3rd party cookies & FLOC

The Death of 3rd Party Cookies- Google FLOC and 1st Party Data Optimization

The Third Party Cookie is dying, and nobody wants to be stuck with their hand in the jar when it does. Even with the three-year period that Google has adopted, many marketing agencies will be scrambling to keep up with the changes. Advertising will no doubt be less effective because, without Third-Party Cookies, the same old tactics won’t work anymore. No more extensive tracking of individuals means no more aggressively targeted ads, and 1st Party Data optimization will be much more impactful. 

Google claims their new systems will be 95% effective at tracking user behavior, but there’s no way to know for sure. As a result, maintaining good organic traffic and maintaining your first-party cookies could become more critical than ever. If you want to keep up in the new marketing world, you will need the tools. This blog will be your guide to understanding and navigating the death of third-party cookies.

What’s Happening?

It isn’t easy to keep up with everything that’s happening in the world of digital marketing & data protection. Don’t think that the YouTube ad gurus and other various Chad/ Brads of digital know everything- they just want to seem like it to close more sales.

So don’t be ashamed!! This is pretty knit picky stuff that most people (other than digital marketers) really could care less about.

In 2012 Safari in Firefox phased out the Third Party, and recently Google announced that it would be doing the same by 2023.

A cookie is a non-executable text file downloaded onto your computer when you visit a website and exists to store information about you.

If you have ever come back to a site that saved what you put in your shopping cart, you’ve experienced what a cookie does. Think of it as a virtual laundry ticket that makes it easier for websites to remember and give you what you need faster.

What’s the difference between a first-party cookie and a third-party cookie? The site operator creates a first-party cookie to save your information (1st party data) for a better user experience. A third-party cookie is created by someone other than the site owner and tracks user information across various URLs.

The difference between 1st party data and third party cookies
Can you spot the spelling error I fixed? Source

You may wonder why this matters now. After all, if everyone else has already phased it out, then Google doing it shouldn’t be that big of a deal. The difference is that Google has the largest market share of any search engine.

Take a look at this scary graphic below 😱

Except for China, Google rules the world of Search.

The use of third-party cookies has allowed advertisers to utilize copious amounts of user data to hyper-target consumers based on their browsing history. In less than two years, that will all be gone. There will still be user tracking and 1st party data, but not nearly as detailed as the tracking we can collect with the help of Third-Party Cookies, having enormous implications for companies that rely on this intensive targeting to survive. 

This will force strategic metamorphosis in the world of marketing and advertising. The move to a more grassroots organic approach will pay enormous dividends.

Why Google is Killing Cookies

Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, most people have realized how much information websites are collecting about them. 72% of people feel that advertisers, technology firms, or other companies track what they do. 81% say that the potential risks they face because of data collection outweigh the benefits. Under GDRP, websites must ask their users to consent to let a website activate its cookies and track their personal data which isn’t mandatory in the US just yet. Still, the advent of local privacy laws like the California Consumer Privacy Act has forced large corporations like Google to prepare for future regulatory compliance changes. 

Google’s FLoC will protect consumer anonymity by segmenting each person into a cohort based on their interests. So advertisers will still know what a person likes by looking at their IP address, but little else. 

The other reason that Google has to make these changes is that they benefit from them. By removing access to third-party cookies, Google is essentially forcing you to play their game.

We will play ball! Realistically you can’t have an organic strategy without implementing Google’s best practices. You don’t see people making a big stink about Bing algorithm changes.  It is doubtful that anything Google does will result in the death of marketing or advertising- however, changes mean that marketers will need to expand their expertise into other areas to keep their clients happy.  

Again, though, anyone who is prioritizing the collection and synthesis of First Party information will already have a considerable advantage.

First Party Cookies & 1st Party Data

Even though Third Party Cookies are disappearing, First Party Cookies will still be around. However, there are significant differences between the two types of cookies, as where FPC’s are there to maintain regular website functions, Third Party Cookies exist for data collection purposes. So while you may not realize when a Third Party Cookie is tracking you, it is pretty apparent when a First Party Cookie is hanging around. 

First Party Cookies are what websites use to track their metrics and employ quality of life features for users. For example, they are what keeps you signed in to your Facebook account even after you swap web pages. Without first parties, you would have to sign in every time you clicked on a new page. They are also what allows Amazon to save your shopping cart.

Don’t worry- None of those features are going anywhere. On the contrary, they will become even more important to online businesses. Companies that can track and target their users will have a considerable advantage in the post-cookie world. Facebook, for example, probably isn’t too concerned about these changes as they already know everything about you that they need to.

There already exists a market where businesses can purchase user data that someone has already collected. Which could mean that larger websites will have even more incentive to sell the user data they collect. 

Realistically this is already happening. Advertisers have been purchasing email lists since the inception of digital marketing, and, in our opinion, the buying and selling of information online will become increasingly commonplace. 

Third-Party Cookies

If you have ever clicked on a pop-up asking if you accept cookies, you have Third Party Cookies on your computer. These can come from any website. Legally a site has to ask for your permission before doing anything, but once the cookies are there, they track you wherever you go. Somewhere, actually, in multiple places, there is a file containing your name, gender & demographic info, interests, and browsing habits. 

Advertisers are using all of this info to target you with hyper-specific advertisements. In 2012 there was even a story about how Target’s data collection had figured out a girl was pregnant before her father knew. So imagine where we are now that it’s 2021!! 

What to do to Stay Ahead of the Changes

If you are service-based, we’ve found that Facebook lead ads, Google lead form extensions, Snapchat lead form campaigns, and Tik Tok lead gen campaigns are effortless ways to both grow your email list and gain valuable information about your consumers. As usual, e-com clients find that offering promo codes and discounts build tremendous traction. Learning how to track user behavior on your site will enable you to define your own re-marketable cohorts. To learn more about how to track any event on your website, check out our blog on how to set up event tracking with google tag manager. 

Creating goals within google analytics is another essential part of creating your custom audiences. To learn how to build out your funnels in google analytics using goals, check out this great blog written by our friends over at CXL. 


How to Set Up Event Tracking in Google Tag Manager

How to Set Up Event Tracking in Google Tag Manager

In this blog, we’re going to explain How to Set Up Event Tracking in Google Tag Manager. Google defines an event as “user interactions with content other than page loads (pageviews). Downloads, link clicks, form submissions, and video plays are all examples of actions you might want to analyze as Events.” If you are an advertiser or business owner, chances are a large portion of the decisions you make regarding paid & organic marketing efforts are based on the user demographic information provided by tools. For example, 9.34% of our website traffic comes from Virginia, so a rational marketer who works at Simplified Impact may target users in Virginia more than somewhere like Missouri.

Simplified Impact users in Virginia
Simplified Impact users in Virginia

Geographical, Demographic, and other types of user information are becoming harder and harder to collect. The world is adopting data protection laws such as GDRP (General Data Protection Regulation) and CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act.) As marketers, it’s up to us to adapt and find new ways of learning about our users and target audiences. Even Google has decided to stop using third party cookies within the Chrome browser by 2022.

More so than ever before, dialing in how you collect your first-party data will pay massive dividends in a future where privacy laws becoming increasingly strict.

Why Behavior & Event tracking is so valuable:

Any type of conversion begins with the user experience. From the beginning of their journey, what that consumer reads, clicks, and interacts with plays a pivotal role in whether or not they end up converting. If you’re just tracking your page views, you’re abandoning the data that spells out the changes that will undoubtedly improve your UI and increase your conversion rate.

Step 1: 

Open Google Tag Manager and create a new tag for whichever analytics platform you’re using. We are currently using Universal Analytics.

Step 2:

Select “Event” under track type

Step 3:

Customize your tracking parameters

From this point onward, you can select what events you want to track and how to label them within your Analytics property.

Let’s talk about our event tracking parameters and what they mean

Event tracking parameters explained

Category: There are going to be several things you want to track on your website. Think of the category as a place where similar events occur. For example: if you have multiple forms on your website (think onboarding for prospective clients, landing page forms, maybe even somewhere for future employees to schedule an interview)

Action: An action can either be active (clicking something, playing a video, submitting a form) or passive (reading for more than 10 seconds, scrolling to the bottom of a page, becoming idle.) Both types of actions provide valuable insight as to how a user behaves on a page.

Label: What you would like to call the event that you are tracking.

Value:  a character equivalent to the action (Event completion = $12.95)

There’s also a field called Google Analytics settings- use that to put in your tracking ID of the analytics property these events will be tracked in. Tracking ID can be found by going to GA> Admin> Property Settings> Tracking ID.

Step 4:

Set the trigger that fires the tag

Triggers can be a bit overwhelming. Hopefully, this breakdown will make all of these much more understandable.

Types of triggers explained

Page ViewWe touched briefly about the privacy laws that are providing users with additional data protection. Consent initialization is a trigger that tells your tracking whether or not that user would like to be tracked or not. This is only necessary if you’ve provided that option for your users via Google Analytics. We’re not going to explain the details of how a page loads, but just know that the order goes as follows: initialization, page view, DOM ready, window fully loaded.

If you want to track when each of these steps happens, you can do that with these triggers. This is super helpful if you want to figure out how to speed up your site since you can track the timing difference between each step of the page loading.

ClicksSimply put- all elements= clicks on anything like links, images, buttons, emails, phone numbers. Just links= anything that is an HTML link

We recommend you be specific here since you don’t want to track all of the clicks on your site. The GA data will likely be too broad if you aren’t specific.

User Engagement: This should be pretty self-explanatory but reference the hyperlink the left if you’d like more info.

Other: Here’s where you can get complicated. This page by Google will explain when and how you should utilize custom HTML. 

I recommend against trying to add too much custom HTML to tag manager since the tool is so comprehensive already, but one of the things that makes it so powerful is this ability to customize.

Step 5:

Save your tag and test your tracking with the Debug feature.

Once you’ve made your changes you want to test your tag tracking before you publish your changes to ensure everything is working properly. This is the step that beginner Tag Manager users often neglect yet it’s by far one of the best features.

Navigate to your top left corner and click “preview” and bring your debug window up. After that I like to put the debug next to the page I’m working on testing.

You can see below I clicked the “send” button to submit the form and the event “form submit” popped up on the left and triggered the contact us submission tag.

Step 6: 

Publish your tag and find event tracking in your GA under behavior

Navigate to Behavior-> Events to check how your information is being tracked in your GA property.

I hope this explanation of how GTM can be used to track events helped you! While this wasn’t a step by step explanation of how to do x y or z, we thought it would be beneficial to break down exactly how the event tracking is set up so you could conceptualize it better.