It’s no Amber versus Johnny Depp scandal, but you may have heard that Google is changing its cookies policy. Back in 2020, the search engine announced that within two years, it would ban third-party cookies from Chrome, limiting the exchange of customer data from website to website. This shift could transform the landscape of online advertising, and some marketers are panicking. But the change is a long time coming.
More and more, consumers are demanding privacy and control over how their data is being used and distributed. Mozilla Firefox abolished third-party cookies in 2019, and Apple was not far behind with Safari. Spoiler alert—their decision was executed without major catastrophe.
So far, Google has already pushed back the cookie ban to at least 2023, and again until 2024. When it finally does happen, Google plans to set up a series of data initiatives designed to be transparent and protect individual information, all the while keeping the interwebs accessible to all. If you’re not sure what any of this means, we’ll walk you through the basics of cookies, privacy policies, Google’s vision for the future, and what you can do to stay on top of the customer data in your life.
What are Cookies?
The Difference Between First-Party and Third-Party Cookies
Most websites collect first-party cookies for every visitor who stops by. They will store these blocks of data and send them to your device under “linkeo.ca,” “surfing-the-digital-wave.com,” or wherever you happen to be browsing. First-party cookies do not travel beyond your device and the original domain.
In contrast, when third-party cookies are enabled, other sites and platforms can gather your information and share them across the interwebs. So, let’s say you’re planning a spa day and you checked out a web page on salt caves without committing. If a site allows third-party platforms, an outside domain can record your visit and later pitch a captivating banner ad the next time you’re on Facebook or your favourite website. This is the system that’s going to have to change when Google phases out third-party cookies.
What Google Is Saying About All This
Google currently dominates 63% of the global browser market. Millions of advertisers rely on third-party data to refine their target market and display their ads to the right people at the right time. When Google set out to cancel third-party cookies, many people wondered if it would build alternate trackers. An up-and-coming example is fingerprinting, where networks record a user’s digital “fingerprint,” monitoring their browser history to create profiles advertisers can use for targeting.
Google calls this technique, “opaque,” pointing out that “unlike cookies, users cannot clear their fingerprint, and therefore cannot control how their information is collected.” The company is determined to develop a more transparent and respectful method of storing data. It is concerned that the failure to do so would “significantly” reduce “publishers’ primary means of funding, which jeopardizes the future of the vibrant web” (Google’s blog: Building a more Private Web). Enter the Privacy Sandbox.
What Is the Privacy Sandbox
The Privacy Sandbox is Google’s plan to “phase out third-party cookies and limit covert tracking.” Its mission is to “provide publishers with safer alternatives to existing technology, so they can continue building digital businesses while your data stays private.” To make this possible, Google has researched a wide range of technology. It found some promise in FLoC, which groups Internet users in clusters based on their interests. Individual identities remain concealed amongst the masses and all info stays private on the users’ devices.
Studies show that the cluster-based algorithm is up to 95% as lucrative as advertising that relies on third-party cookies. But the solution met with resistance from major sites and competing web browsers. A few murky privacy issues emerged. So, Google came up with a new plan.
How does Google Topics work?
Like FloC, Google Topics is organized according to user interests. But the new solution comes with a few subtle differences that will make it more effective, and hopefully more respectful.
Here are the basic elements of Google Topics API:
- Your web browser will analyze your user history to determine your interests, whether that’s indie publishers, facial yoga, or vintage perfumes.
- Every website that uses Googles Topics API is assigned to a specific category. So far, there are 350 categories ranging from comics and animation to team sports and rock music.
- Based on your Internet travels, every week, you’ll be assigned to five categories. Chrome will add a sixth random topic unrelated to your interests to help protect your identity.
- They’ll add a sixth random topic to protect your identity.
- According to Google, this process takes place on your device and not on the servers themselves.
- Every three weeks, all the topic and category data is wiped out and your Internet habits become a complete secret once again.
- You can opt out of Google Topics, just like you could say no to cookies.
The transition out of third-party data has already been delayed once, so there’s still time to adjust. And if you’re a small business with modest advertising goals, the shift is not likely to radically affect your life. First-party data remains the key and golden element in Google Ads, which will stay your main element, before and after the new policy. As various algorithms adjust to Google Topics and emerging technology, you can also revisit tried-and-true strategies like contextual advertising. With contextual advertising, you don’t need any customer info. You simply run your PPC ads on websites that share your target keywords. So, if you sell recycled-plastic yoga pants, you set up your ad to appear on sites for spas, yoga studios, and eco-friendly, health-conscious businesses. Meanwhile, we recommend an ethical, streamlined approach to leveraging your first-party data. And here’s how we can help—
Linkeo Solutions and First-Party Data
At Linkeo, our online business solutions come with built-in data collection. Every time a customer books an appointment (Planner by Linkeo), places an order (Deliver), or requests an estimate (Quote), the system automatically stores the client information in a customer database. Beyond an effortless mailing list, you also gain valuable insight on consumer behaviour and preferences. This creates endless opportunities for targeted marketing content. It’s good news all around—our favourite kind of cookies are here to stay, and advertising is evolving to respect consumer privacy while maintaining the best of what the web has to offer. The future is digital, ethical, and bright.