What Is Cookie-Free Targeting?

Third-party cookies are going away soon so it’s time to prepare for cookie-free targeting. How can you get the same level of ad personalization without them?

Privacy laws continue to change. Consumers are increasingly concerned about how their information is gathered and shared by brands. Third-party cookies track your online behavior. They are the backbone of most of ad targeting technology. Many view this as violating people’s online privacy. 

Companies are looking beyond cookies for new ways to connect with customers online, especially the browsers where these transactions happen. Watch the Cookie Deprecation Delay video to hear what David Finkelstein has to say. David is a Forbes Tech Council Member and BDEX’s Co-Founder & CEO.

The ad measurement company Comscore recently announced that it would pursue completely cookie-free targeting with a nod to staying compliant with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). GDPR is a major data protection law passed a few years ago that applies to all European citizens on the internet, regardless of where the sites they’re browsing are based.

So, what is cookie-free targeting? Let’s look at how it works in today’s privacy-forward climate.

What is cookie-free targeting?

First Party Data

First, cookies are bits of data that are gathered from an online user’s browsing history. Third-party cookies are placed on a browser by someone who isn’t the website owner (usually by an ad on that page). Thus, cookie data is collected by a third party, such as an advertiser or social media plugin. First-party cookies are placed on the website by the owner or publisher.

Marketers track third-party cookies to understand how people are behauving online and the kind of activities they’re taking part in. They can reveal browsing habits and interests, so brands can market to them with the most relevant information possible.

Marketers use third-party cookies to:

  • Create targeted ads
  • Track customers’ interest in certain content
  • Create personalized experiences
  • Track website traffic

Even while consumers are wary of their data privacy, they also want personalized ads. Marketers have thus started to depend on cookies to understand their audiences better and focus on personalization. When you see an online ad for something you never knew you wanted until it popped up in your browser, cookies probably played a role.

However, third-party cookies aren’t a requirement to meet these goals. In fact, data that doesn’t rely on cookies can be more accurate and meaningful.

Cookie-free targeting relies on first-party data pulled from your own methods and interactions with your customers and leads. Not only do you get more information, but you also get to know your audience better than you would otherwise. And the prospect of better targeting is a good motivator to get you to work harder for the data you want.

How to target without third-party cookies

To clarify, brands can still use cookies on their websites regardless of the Google ban in fact, you’ll have to for maintaining logins and user sessions just not third-party cookies. While third-party cookies can provide valuable information about customers and their behaviors, they are certainly not required to market effectively. 

Here are three ways to improve targeting without third-party cookies:

  • CRM: Customer relationship management (CRM) can help you significantly in tracking and understanding leads. You can track who has visited your website, who’s subscribing to your social and email channels, and who signs up for your special content. A CRM will help you build and manage data about your audiences. You can track the customer’s journey, get to know their priorities, and make predictions. 
  • Contextual advertising: This approach to targeting allows you to display content that’s relevant to the content visitors are reading about on a website. Targeting your ads to a website, app, podcast, or video series, rather than the individuals viewing them, is an example of contextual advertising. 
  • MAIDs: Mobile ad IDs (MAIDs) are identifiers made up of a string of symbols on mobile devices that allow marketers to track and target users. MAIDs allow you to track location data, so you can send out relevant ads based on what people are doing at a given time. They also help you track apps they’re using and their customer journey and behaviors. Tapping into your mobile audience is a must because 85% of Americans own a smartphone, and many of these users regularly make purchases on their devices.

These alternatives will give you some ideas for implementing the same level of personalized targeting without third-party cookies. Your targeted advertising strategies can be just as effective and will connect you with the right people who are looking for services you provide.

Get the right data from BDEX

You also need to get your data from the right source. Unfortunately, because there’s so much data out there, a lot of it is bad. Poor data quality costs the U.S. economy more than $3 trillion per year. 

At BDEX, we prioritize data quality by focusing on accuracy, completeness, reliability, timeliness, relevance, and availability. Our BDEX Data Exchange Platform (DXP) has more user data than any other platform, helping you build the meaningful human connections you’re looking for. We provide hashed email addresses and MAIDs. These are safe from blocked cookies, so you can create more relevant ads and connect with the right people.
Contact the BDEX team to learn more about our data solutions.