Back in January, Google announced its plan to end third-party cookies in the Chrome browser “within two years.” The goal is to make web browsing more secure, which is a good thing, but it has huge implications on digital advertisers.

Chrome engineering director Justin Schuh said that “the move is designed to encourage publishers, advertising companies and other browser providers to help Google create a new set of privacy-focused, open web standards.”

What are Cookies?

Cookies are text files or small pieces of data that web servers pass to your web browser when you visit a website. HTTP cookies are stored on the user’s computer by their web browser and are used to help identify users.

Website Cookies

Cookies are beneficial

If you visit a website and place an item in the shopping cart, then leave the site and come back to it you’ll still see your item in your cart. Likewise, if you visit a site where you have to login, this login info is stored in a cookie in your browser. This means you don’t have to waste time typing in your username and password every time you visit a website that requires it.

Cookies are risky

They contain a lot of personal data and, as a result, this makes you vulnerable to hackers. However, not all cookies are created equal, so your risk will vary depending on which type of cookie we’re talking about.

What’s the Difference Between Third-Party and First-Party Cookies?

First-Party cookies

These are personal cookies that are created by the website you are visiting and are vital to keep track of personal preferences, including your saved login info and sessions, as noted above.

Third-Party cookies

These are tracking cookies and they are created by a website other than the one you are currently visiting. How can a third party access this information? They are advertising on the site you’re visiting. The goal for the advertiser is to track your surfing habits to better understand your interests, which can help them adjust their targeting for better results for their clients.

This is why many view third-party cookies as an invasion of privacy and why Google is ending third-party cookies.

Can I Turn Off Third-Party Cookies Now?

Yes. If you’re using Google Chrome’s browser, you can proactively update this setting now, well before they universally roll this out. In your Chrome browser:

  • click 3 dots in top right corner of browser
  • select Settings
  • under Privacy and security, select “Cookies and other site data”
  • you’ll then see 4 options for cookies, and you’ll want to select “Block third-party cookies” (as we already mentioned, it’s not advisable to block all cookies because first-party cookies greatly improve your web experience)

Does this Mean that Cookie-Based Remarketing is Dead?

It’s not dead yet, but it is dying.

If you’re not familiar with remarketing, it’s a form of advertising where a visitor to your website leaves and then visits another website only to see a banner for your products or services. It’s as if you’re following them!

Sounds effective, right? Well, the truth is that no iOS mobile apps allow for third-party cookies and most mobile browsers do not allow third-party cookies. Safari, who according to StatCounter, holds over 55% of the mobile browser market share in the U.S. in 2020, does not allow for third-party cookies.

Mobile Browser Market Share for 2020 - Stats from StatCounter GlobalStats

Mobile Browser Market Share for 2020 – Stats from StatCounter Global Stats

This means that if you are remarketing right now your efforts are fragmented at best because you cannot track a user when they visit on desktop and then visit again on mobile. Your cookie might only be tracking their desktop activity, which means that your messaging (banner ads) might only be speaking to them as if they’ve specifically only visited your website once or only visited a specific page on your website.

In short, you can’t see the extent of the interaction the user has had with your website and brand. Once Chrome kills all third-party cookies then remarketing as it was once known will be all but dead.

What’s Next for Businesses Who Want to Target Customers Interested in Their Products or Services?

The future is people-based advertising, which involves targeting individuals across browsers and devices.

Cookie-Based Remarketing vs People-Based

Graphic from the Wall Street Journal

The old school cookie-based advertising tracked browsing habits, which meant that information about pages you visited was sent to a third-party. Then advertisers would pay money to market to these users.

The new school people-based advertising model relies on a “tracking ID” or pixel to track a user’s activity across multiple browsers and multiple devices.

How can you do this? You need a unique identifier… your email address. Many web-based tools and nearly ever app requires you to connect via email (or Facebook).

Unlike cookies, this unique identifier does not expire, and it is trackable across multiple browsers and multiple devices. This is the future of targeted advertising.

*Additional tip: If you pull in (hidden) source/medium data into your web leads you need to ensure you also use tracking URLs. In the future where there are no third-party cookies, all leads will be from “direct” – so you’ll have to rely on the landing page URL to tell you which source/medium the user came from.

Do You Run a Plastic Surgery, Med Spa, Dermatology, or other Aesthetic Practice and Are Looking to Step Up Your Digital Marketing and Advertising?

Turbo can help take stock of your existing efforts and map out a game plan to help you grow. If you would like to speak to one of our aesthetic marketing specialists here at Turbo Medical Marketing, then drop us a note here. You can also reach Turbo directly at 877-673-7096 x2.