Tracking and cookies and data, oh my!

Here, you’ll find:

  • How data privacy is changing
  • How marketers can pivot their strategies accordingly
  • What the future holds for third-party cookies
  • Expert insights into getting the data you need

Are you aware of your country’s rules and regulations when it comes to your data?

If you don’t, you’re not alone. Turns out, only about one third of internet users worldwide are aware of their country’s data protection and online privacy rules, according to Statista. 

But that may soon change. Lately, big brands like Google and Apple have begun rolling out significant changes around how people are tracked online and via their smartphones. 

You may have heard chatter about this, seen a commercial, or noticed pop-ups around data tracking come up on your phone screen.

Some of these changes are confusing or simply misunderstood by the general population. Let’s break it down with help from HawkSEM marketing pros and Jenny Palmer, Connie Redfield, and Maria Smart.

Apple’s move towards more data transparency

As mentioned in our previous post about Apple’s iOS 14.5 update, the brand recently implemented its new AppleTracking transparency framework. Basically, all apps now need to request permission to track users. 

According to Jenny, apps are able to include a “purpose string” in the prompt. This explains why they’d like to track the user. However, if the user doesn’t select “allow,” the app won’t be able to individually track them. 

This obviously affects digital marketers who use this data, particularly via Facebook, to serve remarketing ads and better understand their audience’s demographics and preferences. 

There are a few things advertisers can do to take the sting out of this change, such as:

  • Verify their domain
  • Leverage aggregated event measurement, a Facebook tool that allows for measurement of web events from iOS 14 users
  • Expect a drop in purchases in Facebook reporting as well as smaller retargeting audience sizes
  • Pivot your Facebook strategy by reviewing placement data and comparing attributions in Google Analytics

Connie explains that it’s understandable for this change to be concerning, especially to small businesses who rely on data to reach and expand their audiences. She recommends using customer lists, lookalike audiences, and testing new prospecting audiences — even the ones that may seem a little far-fetched.

person holding two handfuls of rainbow sprinkle cookies

Third-party cookies have become synonymous with tracking, retargeting and ads. (Image via Unsplash)

A “stay of execution” for third-party cookies

Due to mounting privacy concerns, Google originally announced that third-party cookies would be phased out in 2022. Then, in June 2021, they pushed it back to 2023. But let’s back up.

A cookie is a piece of data stored on a user’s computer while they’re viewing a site. First-party cookies are set by that specific website. These cookies allow the site owners to collect anonymous data and improve user experiences. For example, an e-commerce website showing you similar products you may like.

Third party cookies, on the other hand, are created and set by third parties — someone other than the website owner. Third-party cookies have become synonymous for tracking, retargeting and ads. First-party cookies won’t be affected by these new policy changes.

Gathering first-party data is a great way to grow your audience and keep control, adds Jenny.

Pro tip: FireFox and Safari have already started blocking third-party cookies, so this change is nothing new.

What is FLoC?

Google threw its own hat into the ring with the recent introduction of their Federated Learning of Cohorts, or FLoC. This is Google’s solution to the impending end of third-party cookies. 

This interest-based advertising tool clusters large groups of people with similar interests. This approach effectively hides individuals “in the crowd.” Instead, it uses on-device processing to keep a person’s web history private on the browser. 

Google says that FLoC (currently in its testing phase) can be an effective stand-in for third-party cookies and can allow advertisers to keep reaching in-market and affinity audiences. They even claim that “advertisers can expect to see at least 95% of the conversions per dollar spent when compared to cookie-based advertising.” 

Want actionable ways to adapt to these privacy changes, common data myths dispelled, and more? Check out our Online Privacy & Digital Marketing in 2021 webinar recording.

woman in a black mask waving at her phone's camera

The idea of creating and serving quality content that answers searchers’ queries will always be a winning strategy. (Image via Unsplash)

Online privacy & SEO

We often talk about how SEO is a marathon rather than a sprint. As Maria puts it, another great thing about not letting SEO fall to the wayside is that, when done right, it’s set up to be largely unaffected by these privacy changes.

That’s because these updates won’t impact your ability to reach people organically. If anything, the changes that are taking place are just further proof that SEO is an essential part of marketing your website properly.

By following SEO best practices like developing quality content to connect with searchers, you should still be able to show up on the search engine results page (SERP) for relevant searches. 

Algorithm updates can impact how your SEO efforts are ranked and displayed by Google. That’s why, as Maria explains, the idea of creating and serving quality content that answers searchers’ queries will always be a winning strategy and can even help your paid efforts see more success.

The takeaway

The bottom line, according to Connie: These online privacy changes won’t stop advertisers from reaching their audience. What will change is how you get your data, what data you have access to, and what that data looks like.

Knowledge is power, right? By knowing the ins and outs of these changing rules and regulations, you can pivot your strategy and continue striving toward your ROI goals. 

Need more help with your SEO or paid search efforts? Let’s chat.

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