Earlier this year, Google announced that it would begin phasing out third party cookies in an effort to ensure that “ads are relevant for users” while minimizing “data shared with websites and visitors.” It’s all part of Google’s new initiative called “Privacy Sandbox”, which was launched late last year.
The phase-out is expected to be complete by 2022, and has several marketers asking about the future of online advertising. The announcement was met with a mix of doubt and optimism from the marketing community. Many agree that the change was inevitable, while others fear that this could have major implications on the digital advertising landscape as we know it.
Several companies argue that they do support user privacy, but that third party cookies help them with tracking and analytics – an integral part of their targeting and retargeting campaigns.
What does the removal of third party cookies mean for your B2B company?
And what steps can you take to prepare for this phase-out?
First Party vs Third Party Cookies: What’s the Difference?
First-party cookies are created by your company’s site to help track user behavior and create a better user experience for visitors.
Cookies allow your site to remember key user information, like language preferences, usernames and passwords, and items added to a visitor’s shopping cart.
Third-party cookies are set by other websites to help track user behavior for advertising purposes.
Let’s take the Facebook “like” button as an example. If a user clicks this button on your website, a cookie will be stored on the visitor’s computer that can later be accessed by Facebook to identify the visitor and see which websites they’ve visited.
This information helps Facebook with retargeting campaigns and allows the platform to deliver customized ads to the user.
How do Advertisers Use Third Party Cookies?
Advertisers use third party cookies to build a unique behavior profile and target users with relevant ads based on their web activity.
As Google begins to phase out third party cookies, profiles created by these cookies will include less accurate information about users.
According to Google, the company is “developing techniques to detect and mitigate covert tracking and workarounds by launching new anti-fingerprinting measures to discourage these kinds of deceptive and intrusive techniques.”
What Can B2B Companies Do To Adapt?
While this change has been met with a lot of criticism, there are several positive takeaways.
Here are a few areas your company can focus on to get ahead of this phaseout:
1. Shift Towards Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Ever wonder how users find your site when you’re not running paid ads?
As the landscape for paid ads changes, one of the best investments your B2B company can make is in organic search.
Think of organic search as “free” traffic – no paid ads required. An investment in an SEO strategy means your site will be optimized for organic traffic – specific search terms that visitors type in Google to find your page.
When users search a specific keyword (or group of keywords) related to your business, your site is more likely to be one of the first they see in Google search results. The highest value is optimizing your site around long-tail, high volume, high intent keywords without leaning on your brand name. Non-brand example: find users searching “Saas Solutions” without using ‘Oracle’/’Salesforce’, find users looking for “CRM lead tracking” without adding ‘Hubspot’, etc. etc.
The good news is, B2B companies often have a smaller target audience.
When you focus your efforts on ranking for targeted keywords, you can be sure that the users coming to your site are MQLs who are more likely to convert.
Let’s take one of our clients in the cybersecurity space.
The client is a B2B Password Management Service that sells to companies from small businesses to large enterprises. In January of 2020, the running average was ~18k organic visitors per month.
Ledger Bennett helped the client implement an SEO strategy for keywords like “B2B Password Manager” – a highly targeted keyword that only a qualified lead interested in their services would search for.
By February, organic traffic skyrocketed to ~65k/month.
Our cybersecurity client’s website is now ranking in the top 3 positions on the first page of Google search results – prime real estate for organic traffic.
With a properly maintained SEO strategy in place, sites ranking on Google will not see a dip in traffic when the landscape for paid advertising makes a dramatic shift.
2. Take A Holistic Approach to Digital Marketing
With the phase-out of third party cookies, B2B companies need to approach online advertising with a more holistic lens.
What does this look like?
Quick wins from third party advertising are only temporary.
Consistent branding, SEO, social media engagement, relationship building, and a streamlined online presence withstand the changing landscape of paid advertising. A diversified marketing strategy will ensure that if one area of your digital marketing plan suffers from external factors (like the elimination of third party cookies, in this case), branding and other areas of marketing will not be affected.
For example, we helped one of our clients, an international program management enterprise, to launch a new local market offer through multiple marketing channels.
This included a mix of marketing initiatives, like paid ads on Google, LinkedIn ads, and creative.
Our holistic approach over delivered by 171%, generating 8.75 million impressions and 52,000 clicks.
3. Market with Intent
Now more than ever before, Google is forcing brands to market with intent.
The success of online advertising can no longer be measured solely by the number of impressions a campaign gets.
How can brands market with intent?
Let’s go back to our previous example, our international program management enterprise client. Before any initiatives were planned, a lot of time was spent crafting the campaign personas.
Only after this phase was done were we able to effectively leverage both digital and creative channels to reach our target audience.
Content and paid ads were persona-specific and hyper-personalized, which led to a 41% increase in digital conversion rate.
The elimination of third party cookies is only the beginning of several changes that Google will make. The most important question remaining is what this will do to our remarketing efforts and how it fundamentally shifts approaching to re-engagement users that know our brands.
Luckily, it will take almost two years before we see their full effect.
Companies that are dependent on third party cookies can begin making changes today to diversify their marketing efforts. These include:
- Focusing on SEO
- Diversifying marketing efforts
- Marketing with intent
This combination of creative and media will help drive meaningful relationships and build a list of highly qualified leads (versus the quick wins that come with digital ads).