Third-party cookies for tracking : The end of an era

Any good web marketer will be able to confirm it to you, we are used to constant innovation and new developments in our industry. Google’s algorithm changes are obviously the ones that are being followed the most carefully. However, a tidal wave shook the web industry when first Mozilla’s Firefox browser, and then Apple’s Safari browser and all the rest decided to throw overboard third-party cookies). How is this news impacting SEO? How will this impact the daily life of SEO specialists and the web in general? Excellent question that we will dissect right now!


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What is a third-party cookie?

To judge the impact of the disappearance of third-party cookies, it is still necessary to understand what they are!


“Regular” or first-party cookie

First, a “regular” or first-party cookie is generated by the web server during your first visit to a website. In other words, the cookie is generated and retrieved by the operator of the website. Each time you browse the web, each site creates one or more cookies that retrieve information, settings and connection data in order to improve the user experience (ex: keep your information to connect to your user account for a future visit, etc).


Third Party Cookie

A third-party cookie performs the same functions as a first-party, except that the cookie information is collected by an external server to the website you are visiting. The data collected by third-party cookies is used primarily by advertisers. In the jargon, this is often referred to as a “tracking pixel” but we can also call it other ways.

Cookies collect information anonymously about users, their behavior on the site (visits to how many pages, products viewed, time spent on the site, etc.) and establish a profile for each user.

Have you ever seen an ad targeted only to you with a product you were looking at just a few minutes before? Here you are in the presence of a third-party cookie function! This technique of advertising targeting, commonly known as remarketing or retargeting, is a type of advertising that produces the best results in terms of conversion, often at a lower cost.



First party cookie: tracking tool and information collected by the site

Thrid-Party cookie: tracking tool used by an application / entity other than the website


Why do third-party cookies disappear?

Before trying to understand the reasons for the disappearance of third-party cookies, we must put into perspective the value of user data on the web. Since 2018, the most valuable resource in the world is no longer oil, but data. Have you ever heard of Big Data? The unbelievable amount of content created every day by connected entities, your computer of course but also your smartwatch, your smart fridge, your lights connected to your mobile, etc. possesses inestimable and probably innumerable monetary value.


According to the web giants

The renunciation of third-party cookies is based on a concern for the security of user data. Much of the data breaches and attacks come from smaller apps and other less trusted plugins.

This measure also encourages site owners to make use of valid cookies, reducing the possibility of performing malicious actions that are attributed mainly to third-party cookies. The risk with third-party cookies is that they are not collected by the website operator, but by a third party.

In addition, the growing popularity of software that block advertisements (Adblocker, etc.) and the substantial use of private browsing means that less and less user data is being retrieved by third-party cookies.

If I rephrase the idea, browsers “no longer trust” third-party cookies in order to collect user data. It also means that the value of user data will likely be inaccessible to the smallest players on the web and be concentrated in the hands of a few giants.

This decision to eliminate third-party cookies also shows that data is indeed the sinews of war. Who owns your user profiles on the web? You can’t have your cake and eat it, that idiomatic proverb illustrate the situation of those who will be able to access those data from now on.


How will the disappearance of third-party cookies have an impact on web marketing?

Undoubtedly, organic referencing (SEO) will be the least impacted by this decision. Although the effect of this decision will be felt in all areas of the web, SEO does not rely as much on third-party cookies to be able to reach its target audience.

The impact will likely be greatest for advertisers, where accessing remarketing data may not be as easy as it once was. Also, are we facing a web revolution where advertising will be less personalized than before? Nothing is less certain! As stated previously, personalized advertisements, thanks to third-party cookies, are the most efficient and those with the best ROI (return on investment). If a scenario seems impossible to me, it is one where the most successful type of advertisement is abandoned.


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