A significant change is on the horizon with Google’s recent announcement to phase out third-party cookies in Chrome, the world’s most popular browser.
With the implementation of its Tracking Protection tool, Google Chrome will restrict the data users share when visiting a website by disabling third-party cookies.
While the change will initially only affect 1% of Chrome users, it will be rolled out worldwide by the end of 2024.
In short: Google has begun to phase out third-party cookies.
This move, echoing the privacy-focused updates already made by Safari and Firefox, will reshape the way you retarget audiences and measure the effectiveness of your online advertising.
What are cookies?
“Cookies” in the digital world refer to small text files that websites send to your computer or mobile device while you’re browsing. These files are stored on your device and allow the website to remember your actions and preferences over time, such as login information, language selection, and other settings. This makes your browsing experience more convenient by keeping you logged in on websites or by remembering the contents of your shopping cart, for example.
There are two main types of cookies:
- First-party cookies are set by the website you’re visiting directly and help the site owners collect analytics data, remember language settings and perform other useful functions that provide a good user experience.
- Third-party cookies are placed on your device by a website other than the one you’re visiting. These are often used for online advertising purposes and social media features.
What is cookie-less marketing?
Cookie-less marketing refers to advertising strategies that do not rely on third-party tracking cookies to gather user data for targeting ads. Traditionally, cookies have been used to track users’ online activities and preferences, enabling marketers to deliver personalized advertising experiences. However, with growing concerns over privacy and the implementation of stricter data protection laws, the industry is shifting towards alternative methods that respect user consent and privacy.
In the cookie-less era, marketers are focusing on first-party data collected directly from interactions with their brand, such as website visits, email engagements, and CRM data. This data is more reliable and valuable as it is sourced from the audience that has shown interest in your services. Moreover, cookie-less marketing involves contextual advertising, where ads are placed based on the content of the site rather than the user’s browsing history.
Embracing cookie-less marketing means prioritizing transparency, building trust, and fostering direct relationships with consumers. Marketers are now exploring innovative technologies and approaches like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and predictive analytics to understand customer behavior and tailor marketing efforts without infringing on privacy. The shift towards cookie-less marketing represents a more sustainable and user-friendly approach to digital advertising in the 21st century.
The Cookie Conundrum
Third-party cookies have long been the backbone of digital advertising. They track user behaviour across the web, enabling you to serve personalised ads to potential clients based on their browsing history. With Chrome holding a considerable market share, this change isn’t just a technical update—it’s a clarion call for real estate agents and their marketing teams to adapt their strategies now.
The Implications for Your Facebook and Instagram Ads
Many real estate agents rely on Facebook and Instagram pixels to retarget website visitors. Once Chrome’s update is fully implemented, these pixels will no longer function effectively in the browser. This means that if you’re not preparing for this change, you risk investing in ads that may never reach your intended audience.
Solutions for the Forward-Thinking Agent
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. The digital marketing world is resourceful and adaptive. Here are some strategies to consider:
- Embrace Meta’s Conversions API: Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, offers a Conversions API that allows for direct server-to-server data sharing. This ensures that you can still track user actions and manage ad performance effectively without relying on cookies. The process of implementation can be quite technical and many “marketing providers” aren’t equipped with the technical knowledge on how to implement this for you. Furthermore, it will only start tracking your website visitors from the time it is implemented. So you’ll want to ensure you start having discussions with your web developer or IT provider now to ensure you implement this if you’re currently running any Facebook or Instagram Ads. If you’re a Stepps client, we have already implemented the Conversions API approach on hundreds of websites. Please reach out to our support team if you require any assistance.
- Cultivate First-Party Data: The impending “Cookie-Less Marketing Era” elevates the value of first-party data—information that you collect directly from your audience. Use your website, CRM, and email campaigns to gather and leverage data that clients willingly share with you.
- Explore Alternative Retargeting Methods: Look into other retargeting solutions that don’t rely on third-party cookies. Contextual advertising, for example, places ads based on the content of the site rather than user behaviour.
- Get Creative with Content: Develop engaging content that encourages direct interactions with your brand. Think virtual home tours, downloadable buying guides, and newsletters that keep potential buyers coming back for more.
- Invest in Relationships: Forge stronger connections through excellent customer service and community engagement. Satisfied clients can become a powerful organic marketing force.
Acting Now for Future Success
The shift away from third-party cookies doesn’t have to be a setback. It’s an opportunity to innovate and focus on building genuine relationships with your clients. If you work with a marketing company, make sure they’re proactive about these changes. After all, it’s about ensuring your marketing dollars are well spent and that your ads are seen by potential homebuyers.
Agents and marketing teams who have fostered a clean CRM will be well ahead when cookies are eventually phased out in all browsers (and they will be) because those agents can rely on their own data to target potential buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants.
Take our Advance platform, for example, our social media advertising platform and a competitor to REA’s Audience Maximiser; agents can target potential buyers and vendors via a direct integration with their CRM:
We also use the Meta Conversion API rather than the Meta Pixel for targeting website traffic, which isn’t affected by Google’s update and would encourage you to do the same if you’re currently running any ads on Facebook or Instagram.
Embracing The Cookie-Less Marketing Era
The move to a more private web experience is not a hindrance but a progression towards a marketing strategy that values transparency and trust. By focusing on first-party data and user privacy, you’re not just adapting to new regulations; you’re aligning with the expectations of a privacy-conscious public.
This change is significant but not insurmountable. Start the conversation with your marketing team today to ensure your strategy is resilient and ready for the future of digital marketing. The time to adapt is now—don’t wait until the cookie crumbles.
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