What you need to know about Google’s decision to ban third-party cookies in 2022

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In a recent announcement by Google, the search giant states it no longer will support third-party cookies for Chrome browser users. An announcement of this magnitude has marketers and advertising professionals running for the hills.

The changes being proposed by Google are in an effort to create more privacy on the web. Which is a good thing for many of us as individuals browsing the internet, right? The impact it can have on the advertising industry is where the potential issues arise.

While the headlines paint an apocalyptic picture by Google, in actuality, it’s something we have been aware of for over a year now and does not go into effect until 2022. Meaning, while the announcement can come as a shock to many not in the know, we highly recommend you not freak out. You have time and solutions will be presented to navigate the waters.

In order to understand why this could be a big deal, there are elements you must be aware of.

What are cookies?

There are two main types of browser cookies you need to be aware of: first party and third party. Fundamentally, they do similar things. A cookie is a small piece of code that gets stored on your device (computer or phone) every time you visit a website. Cookies track all the information we as digital marketers want to see: where a user came from, what pages you’re viewing on our sites and the action taken while you’re there.

First-party cookies are used to track a visitor on a single website domain, the site you’re currently visiting such as GRBJ.com. Whereas a third-party cookie is one that originated on a website other than the one the user is currently visiting. Meaning if you made the jump from the Grand Rapids Business Journal to another site, somewhere in that process, a third-party cookie will be set that helps exchange the information from the site to an advertiser and vice versa. This is how an advertiser can have control over ad placements, understand the intricacies of topics and interests of others.

How does this proposed ban impact individuals and businesses?

From an individual perspective, as a user, you will not experience much difference. Brands will still be able to hone in on audiences and properly target those with ads. The benefit to a user is that their information will go into what is known as a “privacy sandbox” where everything is anonymized.

From a brand and advertising perspective, it impacts the reach that you have into staying in front of existing customers who have visited your site and then go on to view another site. This is also known as retargeting or remarketing. In addition, those purchasing their ads and media across third-party sites and ad exchanges will be impacted. Those types of networks rely heavily on the type of information only shared by third-party cookie data. Without that level of information, it becomes much more difficult for the advertiser to position your brand in front of the right audiences.

What’s next for Google beyond third-party cookies?

As Google looks to move beyond third-party cookies, users will now be lumped into themes based on topics and interests or cohorts. Specifically, these are known as Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC). Sparing you the technical jargon, FLoC is a new way for businesses and advertisers to reach relevant audiences by clustering the larger groups of people with similar interests together. The goal here is to keep a user’s web browsing history private.

While there still is much information to be shared by Google, we anticipate their testing to continue within FLoC and the changes to roll out officially in 2022.

What can you do right now?

Not much. While that might not sound 100% true, the reality of the situation is that the world of digital marketing and advertising in the online space is constantly evolving. This is the next evolution of digital marketing, and your business will need to adapt if you plan to continue to rely on such advertising outlets.

Savvy brands that have been generating their own first-party data by way of email subscribers, building databases from lead generation campaigns, etc., are at an advantage. As the web becomes more private and improved for us individuals, having the information on your customers or prospects will be key. Nurturing them along their path to purchase or repurchase by one-to-one communications could take the mainstage.

The key is understanding that this is a change that will be coming down the pipeline and it is something you can start conversations on within your business to be better prepared when it does happen.

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