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Google Chrome, the world’s most popular internet browser, is getting shot of third-party cookies. This has huge ramifications for advertising, and many retailers are wondering what the future of digital marketing will look like. 

Broadly speaking, the removal of third-party cookies will make it harder for advertisers to track the web activity of potential consumers. This is a reaction to third-party cookies being viewed as a privacy-invasive technology, and to consumers becoming more interested in knowing how their data is captured and used. Third-party cookie tracking is becoming more and more negatively thought of, and Google is adapting to this change in the conversation.

So, what’s going on?

Third-party cookies are used by advertisers to track user behaviour and generate user profiles from them. Have you ever searched for a product and then a day or two later seen an ad on a website for the same product? That’s third-party cookies at work. Web user data is stored on an advertiser’s server and works to display ads based on the behaviour of the individual they are tracking.

Users have, historically, been kept uninformed about third-party cookies, quickly opening advertisers up to criticism for the collection of data without providing adequate information to the user. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) now demands website owners to inform users about the use and purpose of third-party cookies.

Google Chrome will be joining other browsers like Safari and Firefox in no longer allowing third-party cookies. 

When’s it happening?

Initially, Google was going to eliminate third-party cookies from Chrome in 2022. However, this data has now been pushed back to mid-2023.

Google has said that they are delaying the update to “move at a responsible pace”, and “allow sufficient time for public discussion on the right solutions”

The roll-out process will take place in two phases:

  • Stage 1 (late-2022): This period of time is for publishers and advertisers to migrate their services. This stage is expected to last for nine months, and Google will be monitoring feedback to make any appropriate changes.
  • Stage 2 (mid-2023): Elimination of third-party cookie support over a three month period and to be finalised in late-2023.

What difference will it make for advertisers?

A huge number of advertisers rely on third-party cookies to get their ads in front of the appropriate audiences. The removal of these cookies means that the advertising landscape is changing, techniques involving these cookies will be obsolete, and advertisers will need to find alternative ways of tracking user data to improve their ad performance.

Third-party cookies have helped advertisers target ads depending on the data they collect: This could range from age and gender to historic behaviour on websites and search history.

The update could be detrimental for smaller advertising firms and could also harm websites that rely on adverts to make money. Smaller firms will be required to adapt to the change and make use of things like first-party cookies to continue to advertise to their audiences.

What is Google doing to substitute third-party cookies?

The removal of third-party cookie integration in Chrome is part of Google’s Privacy Sandbox initiative, the aim of which is to protect people’s privacy and give companies and developers the tools to thrive in digital business. 

Instead of targeting and tracking individuals, Google plans to group people by their general interests through the use of an AI system called Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC). 

FLoC is proposed to take users web history and other related data and place users into certain groups based on what the AI deems to be their interests. With FLoC, individuals will be hidden in large crowds of people with common interests. This comes from Google’s wish to maintain ad relevancy while still minimising the amount of user data shared with websites and advertisers, and to keep as much data on-device as possible. 

User data, coming predominantly from first-party cookies, will be sorted in the Chrome browser itself, meaning that data stays on the user’s device and is privacy compliant. By using Chrome’s first-party cookies and Privacy Sandbox tools, advertisers will still be able to leverage and target Google Ads. 

How does Bidnamic's automation accurately determine and use purchase intent? 

What can ecommerce companies do to prepare for the change?

Google isn’t getting rid of all cookies, only third-party ones. Utilising first-party cookie data is a great way to prepare for the upcoming changes to Chrome. This data can be analysed to help you create targeted ads across Google search, Facebook, and YouTube. 

A commonly used tactic to gain first-party data is for your website to lead to a sign-up page for a newsletter, giving you vital data to use in the future. Creating high-quality content for users to interact with can also help bring in some great data for you to take advantage of.

Contextual targeting could become more useful for advertisers. This form of advertising is based on the content the user is looking at, instead of collecting browser history or previous behaviours. You can tailor ads to match the content of a webpage, which will most likely be displayed to a user who would be interested in your products.

Prioritising and investing in other digital marketing strategies will become more important than ever. To explore different aspects of digital marketing, take a look at our guide.

If you’re wondering how Google Shopping can be a profitable channel for your business, book a call with one of our specialists today.

Tom Cross

Tom Cross

Tom is a Content Marketing Executive, producing content and case studies to simplify the Google Shopping experience, and help our clients discover if Google Shopping is the right channel for them. With an MA in English Literature, Tom has a passion for writing and sharing information with the masses.