Digital Marketing Future Without Browser Cookies

browser cookies

If you stumbled upon this website by chance, you’re probably expecting a discussion about whether chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin cookies are better.

Unfortunately, that’s not what you’ll get. Sorry about that.

To be clear, those tasty cookies aren’t going anywhere. What we’re talking about are those small bits of data that your company’s IT person advises you to clear regularly.

A tiny amount of text data stays on your computer every time you visit a website. Cookies in your browser make it simpler to load pages when you come back.

Advertisers can also use them to figure out which websites you visit, targeting you with products or services.

When you gather up all the many cookies, you get what we call 3rd Party Data. Marketers wonder if third-party data is trustworthy, and people say it makes their computers slow. In the worst case, companies might sell personal information without people knowing.

Google announced in January 2020 that it would remove cookies from the Chrome browser. 

It might not sound like a huge deal, but Chrome is used by 64.73% of people all over the world. Getting rid of cookies would, therefore, greatly change how digital advertisers reach out to customers.

Google plans to gradually remove third-party cookies from Chrome, starting with 1% of users in the first part of 2024.

The aim is to get rid of them entirely by the second half of the same year. Since there are more than 3 billion people using the internet, getting rid of cookies will greatly affect how data is handled.

Marketers need to get ready for this change, which already started in 2023. Keep reading to find out more about the shift and what you can do to sell in a future without cookies.

What is a Cookie?

Browser cookies are basically small files that a website sends to your computer when you visit it, and can later be reviewed once you revisit the site. The most basic purpose of them is for the website to “remember” information about you, the VISITOR.

To oversimplify it greatly: imagine you log in to Facebook. Facebook then sends your browser a cookie that basically says “you, computer with address this-and-that, are user Jonnydrama, and you are logged in”.

Then, the next time you visit Facebook, Facebook checks your browser and finds that you have a cookie that says you are Jonnydrama and you are logged in, and so it skips asking you for password and just logs you in automatically.

This way, you don’t have to input your username and password every time you open a new Facebook tab.

This is an example of what’s called an authentication cookie.

There are a ton of different types of cookies serving different purposes. Some of them, called tracking cookies, compile your browsing history. When you enter a website that can access those cookies, it can use that information to, for example, suggest items you might want to buy, or display ads tailored to you (or, your browsing history’s impression of you).

This is, obviously, just a bit of a privacy violation, so there are various legal regulations saying that tracking cookies cannot be placed on the user’s computer without the user’s consent. That’s why you have to accept them (or deny the non-essential, i.e. tracking ones) every time.

What’s Behind Google’s Cookie Removal? 

Google has been dealing with the removal of cookies for a while. The main problem it faced with 3rd Party Data was related to user privacy. They started with Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), a new method to group users based on their online activities like searching for local news, fashion, sports, food, DIY, and more.

Each group would include thousands of people, making it possible for advertisers to focus on particular groups of users. In early 2022, Google announced that Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) would be substituted with a new Privacy Sandbox called Topics.

Google mentioned in a statement from February 2022 that they’ve taken industry feedback to enhance the initial FLoC proposal. Their new proposal, called Topics, aims to make interest-based advertising more private.

Topics comes with several benefits, such as:

  • Reducing the risk of harmful fingerprinting
  • Improving the relevance and transparency of advertising 
  • Empowering users with more control to avoid uncomfortable topics

Keep reading to discover how Topics will be presented to users.

What To Expect From Topics

Vinay Goel, the Product Director for Chrome, described the Privacy Sandbox as “one of the most ambitious, important efforts we’ve ever undertaken” in a blog post.

Naturally, digital advertisers aren’t happy. They claim that Google is trying to reshape the industry to its advantage.

Here’s how it works:

Chrome will note the main content of every website you visit, and there are more than 350 different subjects to choose from. These subjects will affect the online ads you see, and advertisers won’t know your identity. Users can also remove any topics from their browser that they no longer wish to see.

Check out this example from Goel’s blog:

The company says Topics is still in the early stages of development and welcomes feedback from the internet community.

This will be Chrome’s new system in 2023 unless something changes.

When this new approach is in place, marketers won’t have access to lists for showing ads to people who saw your content but didn’t take action. They will also need to adapt their marketing to be more inclusive.

Let’s explore how you can continue running effective digital advertising campaigns in this new environment.

Impact of The Cookieless Future on Marketing

A new survey showed that GetApp, a source that shared exclusive data with HubSpot, found:

  • 41% of marketers find it challenging to track the right information.
  • 44% of marketers think they’ll need to increase their spending by 5% to 25% to achieve the same goals as in 2021.
  • Due to Google’s recent policy changes, 23% of marketing professionals intend to invest in tools for email marketing.

How Can We Keep Winning With No Cookies

Many internet advertisers may be disappointed by the Topics initiative, but it is not the end of the world. You can still win with the appropriate marketing and approach. And here’s how to do it!

Collect 1st Party Data

If Google thinks third-party data is harmful, start gathering first-party data instead. So, what’s the difference between these two types of data? And which one is better?

1st Party Data is more reliable and effective because it’s information collected directly from your customers. What’s great about it is that your customers choose to share it when they provide it, rather than it being stored as a cookie and taken without their knowledge. 

Dealing with first-party data is simply good business practice. This information comes from the connections you’ve made with your customers.

You can ask to get their information through emails, loyalty programs, or by checking their purchase or support history.

Start Remarketing With Email Lists

Alright, so you can’t use cookie lists to reach out to potential customers anymore, but you do have other options. Email lists can give better results because they include previous customers or people who are already interested in your business.

This means you’re not catching them off guard. The key to running these kinds of campaigns is to start with the right customer information.

How much money do they spend? What pages do they spend the most time on? What have they bought before? Where did they click in your past emails?

Afterward, you can break down your large email list into smaller ones based on their interests or habits (sound familiar?).

Create different emails for each group and set a schedule to reconnect as often as you want. To begin making a list of customers for ads, check out this page on Google Support. Customers who receive emails bring in 11% more revenue than those who don’t!

Don’t Buy Lists

Purchasing an email list is not a good idea. It wasn’t a good concept before, and it’s still not a good idea today. Some marketers buy big lists of 50,000 or more people.

Sellers say these lists have users with a specific trait (the one a marketer is looking for), but it’s sometimes hard to confirm. Besides being annoying or spam-like, many email platforms will penalize you if you send to purchased lists.

You haven’t built a relationship with these people yet, so it’s unlikely they’ll buy your products or services from just one random email.

You might also be breaking the rules of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This EU law is strict about “opt-in” rules.

Purchased lists won’t meet GDPR rules. Instead, create your email list. Later, you can upload it to Google Ads to aim at your customers better. You can do the same in Facebook Ads Manager.

Set Up Some Pop-Ups

Do you use pop-ups on your website?

Pop-ups can sometimes bother people, but when set up correctly, they can gather important information without being too intrusive.

The key question is: how can we make pop-ups work well? First off, pop-ups should never be set up and then forgotten.

If visitors keep seeing the same pop-up in the same spot, they’ll just click the “X” to close it. Think about your pop-up’s design thoughtfully.

Keep it easy and make sure it shows your brand accurately. Most importantly, make it easy for visitors to close the pop-up if they’re not interested.

Enhance your pop-ups by offering your visitors something they want, like a free consultation or a simple how-to guide. Research shows it’s best to wait for at least 30 seconds before showing a pop-up to your visitors on your website.

Create Lead Forms

Your main aim in digital marketing is to get people to take action. Figure out what kind of action is most important for you.

Do you want them to buy your products or hire your services? Or do you prefer them to reach out and schedule an appointment?

Maybe you’d like them to simply download your software. Once you’ve decided on the best action for your business, set up landing pages with easy-to-fill forms to encourage leads.

Here’s an example:

Instead of making you buy something immediately, this webpage collects your contact details and gives you a cleaning coupon for a later time. Any details you share in a form can help us sell to you more effectively.

Final Thoughts

We trust you’ve gained valuable insights into marketing without using cookies. Ultimately, you don’t need cookies to connect with your intended audience.

There are other ways to get reliable customer information (with their permission) and use it to make effective ads that reach the right people. Honestly, applying the strategies we talked about will bring better results.

Cookies aren’t as reliable as they seem. Need help figuring out your next moves in digital marketing? Just schedule a meeting with us to talk about your goals. We can help you use new strategies and grow your business.

Christopher Smith
Author: Christopher Smith

SEO and linkbuilding expert. More than 7 years of work in the field of website search engine optimization, specialist in backlink promotion. Head of linkbuilding products at GREAT Guest Posts, a global linkbuilding platform. He regularly participates in SEO conferences and also hosts webinars dedicated to website optimization, working with various marketing tools, strategies and trends of backlink promotion.

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