What the Decline of Third Party Cookies Means for Content Strategy

Lexi Gudaitis

As browsers move to block third-party cookie tracking, the marketing industry must upend conventional strategies and focus on storytelling.

Third party cookie tracking has been a centerpiece of digital marketing for more than a quarter of a century. By tracking users’ web activity, cookies have helped marketers effectively target potential consumers with tailored ads. 

Recently, however, growing privacy concerns have led Google, Apple, and Mozilla to clamp down on third-party cookie tracking by allowing users to block third-party cookies. In a marketing environment already constrained by privacy laws in the US and especially in Europe, this may spell radical changes for digital marketers.  

Although the reduction in cookie tracking seems daunting, it also brings exciting new opportunities. Cutting-edge marketing companies can seize the moment to upend conventional strategies and develop radically new kinds of content. 

What Is Third Party Cookie Tracking?

Cookies are text files that are stored by a web browser on a user’s machine. Websites use them for authentication, browsing information, storing preferences, and more. Third party cookies, unlike regular cookies, are placed by a different domain than the one that the user is visiting. 

The two types of cookies are similar in that both store tracking and personalization information that the site remembers for later use. The main difference is that whereas regular cookies are placed by the site a user is visiting, third party cookies are placed by an outside source — often an advertising network — that is then able to track a user’s movements across the web. 

Because they gather information about conversions and consumer behavior as users browse the web, cookies have long been extremely helpful to advertisers. Equipped with the browsing history and user segmentation information that cookies provide, advertisers can create more relevant digital advertisements.

The Decline of Third Party Tracking

However, over the past few years users have grown increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of third party cookie tracking. This public unease, coupled with the passing of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the EU and US respectively, has led Apple, Google, and Mozilla to begin blocking third-party cookies on their Safari, Chrome, and Firefox browsers. 

These three browsers make up 87 percent of the US browser market, meaning that this move will have major implications for all internet users— marketers especially. Marketers are understandably worried that the clamp down will harm their business. But in some ways, the change represents an opportunity for the marketing industry as a whole to change direction. 

The loss of third party tracking has, perhaps paradoxically, already ushered in the return to first party data. First party data, unlike third party data, comes from a company’s own sources, both online and offline. This type of data was traditionally considered especially valuable until it was unseated by third party data. 

With this shift, advertisers will need to rely on more powerful signals then demographics: actual customer behavior. For instance, they can use contextual advertising to target users based on what they are looking at on the web. They can also deploy organic newsletter sign ups, where a company’s articles feature a CTA to sign up for updates, creating value for users while earning their loyalty and the ability to connect with them. 

L&T can help you generate data by offering your users value in the form of information, ideas, and expertly crafted written material. Give your customers value, and they’ll give you their data, because they want to stay in touch and receive more of your exciting and innovative content.  

Lexi Gudaitis

Content Associate

NYC-born content creator and history nerd with experience making documentaries and social impact. Lover of caffeine, theater, and The Simpsons.

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