Google is making another protection play on user data by phasing out third-party cookie tracking. And with no words minced, Google made it clear that there will not be any alternative third-party cookie tracking provided by the tech giant.

Why this matters

Many of the behavioral-targeting capabilities advertisers have relied upon for years will fade or disappear completely. The details of how exactly this will affect each of Google’s ad platforms are still unclear but we do know that this will severely impact behavioral targeting.

To be clear, behavioral targeting isn't going to go away per se, but the method in which users are categorized will change. Behavioral targeting will mean targeting buckets of similar people, as opposed to a single individual.

Ever since Google made the announcement last year that they would phase out third-party advertisers, we have been asking what Google will provide as a suitable replacement for user tracking. Now we have the answer: nothing… well, sort of.

Enter Privacy Sandbox and FLoC

There’s a mountain of jargon surrounding Google’s Privacy Sandbox and the Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC). But at face value the idea is simple — allow users to have tailored ad experience without third-party cookie collection, thus protecting individual user privacy.

In theory, these practices should have very little effect on the user’s ad experience.

Today advertisers use data from people browsing the web, as collected by Chrome’s third-party cookies to determine who to serve ads to and whether those targeted users went on to convert on the advertised offer. After Google's change, advertisers won't be able to get as detailed of a picture of ads or conversions.

What should advertisers be doing now

Google has removed third-party cookies, and in the future we will be seeing similar actions with Facebook, Microsoft, and other major ad platforms.

First-party data collection has become increasingly critical for ad attribution, targeting, and overall success. First-party data is any data that is collected directly from your customers. This may include the following:

  • Website behavioral data
  • Subscription data
  • Purchase data
  • Social data
  • CRM data

The best advice for advertisers is to create documentation of first-party data sources — what data you can collect, where it’s housed, who owns it, and whether or you can legally use it for marketing purposes.

If first-party cookie data will play a part in your upcoming advertising strategy, be sure to understand what you need to disclose to your audience. For example, Facebook’s advertiser cookie disclosure requirements.