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Google’s Eliminating Third Party Cookies – How this Affects Advertisers

March 10, 2021

Last year, Google announced it would be going cookieless. The leading search platform will  soon cease supporting third-party cookies on Chrome. Beyond that, they also did not provide a plan for alternatives that advertisers could use to target third-party data and measure performance. 

Fast forward to about a week ago, Google stated they will not only stop tracking third-party cookies, but they are also not going to build alternative tracking solutions either. Advertisers that relied on this behavioral data are now left to navigate a new, cookieless frontier. 

Industry insiders and advertisers have anticipated this announcement for some time. Discussions surrounding data privacy like GDPR, CCPA, and iOS 14 updates have all pointed toward further restricted access to third-party user data. This announcement from Google is just the latest addition to the trend that emphasizes protecting user privacy and bolstering their privacy-first web initiative. 

An official blog to announce this was released on the 3rd of March 2021was accompanied with CTV ads targeted at reassuring users of Google’s desire to protect their privacy.

For an advertiser or agency, this is a big deal, but there is no need to panic just yet. Here’s what you need to know about how this move will affect you. 

How It Affects Search Ads (Including Shopping Ads)

Before the cookieless panic sets in, remember: We are still about a year or more away from these third-party cookie policies being implemented. While we cannot say definitively, you should note that paid search campaigns rely almost entirely on targeting keywords and not user behavior. 

When running search campaigns, you are trying to match keywords with user intent using your Google Ads account. A click on the ad directs the user to your website where they will explore your site or perform an intended action. 

The data collected from these behaviors, as long as the site remains GDPR-compliant, is tracked using the Urchin Tracking Model (UTM) and no personally identifiable information (PII) is revealed! There exists a similar process for shopping ads where there is little-to-no dependence on PII to run a standard campaign. 

So, what does this all mean? Put simply: Google’s latest move will almost certainly not impact search or shopping ads in any way. It should not affect traffic or the ability to drive users to your website. 

How It Affects Display Ads

Most advertisers are concerned primarily about the third-party cookie announcement’s impact on display ads. Google’s new technology, Federated Learning of Cohorts (FloC) creates a lookalike audience that protects user privacy by leveraging machine learning (ML) to process the behavior of web users on their devices. 

Google assures advertisers that this will allow for targeting with nearly the same accuracy as third-party cookies within 95% similarity. Instead of having the exact user data to work with, campaign managers will now be referencing near-exact information based on the lookalike audience model. 

Early FloC testing appears promising and it does not look like the minimal data loss will impact marketers and advertisers in a significant way. In fact, Google asserts that one does not need to individually identify users to target them. 

With all of this said, measurement and analytics will be affected in some ways, although this still remains unclear until these changes are implemented. Google has discussed providing a click-through attribution tool to advertisers once the change has been rolled out, which should further ease any potential perceived new burdens.

Prepare for Your Next Campaign without Third Party Cookies

These new changes surrounding third-party cookies will likely cause a great deal of concern for many advertisers and marketers in our industry. Thankfully, it appears that Google will be offering a solution that will allow most campaigns to function at similar performance levels. 

This announcement from Google will change the way that advertisers have managed campaigns for years. Prepare for this paradigm shift now so that you can stay ahead of the curve when the time comes. 

To learn more about advertising best practices as we prepare for this major industry shift, check out our 105 Tips to Crush a Google Ads Campaign and our Ultimate Guide to Programmatic Display Advertising.  

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