Blocking browser tracking cookies. How will this affect bloggers?

There has been an increasing crackdown on browser cookies lately. Have you noticed?

First of all, you’ve seen so many websites out there going out of their way to warn you about cookies and get your consent to set any cookies. (But, are these cookie notices really required?)

You also see many of the big web browsers now starting to block third-party cookies by default. Firefox does it. Safari does it. And, I am personally a user of the Brave Browser and it, of course, blocks third-party tracking (and ads) by default).

But, in case you missed it, Google just recently announced that Google Chrome would be following suit. But, of course, Google being Google, they aren’t doing it immediately. After all, a big part of their revenue works by way of third-party cookies. So, it would be suicidal for them to just block cookies instantly. So, they’re going to be phasing it in over a 2 year period.

The reasoning (or excuse, depending on how you look at it) for this move is that they want time to introduce new technologies to replace third-party cookies that won’t break everything, but will still respect user privacy.

Personally, I think this is all great stuff. But, the question for us is…

How does this impact bloggers?

Blocking third party cookies impacts bloggers in numerous ways. For instance:

  • Third-party cookies are used by most web services that integrate with your blog via a snippet of code.
  • If you host banner ads on your blog to monetize, then most certainly there are third-party cookies in play. Google Display Network, for instance, relies on 3rd-party cookies in order to serve ads based on people’s internet history.
  • If you are building a retargeting audience through Google Ads or Facebook, cookies are used in order to do that.

So, what will all this mean?

Well, some things will change. It has been a bit of a “wild wild west” out there for awhile now. User privacy be damned. But, that’s all changing.

First off – and this is THE most important thing – is that this only makes building your own community more important than ever. You need to create market segments and data that YOU own and control. This means:

  • Building your email list like you mean it.
  • Offer more direct value to your readers (things you sell) rather than by relying on third parties (like banner networks) to do it.
  • Focusing on content strategies that keep your audience engaged, keep people coming back to your site, and more.

Companies that rely on third-party data will have a much tougher time. But, building a bigger collection of first-party data positions you VERY well. Your community, your messaging, and express permission from them to communicate to them.

If you rely on data from third party tracking to targeting your customers with ads, that’s going to have to be re-thought. Now, Google’s Privacy Sandbox (their proposed solution to cookie blocking) may fix some of these holes, but the very fact that this is happening at all means it is something you should adjust to. Go where the puck is going, not where it is. Right?

I think this move is going to lead to more “walled gardens” around the internet. There will be first-party data services that big brands can work with, so a lot of ad money will stay within these walled gardens. Don’t get me wrong… I think there will continue to be a solution to retargeting. The method of doing it will just change. But, there’s too much money in it for them to simply stop allowing it.

Ad tracking will evolve as well. That will also affect affiliate marketing. So, listen up…

Right now, cookies are used to track all kinds of metrics that allow advertisers to track ROI and do deep targeting. And for affiliates, cookies are used to track who gets the credit for the sale. Some programs offer first-click attribution instead of last-minute attribution. This means that when the sale is made, credit will go to whichever affiliate FIRST sent the person there. Last-click means that whoever directly referred the sale gets the credit, even if they weren’t first. Last-click attribution is easy without cookies, but anything before that requires third-party tracking.

See the issue there? So, I think two things will come of this:

  1. Once again, it makes building your own community and list even more important. Even if it is last-click attribution for affiliates, who cares? More people are on YOUR website, so you’ll get that credit. Plus, if you really provide a lot of value, people will purposely come to YOU to use YOUR affiliate link. This happens to me all the time (and I appreciate it every time.)
  2. Advertisers are going to need to learn to get more comfortable with long term ROI rather than always seeking short term ROI. It is going to be more of a long game. It might become harder to track a particular sale to a particular ad. But, that’s OK. Because, if you are focusing on value and building long-term leverage and less on ROI of any specific campaign, you will win.

One more thing…

If advertising on your blog remains a revenue source, I think this move is going to make direct sales to advertisers more important and more common. This means… instead of relying on the big network exchanges for all your ads, you will instead sell direct to advertisers. But, this can be a good thing. More money in it. I used to do this all the time back with my tech blog and I always made good money that way.

In the end, basically what this all means is that you need to continue to up your game.

If you already are building a list and building a solid relationship with your community, then keep it up and find ways to get even better at it.

If you are just playing the numbers game, to rack up banner ad views or litter the web with affiliate niche sites that don’t foster any real relationship), then it might be tougher and perhaps you want to look at a longer term play.