Understanding Google’s Deprecation of Third-Party Cookies: What You Need to Know

30-Second Summary:

  • Google third-party cookies are being phased out, having started in January 2024 and expecting to reach 100% of users by early 2025.
  • Whilst first-party cookies will still be around, it’s crucial for businesses who use strategies that heavily use Google third-party cookies to pivot and find new ways to advertise.
  • There’s still time for businesses to get ready for the change, so embracing first-party data collection and alternatives is the next step.

Google’s decision to deprecate third-party cookies was a big one. For site owners and businesses, understanding the implications of this change is quite important as it will impact your digital marketing efforts once fully rolled out. Below, we’ll break down what Google’s decision means, why it matters, and most importantly, what steps you can take to ensure any potential impact is minimised. Get ready for the post-third-party cookie era.

What are Google Third-Party Cookies?

For those who don’t know, third-party cookies are small text files that are placed on a user’s browser by a website other than the one they are currently visiting. They are commonly used for advertising purposes, so they allow advertisers to track visitors of their site across different websites and serve targeted ads based on their browsing history and behaviour. It can help to remind someone of the product or service they were looking at previously, which can help drive business back to them rather than to a competitor.

While beneficial for personalised advertising, third-party cookies have raised privacy concerns among consumers and regulators due to the collection of data. Although they don’t have to, Google decided to go forward with Chrome third-party cookie deprecation at the start of this year for 1% of its users – which is about 30 million people.

What Did Google Announce?

Way back in January 2020 (a lot has happened since then), Google announced its intention to phase out support for third-party cookies in its Chrome browser within two years (since pushed back to 2025) with a new initiative called ‘Privacy Sandbox’. This decision follows similar moves by other major browsers like Safari and Firefox, which have already implemented stricter restrictions on third-party cookie tracking.

Google’s plan involves the gradual deprecation of third-party cookies while developing alternative privacy-preserving technologies for ad targeting and measurement. Why? Well as they mentioned in their blog announcement, they want to “make the web more private and secure for users”, explaining that “Users are demanding greater privacy–including transparency, choice and control over how their data is used–and it’s clear the web ecosystem needs to evolve to meet these increasing demands.

Whilst it started restricted use back on January 4th 2024, the full build-up to 100% of users will be gradual and not expected to happen until early 2025. So, what does third-party cookie deprecation mean for businesses like eCommerce brands and other online advertisers in the meantime?

What Impact Will This Have On Digital Marketing?

The deprecation of third-party cookies will have a significant impact on digital marketing if you rely on them for customer data. Advertisers and marketers will face challenges in tracking user behaviour across websites, limiting their ability to serve personalised ads and measure campaign performance accurately. This change may disrupt the current programmatic advertising ecosystem, which heavily relies on third-party cookie data for targeting and attribution.

First-party cookies will remain – the ones stored on your website when visitors interact with you such as login information, checkout items etc, so strategies around first-party data should be unaffected.

The loss of Google third-party cookies could lead to a decrease in the effectiveness of retargeting campaigns, a widely used tactic for some businesses to remarket to users who have previously shown interest in a product or service. This means businesses and marketers may need to explore alternative methods for capturing user data and building audience profiles.

Privacy Sandbox is Google’s website with information on preparing for Chrome third-party cookie deprecation and showing the timeline. It also has solutions to replace them which all businesses should become familiar with.

Tips for Adapting to Third-Party Cookie Deprecation

So, if you are not sure how to adapt to a post-third-party cookie world, the following strategies may help:

  • Emphasise the importance of first-party data collection

First-party data, which is collected directly from your website visitors and customers, will become even more valuable. You’ll need to invest in building strong relationships with your audience for this to work and prioritise collecting first-party data through techniques like email list sign-ups, user registrations, and customer loyalty programs.

  • Explore alternative targeting and tracking methods

While third-party cookies are gradually being phased out, other targeting and tracking methods will emerge. Contextual advertising, which serves ads based on the content of a webpage rather than user behaviour, could become more prevalent. Additionally, explore privacy-focused technologies like Topics proposed by Google, which is “designed to preserve privacy while showing relevant content and ads.

  • Consider investing in privacy-focused technologies

As consumer concerns about data privacy grow, businesses that prioritise transparency and offer privacy-focused solutions may gain a competitive advantage. Explore technologies that allow for effective advertising while respecting user privacy, such as on-device machine learning. Privacy Sandbox has an overview on Protected Audiences API that is useful for those remarketing to customers and using customer audiences as well as Attribution Reporting for Web overview where you can measure ad clicks and views lead to conversion.

Be Ready For The Full Roll-Out of Third-Party Cookie Deprecation

The deprecation of third-party cookies by Google marks a significant shift, but while this change presents challenges for advertisers and marketers, it also offers an opportunity to adapt and embrace more privacy-conscious practices.

If you can prioritise first-party data collection and explore alternative targeting methods through Google’s Privacy Sandbox, your business can prepare for the post-third-party cookie era rather than leaving it to the last minute come 2025. Being proactive in adapting your digital marketing strategies to ensure continued success in a privacy-centric future is key here, and we can help you.

Contact the Absolute team today to discuss your concerns over third-party cookie deprecation and we can help you build a strategy that prepares you for the changes, helping you thrive going forward.

For more from our blog, read all about how to maximise your Google Pmax campaigns, and is discounting bad for business.

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