In the ever-evolving landscape of digital marketing, staying ahead of the curve is essential for success. One of the latest developments set to disrupt the marketing sphere is Apple's iOS 17 Link Tracking Protection (LTP). This new feature, introduced by Apple, brings significant changes to how marketers collect and utilize customer data. In this blog post, we will delve into the impact of iOS 17 Link Tracking Protection on marketers.
Apple's iOS 17 has taken a major step towards enhancing user privacy and security by introducing Link Tracking Protection. LTP is a feature that automatically removes certain user-identifiable tracking parameters from URLs. Rolled out initially as a Beta at the Worldwide Developers Conference in July 2023, this feature is now set to become an integral part of Apple's ecosystem with its full release in September.
What are Tracking Parameters?
Before we can fully grasp the impact of Link Tracking Protection, it's essential to understand what tracking parameters are. Tracking parameters are indispensable tools that enable marketers to monitor and measure the effectiveness of their campaigns and gain valuable insights into user behavior. These parameters are pieces of data appended to URLs, which serve as valuable markers for understanding the journey of website visitors and the impact of marketing efforts. To appreciate the role of tracking parameters, it's essential to categorize them and understand their specific functions.
Content-modifying parameters are URL additions designed to enhance the user experience and guide visitors to specific pages or customized content within a website. These parameters play a crucial role in personalizing the online journey for users. Here are some common content-modifying parameters:
Source/Page Identification Parameters: These parameters help direct users to a particular webpage or section of a website based on the source of their click. For example, they might guide users to a specific product page or landing page tailored to their interests.
Language or Region Parameters: Content can be customized based on the user's preferred language or geographic location. These parameters ensure that visitors see content that is relevant to their region or language preferences.
Campaign-Specific Parameters: Marketers often create unique campaigns with distinct messaging or promotions. Campaign parameters allow marketers to track the success of each campaign by directing users to campaign-specific content.
Tracking parameters, on the other hand, are the focus of iOS 17 Link Tracking Protection and are particularly pertinent to the discussion at hand. These parameters are added to the end of URLs primarily for the purpose of monitoring user behavior, both within a specific website and across different websites and marketing channels. They enable advertisers and marketers to gather valuable data on user interactions. Here's a closer look at tracking parameters:
User Behavior Tracking Parameters: These parameters are instrumental in understanding how users navigate a website. They track actions such as clicks, page views, form submissions, and more. This data is vital for optimizing user journeys and improving website usability.
Campaign Attribution Parameters: Marketers rely on tracking parameters to attribute conversions and actions to specific marketing campaigns. By analyzing these parameters, they can determine which campaigns are driving the most valuable results and allocate resources accordingly.
Cross-Site Tracking Parameters: Cross-site tracking parameters extend beyond a single website and are often used in digital advertising. They allow marketers to trace a user's activity as they move between different websites and online platforms. This information is invaluable for retargeting campaigns and refining audience targeting strategies.
Marketing Channel Parameters: Tracking parameters also assist in identifying the marketing channels that drive traffic and conversions. Whether it's social media, email marketing, paid advertising, or organic search, these parameters help marketers assess the performance of each channel.
Which Tracking Parameters Will be Removed?
Link Tracking Protection focuses on removing specific tracking parameters from URLs. While Apple assures that the links will continue to work, this removal will hinder cross-site and click tracking at an individual level. Apple targets large tracking offenders like Facebook, TikTok, and Google, with the possibility of expanding the list of affected parameters in the future. However, it's important to note that these changes only affect Apple-related software, including Apple Mail, Message App, and Safari Private Browsing.
What to Do Next?
With Link Tracking Protection enabled by default in Apple's native Mail app, Messages, and Safari's Private Browsing mode, marketers need to adapt to these changes. While typical tracking parameters like source, medium, and campaign (UTM parameters) will remain unaffected, identifiers used by Google and Meta platforms, such as gclid and fbclid, are expected to be stripped.
To navigate these changes successfully, marketers should consider embracing privacy-safe technologies like server-side tracking, consent mode, or enhanced conversions. Additionally, focusing on bottom-funnel conversion metrics and leaning into first- and zero-party data can help marketers understand the true impact of their efforts.
In an era where data privacy is paramount, marketers must remain agile and adapt to the evolving landscape. While iOS 17 Link Tracking Protection presents challenges, it also offers an opportunity for marketers to refine their strategies and build more meaningful customer relationships by relying on ethical data collection practices and a deeper understanding of their audience.