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How cookieless tracking can affect your digital marketing campaigns

Since cookies were created in 1994 they became a must-have element of every ad technology and paid media marketing strategy. Do you know why cookies are going to be a trending topic during this year? Have you heard about the future of third-party cookies?


  1. First-party cookies vs Third-party cookies
  2. How are cookies used today?
  3. The shift towards user privacy
  4. How will the removal of third-party cookies affect your digital marketing campaigns?
  5. Server-Side Tracking
  6. Introducing Conversions API (CAPI) 

First-party cookies vs Third-party cookies

A cookie is a text file with small pieces of data created by the webpage when the user is navigating. This information is used by the web to identify you, save your preferences, remember your session, etc.

There are different types of cookies, but today we’re going to talk about first-party vs third-party cookies.

First-party cookies are the ones directly created by the website the user is visiting, by the host domain. Within the wide range of uses of a cookie, they let us improve user experience with the information that they have of the user. Can be set by the publisher’s web server or any JavaScript loaded in the website.

Third-party cookies are those generated by a third-party server and loaded in the website when the user is navigating. They are mostly used for tracking, retargeting and advertising purposes.

Cookies have been widely used in advertising for nearly 20 years, but they become less reliable. Let’s see how they are used today.


How are cookies used today?

Nowadays first-party cookies have a lot of uses, but mostly they are used for saving user preferences in the web and saving sessions. On the other hand, third-party cookies are used for building consumer profiles, tracking their habits and ad personalization. Let’s see them deeply:

  • Personalization: To display personalized ads to the user based on their previous visits and searches. This can also be called behavioral targeting. 

  • Audience targeting: To impact those users who have already visited a website and matches certain criteria previously established.  Third-party cookies allow your ad to reach a specific audience with a particular message.

  • Tracking & Measurement: To track and measure the effectiveness of an ad. Cookies determine the impact of serving an ad to a user as it shows you who clicked on the ad or made a purchase.


The shift towards user privacy

Lately, there are more and more issues concerning the usage of third-party cookies on websites for online advertising. For example, there are legislations such as “EU Cookie Law” or General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that require consent from the user before the cookie is set. There are also consumer privacy policies that have become more visible in media recently. In the last years, there have appeared cookie blocking or even deletion processes after a user session on a website. 

So, with all the third-party cookies issue, consumers gain privacy, data protection and control over how their online data is used.

Fighting the increasingly popular cookie blockers and dealing with privacy-centered regulations have driven advertisers and publishers to find a new solution towards user privacy. Have you heard what will happen in 2024 with third-party cookies?


How will the removal of 3rd party cookies affect your digital marketing campaigns?

Cookie-based data is the most commonly used data for digital marketing strategies. The loss of third-party cookies means basically more difficulties to validate digital campaign effectiveness.

For example, following the user through a campaign will be difficult without third-party cookies and this will directly affect retargeting strategies. As the algorithm can no longer be used to effectively show personalized ads to consumers, it will be more difficult to deliver relevant information to the user. 

Also, it will be harder to impact a user in different websites (audience extension) and to find similar target groups to create lookalike audiences to gain new users, generate brand awareness and personalized ads.

Another aspect related to less efficacy is frequency capping. Without the cookie with information from different domains, it would be difficult to know and limit the number of times a user sees your ads in a given time period. 

Last but not least, third-party cookies now give the marketer a full vision of the combination of the platforms used in the strategy. See what is working and where to spend more money according to the results. So, view-through attribution strategies will be also affected by this removal.

But don’t come down, continue reading to see the solution and get your paid social campaigns ready for a post-cookie future.


How do users’ without tracking pixels? Server-side tracking

With all these changes, pixel-based tracking is making marketers more and more blind to users' interactions with ad campaigns. The reliance on first-party to collect higher quality data and on CRM systems will increase in value.

In this new third-cookie-less world we will have to build our own tracking server that connects directly with different tools (Facebook Manager, Google Analytics…). But how does the data get to the server? From the client-side or the web server, and from there it goes to your tools. The advantage is that tracking data is directly sent to the server and from there it gets distributed.

This new process restores transparency and efficiency in marketing procedures as it complies with GDPR, helps in unifying the user journey and combines events from multiple touchpoints or improves your site speed as there are no analytics pixels that slow it down. 


Introducing Conversions API (CAPI)

The Conversion API (or CAPI) is the response that Facebook has given to the cookie’s battle and used to be called Server-Side API. This interface allows advertisers to send events from their servers directly to Facebook. Those server events are used in measurement, reporting and optimization. 

As you can see, digital campaign strategies will need to become more sophisticated in tracking, targeting and data validation. In Adsmurai we have prepared a series of posts about cookies, Conversions API and how to get your paid media campaigns ready for this big change. Stay tuned for more! 

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