Image depicting a laptop. On the screen is the Google Chrome logo, a portion of a cookie, and a Delete Button underneath with a mouse cursor hovering over.
December 19, 2023

What Happens When Chrome Blocks Third-Party Cookies?

Like it or not, third-party cookies will become a thing of the past in 2024. 

Third-party cookies have long been a priceless tool for marketers. They make it easy to track users across websites and have been the backbone of retargeting efforts and ads. Even so, third-party cookies have caused understandable concern for users and privacy advocates globally. 

While we’ve known about the deprecation of third-party cookies for years at this point, it’s still crucial for digital marketers to adapt their strategies and techniques if they want to avoid long-term harm. 

Exactly what the future holds remains unclear. Google’s impending deprecation of support for third-party cookies in Chrome is akin to an extinction-level event that will shake foundations throughout the industry. 

But there’s always a way forward. 

Here’s what you need to know as we bid farewell to the third-party cookie and what the cookie-less future of digital marketing might entail. 

The Chrome Phase-Out Begins Q1 2024

Image of a calendar icon with the label "Q1 2024" circled in red with the Google logo below.

To kick off 2024, Google will disable support for third-party cookies for 1% of global Chrome users. 

This will mark the beginning of an extended, gradual phase-out. By Q3 2024, Chrome will no longer support third-party cookies. 

The interim will allow for testing, allowing businesses to prepare for a future without the cross-site tracking capability we’ve all known and loved for years. 

However, this shouldn’t feel like a rug-pull moment for digital marketers. Google certainly isn’t the first to end support for third-party cookies. 

Both Apple’s Safari browser and Mozilla’s Firefox disabled third-party cookies years ago. Even for Google, the beginning of the end began when the search giant announced its intent to end support for third-party cookies way back in 2020. 

After Google delayed blocking third-party cookies, the inevitable is finally here, so it’s time to face this reality, understand the implications for digital marketers, and implement new, future-proof strategies that can accomplish business goals without sacrificing user privacy. 

What the Cookie-Less Future Means for Advertisers

Image depicting a broken cookie on a laptop screen to illustrate the removal of third-party cookies in Google Chrome.

Digital marketers find themselves at a crossroads. In an industry where change is the only constant, you either adapt or risk being left behind. 

Is your brand prepared for the end of third-party cookies? If not, you’re not alone, as one Adobe study found that globally, 75% of marketing and CX leaders reported they still rely heavily on third-party cookies. 

At this stage of the game, far too many advertisers have not anticipated the phase-out or have stubbornly hoped that Google would push back the deprecation once again. 

It’s understandable why so many advertisers are hesitant about this change. 

Blocking third-party cookies in Chrome will shift how we understand website visitors and interact with them through retargeting. Even so, the end of third-party cookies doesn’t mean digital marketing and SEO is dead—it simply means we as an industry must innovate and, hopefully, find solutions that allow us to reach customers without compromising privacy and data security. 

3 Viable Alternatives to Third-Party Cookies

Image depicting a road with three diverging paths to represent the alternatives to third party cookies. Each lane features an icon, including a shield, a survey page, and a gold trophy.

Luckily, the industry is already innovating, and there are plenty of viable alternatives to third-party cookies. 

While these alternatives are not apples-to-apples replacements for third-party cookies, they will serve a similar function and be the backbone of all forward-thinking digital marketing strategies. 

When Google initially announced the phase-out, the search giant made it clear it wouldn’t build or use new cross-site trackers—even if it resulted in a competitive disadvantage for the search giant. 

But with its overwhelming market share, brands have no choice but to try to increase search visibility and execute ad campaigns on Google. In other words, you have to play by Google’s rules if you hope to increase digital revenue and grow your own market share. 

So, how will you collect meaningful data from your site visitors? If your brand hasn’t already identified a substitute, here are a few options worth pursuing. 

First-Party Cookies

Not all cookies are being phased out for Chrome users—just the third-party cookies that enable cross-site tracking. First-party cookies are still good to go. 

Like third-party cookies, a first-party cookie is a code that is generated and stored on a visitor’s device when they arrive at your site. 

But first-party cookies don’t track activity across websites. Instead, the data stays between your site and the user, so the enormous privacy concerns about third-party cookies don’t apply. 

From a digital marketing perspective, the compromise is that first-party cookies don’t tell you everything your site visitors do across the web. 

The characteristics that make first-party cookies less of a privacy concern are also the reason these cookies don’t provide as much horsepower in terms of analytics data. 

While first-party cookies provide valuable information for making UX enhancements and minimizing friction across your site, they don’t support ad personalization and remarketing like third-party cookies. 

Odds are, your site already uses first-party cookies, so whether through your backend or a CMS dashboard, you likely already collect and have access to data from these cookies.

Zero-Party Data Collection

Surveys, polls, and quizzes are all means of collecting zero-party data from site visitors. 

From personal interests to the most valuable product features, contact information, and other pertinent details, zero-party data is everything your site visitors voluntarily tell you about themselves. 

There are different ways to encourage visitors to share this information with you. 

For instance, you could allow users access to paywalled content if they agree to complete a brief survey. 

eCommerce brands often include a quiz to help customers quickly find the best product to meet their needs, and the data collected can be used for personalization and remarketing. 

However, there are drawbacks and complications to collecting and leveraging zero-party data. 

Consider the example of the paywalled content. How can you be sure your visitors’ responses are accurate? What if they’re just selecting the first answer to each question in order to speed through the process and view the content?

Or, when it comes to a product identification quiz, how can you safely assume a visitor is providing information about themself? What if they’re shopping for a gift and completing the quiz using details about the intended recipient? 

The simple answer is you don’t know, and marketers will need to account for the unknown when analyzing the data they collect. 

All that said, it’s better than nothing, and optimizing your zero-party data collection vehicles will be an ongoing effort to improve results. 

Google’s Privacy Sandbox

Without third-party cookies, there’s a clear demand for precise, robust site visitor data, and Google is hoping it can deliver with its new privacy-centric initiative. 

For over four years, Google has been working to create web standards that allow brands to preserve user privacy while still accessing valuable information. 

Known as the Privacy Sandbox, this initiative saw its first features made generally available—for over half of Chrome users—on Sept. 7, 2023. 

Overall, Privacy Sandbox’s proposals focus on advertising to cohorts rather than individuals. 

With this initiative, Google hopes to accomplish three goals:

  • Remove third-party cookies
  • Replace cross-site tracking functionality
  • Mitigate the risk of device fingerprinting

Although testing is ongoing, digital marketers would be wise to familiarize themselves with the technologies coming out of the Privacy Sandbox and prepare for early adoption. 

Table listing the delivered technologies from Google's Privacy Sandbox and the functions of each.

The sooner your site can adapt, the more of an edge your business will enjoy when Google’s deprecation of third-party cookie support causes industry-wide turmoil in the back half of 2024.

Evolve Your Digital Marketing Strategies with VELOX Media

In times of change, you need a team you can trust. VELOX is ready to help you navigate the transition away from third-party cookies so you can come out on top. As an ROI-focused digital marketing agency, VELOX leverages cutting-edge technology along with the latest research to customize organic and paid campaigns. As circumstances change, we nimbly adapt to deliver results that exceed client expectations. 

Discover what exponential growth can do for your business. Contact VELOX today for a tailored marketing strategy designed to surpass your goals.

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