Google's Elimination of Cookies Header Image

Google’s recent announcement that it plans to phase out third-party cookies from Chrome in the next two years has advertisers and marketers abuzz with speculation. Google is developing a ‘Privacy Sandbox’ to replace third-party cookies and has promised that advertisers will still be able to target ads to consumers. With the upcoming elimination of cookies, many are asking why is Google making this move and more importantly, what impact might it have for enterprise brands and their locations?

In this post, you’ll learn what is behind these changes, what to expect in the coming 12 to 24 months, and what your brand can do now to prepare.

Google: Open-Standard Will Make Third-Party Cookies Obsolete

A January 14th announcement on Google’s Chromium Blog set a timeline to the search giant’s plans to eliminate third-party cookies, but this isn’t the first we’ve heard of it. Last August, Google’s Director of Chrome Engineering, Justin Schuh, announced the launch of the Privacy Sandbox; essentially, it is a set of open standards designed to enhance privacy on the web.

This is the horse to which Google has fastened its cart to replace third-party cookies, so to speak.

We know that third-party cookies can be problematic from a privacy perspective. But large scale blocking isn’t the solution, Schuh said, as it pushes advertisers to ‘fingerprint’ users.

“With fingerprinting, developers have found ways to use tiny bits of information that vary between users, such as what device they have or what fonts they have installed to generate a unique identifier which can then be used to match a user across websites. Unlike cookies, users cannot clear their fingerprint, and therefore cannot control how their information is collected. We think this subverts user choice and is wrong,” Schuh wrote on behalf of Google.

Developers might use information such as a person’s IP address, the fonts they’re using, what plugins they have and more to create a profile on the user. That is then used in programmatic advertising for targeting. 

Users are choosing to block cookies, but that leaves advertisers in the dark without a way to effectively target ads.

Enter the Privacy Sandbox.

In this latest announcement, Schuh writes, “…we are confident that with continued iteration and feedback, privacy-preserving and open-standard mechanisms like the Privacy Sandbox can sustain a healthy, ad-supported web in a way that will render third-party cookies obsolete.”

What Is Actually Changing—and When

Here’s what you need to know now about Google’s plan to eliminate third-party cookies:

  • Beginning this month, Google will limit insecure cross-site tracking by treating cookies without a SameSite label as first-party. Cookies labeled for third-party use will have to be accessed over HTTPS.
  • The purpose of the Privacy sandbox is to anonymize aggregate data. Basically what it does is use an API in Chrome to centralize data and ensure it’s only accessible to marketers when Chrome determines user activity will be anonymous. More information will be kept on the user’s device.
  • Google plans to phase out support for third-party cookies in Chrome within two years of its mid-January 2020 announcement.

How the Privacy Sandbox May Impact Enterprise Brands and Marketers

There are some concerns that this move will only tighten Google’s hold on user data (even though Safari has already phased out third-party cookies, as well). 

“For brands, this is a final curtain call on their ability to execute in-house analytics and measurement,” Jeff Greenfield, chief attribution officer at C3 Metrics, told AdAge in a recent interview. “Come 2022, brands of all sizes will need to work with external independent platforms who either have relationships or can navigate this brave new world of walled gardens.”

Chad Klingensmith, Senior SEO Strategist at RioSEO, believes there will be a balance struck between the privacy needs of consumers and the data needs of advertisers. “This Chrome update is going to present a challenge to marketers, simply because the data they will have access to is changing,” he says. “However, we can be confident that Google is not going to leave advertisers out in the cold. They depend on this for their own revenues via Google Ads Retargeting.

Advertisers in already-regulated industries such as healthcare may have an easier time adjusting than some, according to Aaron Clifford, SVP of Marketing at Binary Fountain. 

“Healthcare will be less impacted by this change than other industries who rely heavily on cross-site cookies for advertising,” Clifford shared in a blog post. “What remains unchanged is the importance for brands to develop loyal followers by consistently providing valuable content that serves the interests and objectives of the followers.”

How Enterprise Brands Can Prepare Today for Google’s Elimination of Cookies

If you have concerns or questions about this impending update, you can give feedback on the web standards community proposals via GitHub, or email the W3C group.

You may also want to:

  • Reevaluate the metrics by which you measure the success of your campaigns. Goals tied directly to business outcomes will continue to be measurable regardless of changes to user tracking.
  • Deepen your customer relationships to build trusting relationships in which users are engaged and willing to share information voluntarily.
  • Include in your communications to franchisees and local owners that you are aware of these changes and will keep them abreast of any updates as needed, in order to allay any anxieties about the impending changes.

In short, there is no cause for panic. Rio SEO’s local search experts are available to discuss the potential impact to your business and help strategize to ensure your locations still have access to the data that matters to your bottom line. Get in touch if you have any questions!

Get a Free Local Audit Report Today