Third-party cookie tracking is becoming redundant and the SEO industry is sending mixed signals as a response.
Ever since its existence, Search Engine Optimization has been dealing with the lack of cookie tracking.
And so, the question arises, does the end of third-party cookie tracking really matter?
We are going to tell you two things. The good news and the bad news. The good news is that this change is significant and opens up an opportunity. The bad news is that it is not going to be easy at all.
Truth be told, it will take a little more than sitting in the SEO corner of your office to get things done now.
What’s the Scenario?
Legislations all over the world are tightening the noose on advertisers and the way they can collect & use data to track users.
EU General Data Protection Regulation(GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act(CCPA) are two such regulations.
We think that the claim behind the notion that consumers want more control over their data is partly true but not substantially accurate.
Most users don’t really care about who is tracking them or are ignorant of the need of privacy laws. Privacy is usually not a concern for them unless they want to hide something.
Though, we would prefer to have clarity and restrictions on what an advertiser can track and how they can track, we feel, we generally leave it at that.
The average user does not trouble itself much over this issue. Add to it, the technicalities that grow more by the year.
All said and done, the truth is these restrictions are coming and it is, by all means, a welcome step.
Have you noticed the rise of targeted ads and content that Google is bringing to you?
Do an experiment, for instance.
Talk about any random topic and repeat a certain keyword a few times. The next day, your news feed, search results, recommended lists would be filled with that particular topic and most probably that keyword.
That’s the world we live in.
So, it’s a welcome step and most fitting that such a legislation should come. However limited the scope of that legislation be, it still will go a long way in setting some limits on the status quo.
The focus on cookies is not new now. This has been brewing for years. For instance, Firefox began blocking third-party cookies as early as 2019. Safari followed the same in 2020.
As we tread gradually towards a cookie-less future creating restrictions in digital advertising, we need to make sure that SEO keeps up the pace.
SEO needs to get a seat at the table in the bigger scheme of things.
Historical Measurement Models
What this would mean for the traditional measurement models of Search Engine Optimization is that in current scenario, MTA would be increasingly phased out of the analytics toolkits.
MTA or multi-touch attribution is a traditional SEO measurement model that uses cookie leverage as its strategy.
Marketers, for years, have used media mix modelling (MMM) and multi-touch attribution (MTA).
While MMM is a top-down approach that usually covers multiple years of data, MTA is a bottom-up approach wholly reliant upon cookies to track sessions and users. The latter is said to be a more granular approach.
Now, the issues with cookies are of some significance too. They are not very successful at measuring cross-device and very recently, they are opt-in only.
Matter of the fact is that marketers still need to measure performance. And for that, cookies come in handy.
Next-level Ideas for Tracking SEO
While we converse about how a cookie-less future impacts SEO, you should follow the model that has been already set by measurement channels. One of these is building a clean room.
In actuality, a clean room doesn’t need to be built specifically for an SEO company. This is because SEO does not have first-party data.
This is where the hard reality of SEO with respect to other channels sets in. Measuring it is not going to lead to the investment of resources across an organization.
However, you can leverage the work of others in the paid media, for instance, to get some measurement applications for SEO.
This method takes a high-frequency metric and examines how other media impact the channel. It does not use the individual data for the same.
If you want to gain insights into how SEO captures the demand created by an ad, offline campaign or display campaign, this kind of analysis might help.
Modified Media Mix Modelling
If you try to force organic clicks into the media mix modelling (MMM), it would be a misapplication of the metric. This is due to the fact that you will be changing the results already reported to the organization.
The paid media team would not agree, while the organization would be distracted and stuck in arguments over attribution.
What we can do rather is take the MMM and set aside the sales driven by the media. Then, we are able to run SEO clicks against the base sales to tease out the signal of SEO which is hiding in the base.
Other than that, we can think of running a model of paid media impressions against SEO clicks in order to understand the media interaction.
Although this is similar to aggregated attribution method but just a little more granular.
In relation to other channels, we need to balance the reality of how much teams are willing to invest in tracking the effectiveness of SEO.
A lot of money is coming into media and this means driving heavy innovation into media mix modelling and attribution for these channels.
However, the same cannot be said for SEO future. We will need to find ways to measure SEO’s effectiveness and it would need to be in line with other channel approaches today.
Those days are probably gone when you used to rely on some third-party chart, except in those cases where we are looking at competitive insights.
The probable answer to all this is simple yet hard to accomplish. SEO as a channel has always played second fiddle to media- either paid search, display or paid social. Yes, companies do invest in SEO and care about SEO.
Having said that, it is significant to note that the media dollars will always have the first hand in any measurement conversation.
Money is followed by resources and when it comes to resources from the analytics and data science teams, SEO seems to be on the short end of the stick.
But this need not be the case.
In order to gain key insights into the channel, you need to get SEO data sets into the clean room and then align them to other data sources.
As digital marketers tread towards using clean rooms such as Google Ads Data Hub and others, SEO teams would need to get site analytics data into these environments.
As you bring the data together, SEOs need to look at customer journeys across paid media impressions and site activity.
With SEO analytics data added to a clean room, marketers can also move toward an attribution use case to measure the contribution and even the incrementality.
However, there’s a catch here. The reason it is hard is that generating buy-in from others is essential.
There is a lot of focus and resources centred on the transition away from cookies and towards clean rooms and better trackable solutions.
This would mean that the resources aren’t sitting idle for SEO to be accommodated. Most marketers lack the interest to rank SEO priorities above media, majorly when it comes to channel performance measurement and attribution.
But good performance tracking is exactly what is needed as SEOs, now more than ever.
Doing this favourably is a part and parcel of the SEO’s world. If you are able to do that, the entire organization will benefit from the greater clarity of SEO’s contribution and its value to the business.
We, at Advology Solution are well-equipped to navigate through such a future-world scenario. Our strength lies in the clarity that we would have to prepare in advance for a world sans third-party cookies.
We invite you to be the change. Should you need any assistance with this or have any SEO-related queries, please get in touch with us either through our website https://www.advologysolution.com/.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. What would happen after the third-party cookies go away?
Ans. The withdrawal of third-party cookies would completely change the digital landscape. More and more brands are considering contextual advertising and a better management of first-party cookies as an alternative.
This could revamp the whole present-day scenario and could result in new and better ways of digital marketing.
Q2. Could Google Analytics be branded as a third-party cookie?
Ans. To capture data about its web visitors, Google Analytics uses only first-party cookies.
Q3. Will cookies be phased out?
Ans. Google has announced that by the end of 2024, it will cease the use of third-party cookies in chrome.
Q4. What are the ways you can market without the third-party cookies?
Ans. Following are some of the tips that can be used for cookie-less marketing;
1.) You can switch on the Google Analytics 4
2.) You can start gathering first party data
3.) You should invest more in the market research
4.) You must focus on personalization
5.) You could also use AI-based bidding
6.) You should also reconsider KPIs
7.) Try using contextual-based advertising
8.) You need to target based on the location and time