For most of us, when we think about cookies, we equate that to an American term for a sweet biscuit. In the internet and marketing world, cookies have become a billion-dollar business driving advertising and is a way to spy on an individual’s internet habits. Big cookie changes are occurring, and in this guide, we will demystify what is happening and how it might affect you and your business
Cookies are small text files with pieces of data (for example, a username and password) that will identify you and your computer. Cookies were designed to improve your web browsing experience. When your cookie is exchanged between your computer and the network server on the internet, the server reads the ID and knows what information to specifically serve to you.
WHY should I care about cookie changes?
Internet cookies are built for Internet web browsers to track, personalise, and save information about your browsing. Cookies are stored on your PC, tablet or phone by the browser you are using. A web server will send and read cookie information when you visit a website.
Another way of thinking about it is a trail of bread crumbs (or cookie crumbs) left behind and can be followed.
A session cookie is deleted when you leave a website. However, a persistent cookie may remain on your computer forever.
As a business, you can target customers with personalised advertising. This can take the form of sending ads to an individual on other sites after they have visited your site, known as retargeting. Alternatively, you might target someone who has visited a competitor’s website, or you feel they may be interested in your offering based on their internet browsing.
If you run an online store, a cookie will track items users previously viewed, allowing you to suggest other goods or services they might like.
Why are cookies Bad?
Cookies are bad due to their ability to track your browsing history. There are two types of Cookies:
First-Party Cookie created by a website you are directly using. Collects and saves data directly associated with you using only that website. Assuming you are visiting a reputable website, these are considered safe.
Third-Party Cookies are created by other 3rd party web servers, generally from advertisements appearing on the page, you are surfing. 3rd party cookies let advertisers and analytics companies track your long-term browsing history across the internet on any sites that contain their ads. Thus, your personal information is collected and shared even if you did not think you had given permission.
Security vulnerabilities may allow a cookie’s data to be read, allowing unauthorised access to data or access to the website to which the cookie belongs.
WHAT is changing for cookies?
Put simply, your privacy will increase with the drop of support for 3rd party cookies by the major browsers.
Announcements so far:
- Browsers Apple Safari and Mozilla Firefox have already blocked 3rd party cookies
- Google has announced it will restrict 3rd part cookies from 2022
- Many companies are now asking for permission to use first-party cookies when you first visit their site
- Apple iOS14 now requires users to opt-in for information to be shared with publishers
- Apple iOS15, yet to be launched, will hide IP addresses. Users will see how often apps access their personal information, for example, location.
- Facebook is asking its users to allow “Facebook” to track your activity across other companies’ apps and websites due to these changes
- The Australian Federal Government is currently reviewing the Privacy Act. In addition, the ACCC is taking submissions to its digital advertising services inquiry – due late August 21.
With the removal of this tracking (remove 3rd party cookies), you will no longer see a creepy advertisement for those shoes that you looked at online two weeks ago. Also, with governments worldwide reviewing their citizens’ privacy policies, your data will remain more secure, more private and require a business to jump through more hoops.
HOW will cookie changes affect my business?
The biggest business change will be the ability to target appropriate customers as the 3rd party data will not be as readily available.
How should I respond:
Build out 1st party data – This is building your own database of your customers and relevant information. When you have this, you don’t have to pay others.
Use First party cookies to improve your customers experience on your website and to provide them with a journey that will benefit them and hopefully make you a sale.
Reward customers in some way for providing their data like discounts or information.
If you don’t have first-party data to communicate with your customers, the targeting advantages of digital marketing versus traditional media will still be available. Companies such as Google and large media players like Nine in Australia will sell you access to their large private databases.
For a small business that is buying some keywords and possibly doing a few Facebook or Google digital advertisements, it is unlikely you will see a great deal of difference. Still, for those more advanced advertisers, the way you take your advertising to market is going to be turned upside down.
As an individual, you will still have advertisements targeted at you. Still, it is likely to happen more anonymously and less creepily.
Cookies can be deleted from within your browser at any time. If you surf the web incognito, cookies will not be saved. However, remember not all cookies are evil and can actually be helpful.
Apple refers to 3rd party cookies as Apple’s identifiers for advertisers (IDFA).
Also, read Small Business Answers guide to advertising for better sales.
SUMMARY – Cookie removal changes digital advertising
Cookies enable a web browser to keep track of our user data and activities. From 2022, using this data to track our browsing habits and be targeted will be removed to increase privacy. However, consumers will still benefit from first-party data enabling an improved website experience. Still, businesses will need to look to other means than 3rd party cookies to find and target customers with advertising.
Update Jun 25 2021. Google has just announced cookie changes will now take effect 2023.