How Removing Third-Party Cookies Will Affect Your Marketing Campaigns

Say goodbye to cookies. No, not those cookies, third-party cookies! Third-party cookies are not the kind of cookies made for eating, they’re made to track user behaviour across multiple websites, and Google has made a statement that they’re ready to get rid of them by 2022.

In February of last year, Google announced a ‘phase-out’ of third-party cookies, stating that this move is in the best interest of its users to greater protect their online privacy. “Users are demanding greater privacy–including transparency, choice, and control over how their data is used–and it’s clear the web ecosystem needs to evolve to meet these increasing demands,”

Surprisingly, Google’s move to rid Chrome of third-party cookies isn’t the first, with Firefox and Safari phasing out third-party cookies all the way back in 2013. But Google’s move will definitely be the biggest, since over half of all global web traffic uses Google Chrome, with Safari and Firefox trailing far behind in a distant second and third place.


Since this is such a big deal, what does it mean for the average internet user and advertiser? Well for internet users, phasing-out third-party cookies is a great thing because it means companies won’t be able to track you across multiple websites and serve you ads based on your browsing history. For example, if you’re browsing the internet for wireless headphones, and later you may see an Amazon ad on a website for the exact same headphones you were researching previously. There is a good chance they would have used third-party cookie data to collect your interest in those headphones to serve you that ad.

This phase-out affects advertisers a bit differently, because this means that advertisers won’t be able to target ads to users based on their behaviour. If you’re a marketer who relies on robust user data for online advertising, we highly recommend you follow the process of this phase-out, and start considering first-party cookie alternative strategies as 2022 nears.

To help clarify the impact the phase-out will have on advertisers, we’ve created a short list of popular online advertising activities that are staying and going after Google phases out third party cookies from Chrome.

Staying: Remarketing

Thankfully, one of display advertising’s most effective strategies is here to stay because it relies on first-party cookies, and not third-party cookies. First-party cookies are different because they are often used to improve user experience through saved logins and user preferences, while also providing website owners with basic data about the user.

Remarketing works by collecting an anonymous list of users who visit your site, and serving ads to those users programmatically elsewhere on the web. Since the advertiser is using data they have collected first-hand, the phase-out of third-party cookies will not affect this tactic. This will also include remarketing on social platforms, for example serving ads on Facebook & Instagram to users who have visited your site.

Going: Audience Behaviour Targeting

Gone are the days of being able to serve ads to users on Facebook who are likely to purchase a car. And rightfully so, as most internet users dislike having their internet behaviour tracked by ad publishers like Facebook & Google. After Facebook’s big data scandal back in 2018, it was brought to users attention just how much Facebook knows about everyone. And shortly after, Facebook removed a majority of behavioural targeting options to prove to users that they are serious about data security and privacy – and to also prevent discriminatory ads.

All of this was made possible due to Facebook’s third-party cookies, where they collected user information to build personas of people that advertisers could use to send them relevant ads. With the deprecation of third-party cookies in Chrome, targeting audiences based on their online behaviour across multiple websites it will no longer be possible for Facebook to build these personas

Thankfully for advertisers, audience behaviour targeting most likely won’t be going away entirely. It will just become less accurate once the phase-out completes. For example, you may still be able to serve ads on Facebook to users who are interested in cars, but Facebook will no longer be able to follow the users’ behaviour across the internet to understand if they’re looking to buy, or they’re just dreaming of one day owning that Lamborghini. Once the phase-out occurs, Facebook’s knowledge of its users behaviour will only be limited to Facebook owned properties (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, to name a few), making behaviour based advertising less relevant for users and less effective for marketers in the future.

Staying: Contextual Advertising

Even though behaviour based targeting is being heavily affected, one older advertising strategy may see a comeback, contextual advertising. Contextual advertising relies on keywords to understand the context of a webpage or Facebook post, to serve ads based on that information, alongside the content. So if you were browsing the internet to learn about the best hockey stick brands, contextual advertising would allow advertisers to place an ad selling hockey sticks on web pages related to that content, assuming the website has the available ad space.

Contextual advertising doesn’t rely on any user information so it is here to stay, and it is still very effective because the ad is relevant to what the user is looking for – when set up correctly by the advertiser.

Staying?: Conversion tracking

Conversion tracking for paid search and paid social campaigns both use first-party cookies for data collection, so brands and businesses will still be able to see how their campaigns performed. 

However, the phase-out of third party cookies may affect conversion tracking in the form of ‘assisted conversions’. Assisted conversions involve tracking users behaviour to get a holistic view of what users do when making a key conversion. Understanding all the multi-touchpoints of converting users is important for marketers because it helps us understand how users are interacting with integrated marketing campaigns. Being able to see that a user interacted with 4 paid ads across the internet before converting is great information when optimizing campaigns, but phasing-out third party cookies may make this tracking less reliable if it is gathered using third-party cookie data. Since assisted conversions use a combination of both first and third-party cookies, it’s hard to say right now just how impacted conversion tracking will be in the future, especially since privacy focused alternatives to third-party cookies are already in the works.

Have questions about the post-third-party world or need help preparing and navigating your current marketing campaigns? Feel free to send our adHOME team a message.