Cookie based tracking had recently become the industry’s punching bag, like if all the industry’s bad practices are tied to this one technology. Everyone expects cookieless tracking to be the universal solution to all problems of digital marketing, like gluten-free food was supposed to be the ultimate cure for all diseases of civilization.
Was it? I don’t know, I never tried it.
Cookie based technology has its problems and it simply does not stand to modern standards. The overarching trends are bigger than all of us. It’s better to adjust to them.
How do you adjust for the cookieless future? With cookieless tracking, of course.
Is it possible? Yes, of course. If you are a Voluum user, you already can use it.
Is it necessary at this moment? No, not yet. But it will be sooner than you think.
Should you be worried? No. You should read this article to learn more about how cookies are used in tracking, what the lack of support for cookies will mean for the advertising industry and how Voluum is already prepared for the future. This is much more productive than being worried.
Cookies are small text files left by the web browser to store personal data about a user session. They were used to save such information as web page language settings, text fields that were filled previously, login information or the contents of a shopping cart.
Cookies are usually used by the web page that you were currently on. Such cookies are commonly referred to as first party cookies. They record first party data, i.e. data left directly by a user.
First party cookies are calling the same domain name that you are currently visiting. So if you are on the CNN.com site, first party cookies make requests (“call”) to the CNN.com domain.
The other type of cookies are third party cookies that call other domains. In our example, a third party cookie would call the anotherdomain.com domain while a user is visiting the CNN.com page.
Calling third party domains had become the root cause of all controversies with cookie technology. They record user level data such as clicks, time on site, device type or mouse gesture movements. In theory, this is anonymous data but this data collection allows to create a complete marketing profile of a user.
Usually third party cookies are used to call various analytical, behavioral data measurement and ad tracking platforms. With the growing emphasis on data privacy, avoiding data breaches and user control over their own information, such calls to unknown domains are, well, problematic.
When a user visits the CNN.com website, he or she can expect that CNN will record some information about their movements. If a user doesn’t trust CNN, they can choose not to visit it. Simple.
But a typical user has very little knowledge and control over the information that goes to third party domains. This type of tracking cookies can collect various identification data that allows advertisers to locate individual users across the web.
The problem is that third party cookies are used to varying extents. Some advertisers use it mainly for conversion attribution (so understanding which ad brought which results) or to analyze user demographics, while many others create complete shopping profiles of each single user to the point where their sense of privacy is violated.
Voluum is an ad tracker with the main purpose of enabling advertisers to increase the performance of their ads. It doesn’t profile users, it doesn’t track their movements on websites that are outside the campaign funnel.
Voluum sets this cookie when a visitor clicks an ad and if no referrer data is available, it will take the ID from this cookie.
Cookie based tracking is also used in conversion tracking when a user decides to use the Conversion tracking pixel feature with their own offers. For offers that come from affiliate networks, postbacks are used. More on them below.
The shift towards the more privacy-oriented Internet
The cookie based technology is a victim of the world-wide shift started by governments and companies alike that aim to give more control to users over their data.
The latest victim is the IDFA, and more specifically, a blocked by default access to this Apple’s ID for advertisers for third-party apps.
As we have described it in our article about the iOS 14.5 update, this does not affect Voluum users at all but can affect traffic sources they use.
Demise of third party cookies is just part of this bigger trend. There will likely be some other changes for advertisers connected with it.
State of the industry
Because privacy issues and safety are more important to growing numbers of users, tech companies have put third party cookies in their crosshairs.
As of May 2021, the industry looks as follows:
- Third party cookies are blocked by default on Safari since March 2020
- They are also blocked by default by Mozilla to some extent
- Google Chrome, the web browser with the biggest market share, is set to phase out 3rd party cookies by 2022
Cookie based technologies seem to be doomed. But what does it mean for the whole advertising industry?
Cookies and advertisers
I can bet you that browsing the Internet in 2022, after Google disables third party cookies, will not be much different from the experience we have today.
There are too many things at stake to let things go wrong.
The whole Internet relies on ads to provide users with free content. Users get stuff without paying, websites earn money, advertisers can show relevant products to people visiting pages, and cookie based tracking enable just that.
So, there are already several approaches in development that aim to ensure that advertisers can continue to do their business effectively and benefit from cross device tracking while user privacy is protected. In other words, companies like Google try to have a metaphorical cookie and eat it at the same time.
Google has proposed its FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) idea that divides people into groups of at least 1,000 participants based on user behavior and allows advertisers to show their ads to this whole group, instead of individual users.
Although the idea of FloC has been universally panned, other companies are also working on different cookieless tracking solutions that allow companies to track and profile users. It’s impossible to say right now which technique will be prevalent in 2022, but cookieless future is surely going to be a thing.
Cookieless tracking is not the name of any concrete feature but rather an idea of a mechanism that allows for user tracking across campaign funnels without cookie technology.
Cookieless visit and click tracking
This method of cookieless tracking utilizes scripts to make requests directly to Voluum. The relevant identifying information is passed in the Direct tracking URL that guides a visitor from an ad to a lander or offer.
Direct tracking also allows users to be compliant with the requirements of many traffic sources, such as Facebook, that strictly prohibit redirects.
The more details, along with the specific use scenarios can be found in one of our previous articles about direct tracking.
Cookieless conversion attribution
Conversion attribution requires conversion information to be passed from an offer to Voluum and connected with appropriate visit data.
Advertisers have often chosen the cookie-reliant conversion tracking pixel.
But Voluum offers a secure server side tracking technology called postbacks that can immediately report conversions to Voluum. Postbacks are supported by the majority of affiliate networks and they are known for their reliability.
Additionally, Voluum is integrated with selected partner affiliate networks and can receive conversion information via API. This is the deepest and most reliable type of integration that users can utilize to track offers from the following networks:
Passing conversion info to Facebook
The extension to the postbacks feature is an option to pass those conversions to Facebook.
People that don’t use Facebook for advertising may not be impressed, after all, the traffic source postback URL feature has been around for years. But if you have dealt with Facebook you would know that Facebook accepts conversions only from domains where ownership has been verified.
That’s a problem for marketers that use 3rd party offers.
Luckily Voluum has a solution for this. This solution allows you to verify any domain that you have control over in Facebook and then use it to generate postbacks and send them with conversion info. This allows you to still use Facebook reporting and conversion optimization features that you would normally didn’t have access to.
Reliable tracking is the core of Voluum functionality but it is far from being the only one. Once you’ve set up cookieless tracking for your campaigns, you can integrate various traffic sources to your advantage to pass cost information via API.
Advanced real-time reporting with over 30 data points.
Collaboration tools with workspaces and various user roles.
And many others. All created to make making money easier.
The people behind the Voluum ad tracker have their fingers on the pulse of the industry. They monitor the situation and plan ahead to have their product always ready and working for its customers.
We have to be ahead of things because we simply cannot afford not to be.
Any past updates to the advertising industry have been announced ahead of time, giving plenty of time to develop countermeasures. If you stick with Voluum we can guarantee that you will always have a futureproof product.
For example, when Apple has restricted access to IDFA for advertisers due to privacy concerns over user in iOS14.5, Voluum was the first affiliate ad tracker that allowed receiving postbacks with no click ID info. The mobile conversion attribution is done using campaign ID. This allows for continuous use of mobile attribution tools such as AppsFlyer. More on that in our article about iOS14.5 update.