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Navigating the Post-Cookie Era: A Strategic Guide to Digital Marketing in 2024

Post third party cookie era - Andres Laaspere
Post third party cookie era - Andres Laaspere

I’m Andres Laaspere, a Growth Strategist at ADM Interactive. With my 15 years in B2B sales and marketing optimization, I’ve been at the forefront of digital strategy and customer experience design. Today, I address a pivotal issue in digital marketing – the end of third-party cookies. An immediate action is required, as continued use of third-party cookies could potentially lead to the closure of Google Ads accounts. Additionally, while we must acknowledge that data loss is inevitable, there are measures we can take to soften the impact. This post explores those strategies and how to effectively adapt to this change. Embracing this new era brings both challenges and opportunities for innovation, with a focus on enhanced respect for user privacy.

The End of Third-Party Cookies

Third-party cookies have long been the cornerstone of digital marketing, allowing us to track user activities and deliver relevant ads. However, with major browsers like Chrome joining Firefox and Safari in phasing out these cookies by 2024, a significant change is on the horizon. With the advent of regulations like GDPR and CCPA, transparency in cookie usage has become more than a best practice — it’s a legal requirement.

Preparing for Q1 2024: Essential Steps

As we approach the first quarter of 2024, there are critical steps to be taken. With the potential risk of account closure, it’s crucial to implement consent management tools like Cookiebot and the correct setup of Google Tag Manager in line with Consent Mode v2.

Understanding Cookiebot and Similar Solutions

Cookiebot is a consent management platform (CMP – yes, a new acronym, yay!) that helps websites comply with privacy laws like GDPR and ePrivacy Directive by managing user consents for cookies. Solutions like Cookiebot scan your website to identify and categorize cookies and online tracking technologies. They then provide a clear and user-friendly interface for visitors to give or withhold their consent. This process is vital for maintaining transparency with users and ensuring legal compliance. At ADM, we’ve embraced CookieBot as our go-to solution for cookie consent, ensuring compliance while maintaining user trust.

The Crucial Role of Google Tag Manager Setup

Tag_manager_logoSetting up Google Tag Manager (GTM) correctly is critical in this new era. GTM needs to be configured to respect the consent choices made by website visitors, as per Consent Mode v2. This means:

  • For Basic Implementation: Ensuring that when users do not consent to cookies, GTM does not fire tags that would collect user data. This setup respects user preferences while limiting data collection capabilities.
  • For Advanced Implementation: Configuring GTM to allow the sending of anonymized, cookieless pings for users who do not consent to cookies. This enables the collection of essential data for tools like Google Ads and GA4, providing valuable insights while still respecting user privacy.

Understanding Consent Mode v2

In the ever-evolving landscape of digital privacy, Google Consent Mode V2 emerges as a crucial tool for managing user data in a compliant manner. It’s designed to balance the need for data collection with respecting user privacy, particularly in scenarios where users have not granted consent for their personal data or browser storage to be accessed.

  • Basic Consent Mode V2 Implementation: The Basic level of Consent Mode V2 operates on a straightforward principle. When a user consents to cookies, the website functions as usual, activating all tags and collecting comprehensive data. However, if a user does not consent, this mode becomes more restrictive. In such cases, no data is collected, and the website refrains from sending cookieless pings. While this approach adheres strictly to user consent, it significantly limits data collection capabilities when consent is not provided.
  • Advanced Consent Mode V2 Implementation: The Advanced level offers a more sophisticated solution. This implementation allows for the sending of anonymous, cookieless pings to Google, even when users have not consented to cookies. This capability is particularly valuable as it enables the recovery of some level of data for Google Ads and GA4 analytics, despite the lack of user consent. By utilizing this approach, websites can maintain a measure of data insight and functionality while still respecting the privacy choices of their users.

Through these two levels of Consent Mode V2, Google provides website owners with flexible options to manage data collection in a way that aligns with varying user consent scenarios. This system underscores the importance of adapting to a privacy-first digital environment while still enabling effective data-driven strategies.

Automatic Mapping of Consent Parameters

(marketing nerds talk warning)

If you’re using Consent Mode, the ‘ad_storage’ parameter, which controls consent for ad-related cookies and data storage, will be automatically mapped to a new parameter called ‘ad_user_data’. This automatic mapping means that whenever a user consents to or denies the use of ‘ad_storage’, the same setting will apply to ‘ad_user_data’. This ensures that the performance measurement capabilities of your website remain consistent and compliant with user consent.

For businesses currently using Consent Mode for measurement, the consent states (either ‘granted’ or ‘denied’) associated with ‘ad_storage’ will be automatically applied to ‘ad_user_data’ from March 2024. This automatic application means that both the default and user-selected consent states for ‘ad_storage’ will also control ‘ad_user_data’. As a result, all measurement features within Consent Mode will continue to function as expected, respecting user privacy choices.

If you prefer not to use the automatic mapping feature, you have the option to implement the new Consent Mode parameters directly in your Google Tag setup. This allows for independent control and setting of these parameters, offering more customization in how consent is managed.

Note that there will be no automatic changes to configuration for the ‘ad_personalization’ parameter. To maintain or enhance tag-based audience and personalization features through Google Ads, Google Analytics 4, or Google Marketing Platform, you should implement the new Consent Mode parameters directly in your Google Tag setup or via a Consent Management Platform (CMP) that has migrated to the new version of Consent Mode.

Beyond Compliance

The Digital Markets Act (DMA) and Google Consent Mode V2 are interlinked, making it imperative for advertisers in the EEA to adapt to maintain the quality of audience data.

Strategies for Digital Marketers in the Post-Cookie World

Server-Side Tracking: A Premier Solution in the Post-Cookie Era

In adapting to a world without third-party cookies, server-side tracking emerges as a leading solution, albeit a more expensive one. This method revolutionizes data handling by converting all data into first-party data through hashed information. This transformation makes server-side tracking not only legal but also reliable and flexible.

Key Advantages of Server-Side Tracking:

  • Ownership and Control: You own the data collected, affording greater control over its usage.
  • Flexibility and Scalability: The option to use cloud services if you prefer not to host the data yourself.
  • Compliance and Security: Hashed data ensures compliance with privacy regulations and enhances security.

However, it’s crucial to note that server-side tracking requires a more complex and costly setup compared to traditional methods. Despite the higher initial investment, the long-term benefits include enhanced data quality, better user privacy compliance, and a more robust and adaptable digital marketing framework. Even with the advanced capabilities of server-side tracking, obtaining user consent is still essential. Ensure that consent mechanisms are correctly implemented and legally compliant. This adherence is not just a legal requirement but a fundamental aspect of maintaining user trust and ethical data practices.

Diversifying Targeting Approaches

Explore alternatives like contextual targeting and Google’s Protected Audience API. Don’t just rely on one method; test various approaches to find what works best for your audience.

Embracing New Measurement Approaches

With traditional tracking methods becoming obsolete, consider using data clean rooms or Google’s Attribution Reporting API for measuring campaign effectiveness.

For B2B Marketing Precision Is Key

In B2B contexts, LinkedIn offers precise targeting based on accounts and roles. Account-Based Marketing (ABM) becomes more relevant than ever, focusing on high-value accounts and personalized marketing efforts.

The Future of Programmatic and Retargeting

Without cookies, retargeting will depend on first-party data and platform-specific APIs, like Facebook’s Conversions API and Google’s Ads API. It’s a shift towards more direct and potentially more accurate targeting methods. Programmatic advertising will need to adapt, increasingly relying on first-party data instead of traditional third-party cookie data. Importantly, while retargeting will continue to function if no changes are made, it will be based on outdated data, leading to a decline in results. This highlights the need for marketers to proactively seek new methods and technologies for effective retargeting in a post-cookie world. For example, platforms like Criteo, Digiseg and Adform have already adapted to the changes.

Developers’ Role in This Transition

The impending end of third-party cookies necessitates a strategic pivot for developers, especially in terms of how data is collected and utilized for digital marketing. From a business standpoint, understanding these technical changes is crucial for making informed decisions and maintaining effective marketing strategies.

Auditing Third-Party Cookie Usage

Developers should begin by conducting a thorough audit of the website’s use of third-party cookies. This process involves identifying where and how these cookies are currently used, particularly in tracking user behaviour and personalizing experiences. For business leaders, this audit is crucial to understand how dependent your current systems are on third-party data and to identify areas needing immediate attention.

Enhancing Code Resilience

In preparation for a cookieless future, it’s important to enhance your website’s code to continue functioning effectively even when third-party cookies are not available. This means developing a less personalized yet still engaging user experience that does not rely solely on individual user data. For businesses, this translates to exploring new ways of engaging with users while respecting their privacy choices.

Exploring Alternative Data Collection Methods

Businesses should consider alternative data collection methods such as user surveys, quizzes, or leveraging existing data like product order histories. These methods can provide valuable insights while being less intrusive and more privacy-compliant than third-party cookies.

Leveraging Google’s Privacy Sandbox Features

Google’s Privacy Sandbox offers several tools that are instrumental for developers and beneficial for businesses:

  • Topics API: This tool allows for interest-based advertising and content personalization without tracking individual user behaviour across websites.
  • Protected Audience API: Useful for remarketing and creating custom audiences in a privacy-preserving manner.
  • Attribution Reporting API: This API enables the measurement of ad impressions and conversions, crucial for assessing the effectiveness of advertising campaigns, without compromising user privacy.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the phase-out of third-party cookies marks not just a challenge, but an opportunity for digital marketing to evolve. My prediction in this new landscape is that brand preference and trust will play a more significant role in users’ decision on giving consent. If users like and trust your brand, they are more likely to consent to data collection, leading to higher quality data. This becomes a competitive advantage, especially if executed correctly and your competitors do not.

The art of asking for consent is crucial. How consent is requested is vital – avoid making it too easy for users to say ‘No’ immediately. This aspect is likely to become one of the most important areas in marketing, where conversion optimization and strategies like A/B testing will be helpful.

Riho PihelpuuTherefore, elevating brand trust is more important than ever. Focus on building a brand that users can trust and believe in. This approach will not only help in obtaining user consent but also in ensuring the longevity and success of your digital marketing strategies in a post-cookie world. Our CEO, Riho Pihelpuu, emphasizes this, stating:

“Data loss is indeed unavoidable, but there are numerous measures we can take to soften the blow. Our group is particularly adept at addressing such challenges because we combine media and development expertise. This synergy enables us to find new technical solutions and necessary integrations.”

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