Both Safari and Firefox have phased out third-party cookies from their browsers, but neither caused as much concern as Google announcing its plan to do the same by 2023.
There is no doubt that a paradigm shift is taking place for advertisers and publishers, and the effects it will have on their businesses are far-reaching.
When Google finally sets this policy in motion, I think that will be the nail in the coffin.
Here is what you need to know about third-party cookies
In the beginning — there was the third-party cookie.
The phasing out of third-party cookies may come as a surprise, but this shouldn’t come as a shock for anyone who knows the history. Cookies weren’t developed to be used this way in the first place.
In 1994, a 23-year old engineer at Netscape, Lou Mountulli, invented the cookie. He aimed to create an instrument to help websites remember their users, i.e., their password, experience, and what they did on the site. But he tried to prevent it from being used for cross-site tracking.
Google acquired this company in 2008 and expanded its advertising business from merely the SERPs to programmatic ads on other websites.
The business of ad-targeting became one of the primary reasons why we have so much free content in the world today, as it allowed publishers to monetize their content creation efforts.
Third-party cookies became a popular thing. Unfortunately, however, these cookies also became a tool for privacy breaches.
What do third-party cookies mean?
Generally, cookies are a piece of code stored in your browser by a website you visit.
This piece of code helps websites collect data about your behavior on the website, and the website owners then use this to serve you a personalized experience whenever you are on the site.
Third-party cookies are, however, not made by the website you visited — instead, they are developed by a third party. Most likely, that third party is an advertising firm, and it tracks you all across the web to collect data about your behavior, interest, etc.
This data is then used to send you targeted ads.
Here is an example: You visited one website earlier while searching for the best loafers for men. You spend some time on the website, then a few minutes later, while you are busy browsing an entirely different thing on another website, you see an ad about the best loafers for men. A third party most likely serves the ads. It is neither the earlier website you had visited nor the current one that owns the ad. It is the third party.
While this served advertisers, it became a real problem as ads follow internet users around, and it appears everything users and ads do is monitored.
The adtech industry is very advanced, and millions of dollars are being made by the businesses in this industry. You cannot expect them just to let go of their source of income without deploying a solution.
Google is presently working with other concerned parties to solve this problem, even as it tightens up the user privacy space.
Some of the solutions they’ve come up with so far are:
Google Privacy Sandbox Initiative
Although Google plays a pivotal role in creating this problem, it’s also working on solving it. For example, it has been reported that part of why Google delayed the phasing out till 2022 is because she’s exploring other possible options to secure the web and allow publishers and advertisers to make money.
But what is the Privacy SandBox Initiative?
It is, according to Google, “a collaborative effort to develop new web technologies that will improve people’s privacy protection and maintain existing web capabilities, including advertising.”
FLoC stands for Federated Learning Cohorts. In a whitepaper about the evaluation of cohort algorithms for the FLoC API, “the goal of FLoC API is to preserve interest-based advertising but to do so in a privacy-preserving manner.”
This means serving relevant ads to internet users would still be possible, but the targeting would be based on cohort ID rather than personal data. FLoC API allocates a cohort ID by creating large cohorts of people with similar behaviors.
But due to the complex nature of this matter, all these things are still under development, and you will have to stay abreast of these developments by following them in the news. In addition, you can read more here.
In the interim, below are some existing solutions that have always been there.
Email marketing has been in existence for a long time. And notwithstanding the occasional rumor of its death, email marketing still remains one of the best marketing investments out there, as every one Dollar spent on email marketing returns $36.
But long before the death of third-party cookies, Author Ryan Holiday has pointed out the need for every publisher and every business owner to own an email list in his Perennial Seller. This is because, as he explains, if any of the platforms we rely on today decides to take us off or go down, your email list will always remain yours, and that way, you will not lose your customers and audience.
For many businesses, affiliate marketing has been a lifesaver.
It remains — and getting more — popular because when you deploy affiliate marketing, nobody loses.
I wrote a post on fitness blogging, and it’s a perfect example of how affiliate marketing works.
I remember how some company reached out to me when they saw it on page one of Google.
It wasn’t even in the top three yet, but they offered a handsome reward if I would mention their product.
As a blog owner, it was a source of income for me, even though the blog wasn’t for an affiliate income in the first place. So, I put in more effort to rank it higher on Google, and they didn’t have to do anything on their part.
Instead, they’d focused on making their business better while I focused on bringing users to them.
When the renowned father of modern marketing, Seth Godin, said “content marketing is the only marketing left,” no one anticipated it would be helpful in this context.
Instead of bothering your target audience with ads, why not let them find you by themselves? All supporting stats aside, it makes sense that an audience that found you organically is more like to convert than the one you bombarded with ads.
They have over 2,000 of them competing for their attention.
A user who searches for a keyword relating to your business is more likely to buy than someone who just sees an ad about it, whether they want it or not.
Here are the three most popular content marketing types in the 2020s.
- Blogging: blogging is the foundation of content marketing. And till date, it’s still the most widely used and beneficial type of content marketing. Companies that blog produce 67% more leads than companies that don’t. But you need to learn about SEO content writing to get it right.
- Social media marketing: I don’t usually cite social media marketing when discussing content marketing. Not because it isn’t part of it, but because you sometimes need to run ads, and I’m all about organic reach. However, without running ads, there is so much you could do on social media. Some of the surprising things I’ve seen recently are how B2B brands utilize Instagram and the unbelievable reach of TikTok. Irrespective of what industry you operate in — if you know how to use social media well, there is no limit to what you can achieve.
- Guest posting: As big as Peep Laja’s CXL is in the digital marketing world, Peep Laja and his team are still guest posting on leading industry blogs. And if that tells you anything, it shows that guest posting is indeed a very powerful marketing strategy. Not only could you gain relevant backlinks from guest posting, but you’d also get referral traffic.
Well, it goes on.
Should you be worried?
If you are a business owner in an industry that’s different from advertising and publishing, I think you should leave this problem to those who are in those industries as it is their fight.
If you happen to fall in the categories of those who have to worry about the phasing out of third-party cookies — what you can do is be up-to-date with the latest news from the top guns and influencers in the industry — i.e., Google.
I understand it may not be easy for you to cross to content marketing if you are not already familiar with the field, but it is advisable to start looking into how you can do well here as you are already a marketer.
The fundamentals of marketing don’t usually change. It’s the channel and tactics that change — and we all have to stay up-to-date with this knowledge.
Image Credit: Provided by the Author; Thank you!