Death of the Cookie and What it Means to Marketers

Google has released new updates that will help in providing site owners and marketers with related information when cookies are unavailable. The latest tracking method, which does not use Google’s contended FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) technology but depends on ‘consented first-party’ data and machine learning. These solutions are intended to help marketers to measure conversions and discover helpful insights while respecting user privacy.

With these updates, Google intends to

  • Expand the use of advanced machine learning models to behavioral reporting in Google Analytics.
  • Allow easy and seamless access to consent mode, which adapts the workings of Google tags based on user cookie consent preferences.
  • Apply enhanced conversions that enable tags to use ‘consented first-party’ data to trace the user conversions after ad engagements. 

Cookies and the History of Tracking

Before moving into the impact of going cookie-less, let us look at how cookies work.

Consider a website that asks for people’s login credentials each time they want to see the contents of the site, for instance like Facebook. When the user logs in, the browser sends the username and password to the server, and upon verification sends the requested content. However, there is a rider here. The HTTP protocol is stateless i.e each time the user tries to view content from the same server, the server asks for login credentials. This can be cumbersome especially while shopping online or using Facebook.

So here come cookies for your rescue. When the user first enters the credentials and is validated by the server, the server also sends a cookie along with the requested content. The cookie is then stored on your computer and submitted to the server with every request you make to that website.

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The cookie contains a unique identifier that allows the server to “remember” who you are and keep you logged in.

These details are then used to deliver targeted advertisements. 

As a user, this may sound creepy but as a marketer, it offers many advantages. It allows you to track the people who have been to your website before, which allows you to serve quite different messages and different advertising based on their preferences.

Google Analytics Tracking Without Cookies

Google Analytics is soon expected to use machine learning to gain a deep understanding of the customer journey and preferences irrespective of the presence of cookies. It is an extension to the machine learning capabilities introduced early last year that allows it to identify relevant marketing insights, such as the odds of customers making a purchase.

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Google’s advanced machine learning models will be used in behavioral reporting in Analytics to fill in gaps resulting from the absence of cookies. With these data, marketers will have a comprehensive view of the journey undertaken by the customer and be able to draw in insights to augment marketing campaigns. 

Consent Mode

With the consent mode, the behavior of the Google tags can be adjusted based on the consent status of the users. You can specify whether consent has been granted for Analytics and Ad cookies. If the consent has been granted by the user, Google’s tags will dynamically adapt, only using measurement tools for the specified purposes. 

On the other hand, if the consent is denied for Ads cookies, Google tags will not utilize cookies for advertising purposes.

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If a user does not provide consent for ads cookies, Google tags will not use cookies for advertising purposes.   

For example, a user while visiting your website consents for the use of ads cookies on the cookie consent banner. With Consent Mode, the Google tags will be able to ascertain whether permission has been granted for your site to use cookies for advertising purposes for that user. If a user grants consent, conversion measurement reporting continues as usual. On the contrary, if the consent is denied, the relevant Google tags will adapt accordingly and not use ads cookies and will measure conversions at a more aggregate level.

Thus, marketers will be able to gain insights about their campaigns and optimize campaign mandate efficiently while respecting user privacy.

Enhanced Conversions

Enhanced conversions are an additional privacy-conscious way of measuring data accurately when there is little or no cookies available.

Built on the foundation developed by the Consent Mode, enhanced conversions utilize consented, first-party data to provide a clearer view of the user behavior after Ad engagements. 

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Marketers will have the data they want to discover performance insights such as conversion lift and enhance measurement on instances when an ad is shown on one device and the user converts on another.

According to Google, the first-party data is hashed to safeguard user privacy which implies that the marketers will obtain aggregated and anonymized conversion reports. 

Opening Door for Innovation

The latest changes imply that the marketers would not be able to rely on third-party cookies and data and should focus more on developing innovative methods to retarget and deliver ads to the users. This entails identifying and segmenting audiences and thinking out of the box.

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