Increasing reverence for user privacy and security is the reason behind a lot of changes in the way Google and other search engines operate, and the move to a cookieless world is one of them. You have probably heard of cookies, seen notifications about them when you land on a website, or are aware of them in your digital marketing efforts. They are small pieces of text sent to your browser by a website you visit, helping it to remember information about your behaviour. Now, Google’s scrapping cookies on third party sites, so what does that mean for your marketing activity?
What is a cookieless world and why is it something we need to think about?
A cookieless world means we can’t rely on cookies from third party websites to do our marketing activity. Historically, they have been used for things like retargeting, personalisation and reconnecting with people who have visited your website. This is done by placing cookies on the website user. These then follow the user around the internet to learn their interests.
Going cookieless means we can’t do that anymore; organisations have to use their own data instead, but in addition, when it comes to tracking, more choice and visibility is being put back in the hands of the user who can choose to accept cookies or not. That means that users have more control over what they see, especially when it comes to advertising. It also means that organisations have to rely on the data they collect themselves to inform their marketing strategies and actions.
What are the pros and cons of cookieless marketing?
The plus side to a move towards cookieless marketing is that we’re all being pushed to use first party data, which will ultimately be more accurate and relevant to you and your organisation. This is because it relates to people who are actively interested in or involved with your business and are therefore most suitable for retargeting.
In terms of your overall targeting on Google search, there are still different types of campaigns for you to choose from, so when it comes to reaching new customers, search is still keyword first and audience targeting is secondary, which makes the cookieless change a long-term rather than short-term issue for most organisations.
The downside to cookieless marketing is that it takes a lot longer to find the right users to target without third-party data. If you’re putting spend behind it, the cost per acquisition will also get higher and you won’t get results without a longer-term strategy. Organisations will find themselves with a more limited pool of information, which makes it essential, especially for smaller businesses, to make sure first party data is really accurate and focused on the right target customers. For example, if you’re running competitions online to gain customer information, they might not be the best people for your business – it’s about quality over quantity.
It’s worth remembering at this point that Google is also pushing more AI and that’s very much their answer to cookieless marketing. They’re focusing on different signals to find users, so if you can’t use third-party cookies and you’re not using AI, you will struggle to gain traction. However, if you do use AI then you will find alternative routes to gaining results.
What do businesses need to do to be successful with cookieless marketing?
You have to be more process oriented than ever before. At Verkeer, we have always thought it’s important to make sure that everything across the customer journey is measured, whether it seemingly relates directly to SEO or not. We need to work together across disciplines to make sure we collect quality data, making tracking essential, whether people come from SEO, organic search or paid social.
That means we need to monitor and set up strategies to slowly direct people towards the end goal, but every step of the way needs to be measured. By doing this, we can look at each bit of the user journey and work out what is doing well and what isn’t. For example, you can have a great ad but if it takes you to a terrible website then it’s a waste of resources.
Even without going cookieless it’s becoming increasingly difficult for digital marketing to focus on quantity because there’s so much competition online. In the past it was a lot easier to stand out, and lots of people still think it’s a question of turning on an advert and then you will simply see people come to your website. However, it’s about all the different aspects – the content, the creative elements etc, and ultimately that challenge is a good thing because it pushes brands and marketers to create content that’s better for users and consumers.
How can businesses prepare for cookieless marketing?
Focus is on quality over quantity
You will have less information with cookieless marketing, but if you do it properly it will be better information and you will get higher quality results. So, the first thing is to make sure you have good quality first party data, that your processes are up to speed for obtaining it, and that you have someone who can continuously analyse the information and make the most of it.
Take a diverse approach to digital strategy
Put conversion tracking in place and use a variety of channels as levers for your marketing success. That includes paid social and organic search, as well different campaign types within channels as some won’t take the same hit as others.
Use Consent Mode to optimise Google campaigns
For Google ads, explore features like Consent Mode, which helps improve conversion rates. Google captures data which we can upload back into the ads, so we can see which users have converted and use that to inform next steps.
Experiment with execution
Particularly relating to things like paid social, the more you give the algorithm to work with for each product and audience, the faster it will learn. The best way to do this is to experiment with different creative elements – imagery, copy, and segmenting your audience by age and other factors. One thing that Facebook is encouraging is minimising the detail on each campaign because too much information in each one makes the algorithm work harder and you end up paying more.
Make sure you’re tracking every interaction
Make sure you’re tracking every user interaction, from subscribing to newsletters to PDF downloads, in order to make sure you really understand what people are doing. You’re not getting as much data out of your website now, as much of that as normal as people have to agree to accept cookies on your website and when they don’t, none of that tracking takes place to feed into other campaigns on platforms like social. Tracking each interaction will allow you to feed campaigns as secondary targets to make sure still qualifying audiences as they come through your site.
Overall, the move to a cookieless world is an opportunity for brands to increase the quality of digital marketing and be much more targeted with their customer acquisition and their advertising spend.
Do you need help getting your website in the best position possible to take advantage of a cookieless world? Contact our team and we would be happy to help.