Google’s Third-Party Cookie Removal: A Sweet Deal for Marketers?

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Google recently announced that it will remove third-party cookies from its Chrome browser, and while the move isn’t surprising, it’s leaving marketers with questions about how it will impact their digital strategies.

I recently spoke with Patrick Reinhart, Vice President of Digital Strategy at Conductor, to get his take on what the change means and to discuss how marketers can prepare their digital strategies.

Removing Cookies from our SEO Diets

In January 2020, Google announced its plan to phase out third-party cookies from its Chrome browser within two years, which means cookies will be removed in 2022 at the latest.

Instead of these cookies, Google plans to release a new version of Chrome in April that will include a “switch” to turn on Privacy Sandbox, which includes capabilities that would group together users with similar browsing habits so businesses can use this information to advertise to groups rather than individuals.

Privacy Sandbox will give users more control over the information that’s being shared about them. It has proposed capabilities to remove invasive tracking, including the collection of your device’s IP address. But it won’t completely remove tracking capabilities. Advertisers will still be able to use browsing history and information to serve up relevant ads.

The removal of third-party cookies from browsers isn’t new: both Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari have already done this. So what’s changed to convince Google now was the right time make this move?

“People want to be able to have a choice of how their data is shared, and they don’t like being followed,” Reinhart said. “Data privacy laws are also increasingly harsh. It’s a huge shift, but it’s not surprising.”

Feeding Programs with Healthy Data

Reinhart anticipates the removal of third-party cookies will spur companies to make some changes in their digital strategies but doesn’t expect any programs to collapse.

Instead, Reinhart says, the update will force many companies to look at tactics that could ultimately create better experiences for customers—and that’s good for companies and their marketing programs.

“Marketers will almost be going back in time,” he says. “They have to form real relationships with people, and they have to form direct relationships with retailers and other sites. Customers aren’t changing, but you have to get better at knowing who you’re talking to and the type of people who are coming to your site.”

Marketers can get ready for the shift by reviewing:

How sharp their first-party data is. Many marketers already do this to understand what kind of information is available to them, but the quality of this information will be even more important as third-party cookies disappear. Understanding what first-party data they have will force companies to get to know their customers better—a major win for both marketers and customers.

How to grow and optimize their CRM databases. Knowing who your customers are is another key part of this process, Reinhart says, and having good information on customers will be crucial to that success. CRM databases will need better, more in-depth information about customers and prospects, especially as more companies continue putting more time and energy into their ABM programs.

The quality of their content. Content will continue to be a crucial part of marketers’ digital strategies because understanding what your customers are seeking answers about gives your company a chance to make a great impression that drives sales. Reinhart says understanding what your customers are looking for and the questions they have, and providing those answers in your content, will help your customers connect with your brand.

Creating Healthy Marketing Habits

Chrome isn’t the first browser to remove third-party cookies, of course, but it’s one of the biggest to make this change. Reinhart expects the move to accelerate change and address customers’ long-held privacy concerns.

Google’s Mobilegeddon” update incorporated a mobile-friendliness factor into search rankings, Reinhart points out, and its Core Web Vital update which factors in on-page experiences.

All these changes boil down to Google acting as a “thoughtful bully” to incentivize companies to make these types of changes sooner.

The change is ultimately a positive one for marketers.

“This is the next evolution,” Reinhart says. “Companies should operate a lot better, and the paid space should be viewed in a much better light.”

These changes provide yet another reason to make sure your content is as valuable as possible to your potential buyers. Read Should You Consider a Website Experience Audit? to consider how you can level up your content library.

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