Google Guides: Are Cookies Going to Be Banned?
Did you know that Google makes up 56% of the web browser market? Additionally, it also accounts for 76% and 86% of desktop and mobile search traffic.
For YouTubers, Google has been helpful in raising their YouTube CPM rates through Google-based systems.
But in January 2020, Google announced it will no longer be supporting third-party cookies in Chrome by 2022. The move was an initiative to enhance online privacy as the threat kept growing.
Due to the cookie phase-out, 41% believe that their biggest challenge would be the ability to track the correct data.
This post discusses how the ban will affect programmatic advertising when Google reaches its intended deadline.
What Is A Cookie?
In web programming, cookies are small blocks of data that a server creates while a user is browsing through a website. The browser then saves the data on the user’s computer or any other device used to access the website.
The exact definition applies to the “what is a Google cookie?” query.
While most people associate cookies with malicious activity.
They actually help improve the user’s online experience by saving the user’s browsing information.
Cookies can remember the user site preferences and give them locally relevant content.
There are two types of cookies. First-party cookies are generated by the website a user visits and show the website on the address bar.
Third-party cookies are a bit different. They are generated by other sites that own some of the content, like images or ads that the user sees on a website.
Google intends to phase out third-party cookies over the growing concern of tracking user data.
A user has the authority to delete all cookies, block or allow all cookies, and set preferences for specific websites.
Google Cookie Ban
Google has been lagging when it comes to implementing third-party cookie bans. Other browsers such as Safari and Firefox have already blocked such cookies. However, Google is the most significant market shareholder.
The ban looks like an apocalypse for programmatic video advertisers.
The phase-out was first announced in 2020, with a two-year deadline being set as Google negotiated with stakeholders. But as it stands now, Google is facing significant issues while trying to reach its deadline.
Critics say that the cookie ban is forcing ad sellers to go directly to Google for ad information giving it an unfair advantage. In June 2021, Google announced it was pushing back its third-party cookie phase-out deadline until 2023.
Many digital marketing agencies gladly welcomed the new developments. They want the extended period to be for constructive consultancy. It should include regulators, advertisers, or anyone affected by the change.
Google has already rolled out one of its privacy policies under the Privacy Sandbox. Google claims to be trying The Federated Learning of Cohorts, commonly known as FLoC.
The policy has already received backlash from the Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF). They describe it as “(Internet) users begin every interaction with a confession.”
The privacy sandbox is a collection of technologies that Google is building. The advertising industry and other stakeholders are also present. Google announced the technologies before announcing they were about to phase out third-party apps.
The sandbox is to be more privacy-friendly than previous third-party apps. It doesn’t have to decimate advertisers in the process.
The sandbox features ways that web browsers can handle spam and how user’s sign in to websites. It also features various ways of changing online and programmatic video advertising.
It provides tools that help to measure how much users click on ads and interact with the ad in some way. The privacy sandbox can also measure different ways to show users ads while they are online.
While major players in ads disapprove of the ban for third-party apps. Website owners are rejoicing since they get the data previously controlled by Google.
In March 2021, Google Chrome began real-world testing of the FLoC system. Putting it to work in millions of web browsers. FLoC is a third-party cookies replacement on Google Chrome.
The company says the system is 95% effective in showing users’ adverts they have an interest in.
After the ban, when people ask what is a google cookie? Floc will be the answer given. The technology will be handy for showing ads to users whose browsers belong to a cohort that has been observed to visit an advertiser’s website frequently or show interest in similar topics.
It uses machine-learning models to predict the probability that a user will convert based on their particular cohort. This will inform ad auction bidding behavior, and it will also be used for recommending content to users.
How Floc will work
The FLoC service that a browser uses creates a mathematical model with many cohorts. Each of the cohorts will correspond to thousands of web browsers that have similar browsing history data.
Every cohort is given its own unique number.
From the FLoC service, the ‘User X’ browser receives information that describes the FLoC model. The user’s browser figures out its cohort through the FLoC model’s algorithm.
It calculates the cohort that best corresponds to the user’s browsing history.
For example, if the user is in cohort 1973, the browser will not share any data with the FLoC service.
Similarly, the ‘User Y’ browser calculates the cohort id. Even if the browsing history could be different between ‘User X’ and ‘User Y,’ it could be similar enough that both their browser belong to cohort 1973.
Google has strong dominance in browsers, advertisements, and searches, making it an excellent source for cookies. Cookies in Google are used for varying reasons, such as remembering a user’s preferred language or recommending relevant ads to the user.
However, there are different types of cookies that Google uses. Some or all of the cookies used by Google may be stored in the user’s browser. The user also has the power to manage cookies through the Google personalization settings at any time.
Cookies meant for functionality allow the user to interact with a website or service to get features that are critical to that specific service.
Preferences such as the user’s default language, product optimizations that help maintain and improve service, and maintenance of information relating to the user’s sessions.
These preferences are considered to be fundamental to a service. For example, the ‘VISITOR_INFO1_LIVE’ YouTube functionality cookie contains a unique id that is used to remember a viewer’s preferences and other information such as what type of videos a user likes to watch.
Additionally, YouTube uses the ‘PREF’ cookie for storing data such as playback preferences like shuffle content, autoplay and video ratio. The cookie also stores a user’s preferred page configuration.
The ‘PERF’ cookie is available on YouTube Music as well and expires after eight months of user inactivity.
To enhance and maintain a viewer’s experience while streaming. YouTube uses the ‘YSC’ cookie to memorize user input and associate a user’s action. Unlike ‘PERF,’ ‘YSC’ lasts for as long as the user keeps their browser open.
Security cookies offer secure authentication to users, prevent instances of fraud, and protect the user for as long as they interact with a specific service. The cookies make sure that only the legitimate owner of an account can gain access to the account.
The ‘HSID’ and ‘SID’ are examples of security cookies. They contain digitally signed and encrypted records of a user’s most recent sign-in time. Most importantly, the cookie contains the user’s Google Account ID.
A stack of these cookies is effective against many forms of attacks like stealing data from forms passing through Google Services. For example, the ‘YSC’ and ‘pm_sess’ cookies are responsible for preventing abuse, spam, and fraud.
The two cookies act independently without the user’s knowledge. Blocking and preventing malicious websites that can make requests.
Analytical cookies are purely for helping to collect data. They allow services to gain insights into how users interact with a specific service. Through this data, the services can produce better content and create custom features that improve a user’s experience.
Websites also use analytical cookies to learn how users interact with their functionalities. Programmatic video ads are heavily reliant on analytical cookies. Often using a collection of them to achieve their objectives.
Google Analytics, a product from Google, also relies on a set of cookies to collect data and report results without personally identifying individual visitors to Google. Analytics is primarily for understanding how visitors interact with a website or app.
It mainly uses the ‘_ga’ cookie, which enables a service to differentiate between different users and expires after two years. The cookie is compatible and accessible to any product that implements Google Analytics.
Today, 75% of videos advertisements are programmatic. Programmatic videos advertising refers to a machine-learning technology that uses bots to purchase advertising space following a specific set of requirements.
The functionalities for cookies meant for advertisements include personalizing ads, limiting the rate at which an ad appears to a user, muting ads that the user has chosen, measuring how effective the ads are, and finally serving and rendering ads.
Most Google services, like YouTube, commonly use the following cookies to form an ads cookie stack.
The ‘ANID’ cookies memorize the setting for any personalized ads that the user has enabled. After 13 months in the United Kingdom, Switzerland and the European Economic Area (EEA), and Switzerland, the cookie expires.
Everywhere else in the world, the cookie will expire after 24 months. Alternatively, if the user has no such setting enabled, ‘ANID’ will continue to store the personalized ad setting until 2030. In contrast, the ‘NID’ cookie expires six months since the user’s last activity.
‘IDE’ expires after 13 months in Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the European Economic Area (EAA). For the rest of the world, the ‘IDE’ cookie expires after 24 months.
Some cookies support Google showing ads on third-party sites and are set in the domain of the website you visit.
For example, ‘_gads’ enables websites to show Google ads, including personalized ads.
Cookies that start with ‘_gac_’ are initially a product of Google Analytics and are used by advertisers to measure user activity and the performance of their ad campaigns.
The ‘_gads’ cookie expires after 13 months, while the ‘_gac_’ cookies have a lifespan of 90 days.
Other cookies are for measuring ads, conversion rates, and campaign performance for Google ads on the website a user visits.
For example, cookies that start with ‘_gcl_’ originate from Google Analytics and are mainly used to assist advertisers in determining the number of times a user who clicks on their ads end up taking action on their website, such as booking an appointment.
The ‘_gcl_’ cookies last for 90 days. Unfortunately, cookies used for measuring conversion rates aren’t used to personalize ads.
Personalization cookies are meant explicitly for enhancing the user’s experience through personalized content and features. Based on the user’s preferred settings, some cookies enable better recommendations within a service.
For example, YouTube’s ‘VISITOR_INFO1_LIVE’ is responsible for personalizing the viewer’s recommendation list. The cookie depends on past views and searches to create the recommendation.
YouTube also features the ‘YT-PLAYER-BANDAID-Host’ cookie that is for determining the optimal video quality based on the user’s network settings and device.
The ‘NID’ cookies allow personalized autocomplete features for search bars as the user types search keywords. Both ‘NID’ and ‘VISITOR_INFO1_LIVE’ expire after six months since the user’s last activity.
Ride Through Google Cookie Bans Under the Wing of Media Shark
As the threat of Google keeps growing, stakeholders should be prepared for the inevitable future.
They should stop wasting advertising dollars since they are swimming in an ocean of online advertising, and they need to swim with the right shark.
At Media Shark, we are a digital marketing agency that interacts with its clients to come up with a marketing strategy that best works for them. We bite right into the digital marketing plan that won’t get from our jaws until we are through.
Talk to us today for free consultations, third-party cookie bands, and any queries related to digital marketing.