies’ intel. Isn’t there a better use to it?
LinkedIn ads are known to work wonders for B2B companies, yet it also requires quite a lot of investment. Perhaps now is the right time to give it a chance!
On the other hand, there are Facebook Ads that allow you to easily personalize your campaign to a very specific type of audience. Give it a go with a reallocated budget as well!
Finally, you can always go deeper with Google Ads and make sure your business always appears in the top-three search page results. It allows you to set up retargeting, specific segmentation criteria, and more. All without the need to utilize third-party data.
More than 75% of marketers run their paid campaigns on both Google Ads and social media. Did you know that you can control both from a single GetResponse account? Learn more about the feature here
4. Give IP-based targeting a chance
Account-based IP tracking is a perfect solution for B2B marketers. IP-based targeting allows you to deliver your message to all of the company accounts instead of focusing on one specific person who has visited your website.
As a result, you can reach a new pool of prospects with definite certainty that they are interested in the market you operate in and are likely to buy.
In this model, your digital ads will be displayed to the users who may not have heard of your specific product yet. At the same time, your list will be much more specific, thus leading to a much higher conversion rate.
There are several ways you can approach IP-based targeting. The best strategy is also the easiest one. Here, you only need to select promising accounts of your already existing B2B clients and target their lookalikes based on their company’s IPs.
And don’t worry, you won’t miss out on the prospects working from home – you can still access them either via their company VPN or through device identification.
Read also to learn how IP configuration can affect your email marketing strategy:
Shared or Dedicated IP Configuration: Which is Right For Me?
IP Warmup: What It Is and Why You Need It
5. Focus on lead nurturing
Last but not least, with the inevitable demise of the tracking cookies, you might reconsider your approach to lead management. Perhaps, instead of putting all your budget and efforts into lead generation, you could be focusing on nurturing the contacts you already have.
Lead management is the best inbound strategy for well-established large companies operating in the B2B sector. Here, customers are finding you instead of your marketing department having to drag them in. By shifting your focus from outbound campaigns based on third-party data you can provide enhanced personalization obtained in a full agreement between all the parties involved.
While lead generation is important, lead nurturing might bring even better results in the long-term perspective. Thanks to a robust lead nurturing campaign you can build credibility and an expert reputation in your niche. What’s more, you can identify customer needs and react to their requests faster, thus narrowing the gap caused by the tracking cookies’ phase-out.
Relying on dedicated marketing automation software is by far the most reliable approach to lead nurturing. It’s known to bring a 451% increase in qualified leads.
With the right tools, you can ensure your business has an omnichannel presence so that you can stay in touch with promising leads 24/7, regardless of their time zone or device type.
You can target users to identify prospect contacts, assign them specific tags based on their qualifications, and automatically move them down the conversion funnel.
What’s coming next?
It seems like we’re up for another year where there’ll be more questions than answers.
What are Google’s real intentions behind the decision to phase out third-party cookies?
Why the sudden replacement of FLoC?
Will Topics prove to be an advertising strategy effective enough to provide a decent replacement, allowing us to maintain the high level of personalization customers are used to?
Nothing is set in stone except for one simple truth – changes are inevitable. In order to keep your business afloat during these uncertain times, you have to embrace experimentation.
Whether you decide to go high-tech and bet on marketing automation, or if you prefer to go back to the pre-programmatic means of digital advertising, it’s your call. However, keep in mind that nowadays it all comes down to data.
So what you need to focus on right now is gathering as much valuable personal details from your audience as possible.
Keep track of your leads’ and customers’ details with ease —