Third-party cookies have long been a part of how advertisers track user behavior on the web for marketing purposes. By adding simple tags to a page, advertisers can build user-profiles and better target advertising to customer needs.

However, this tried and true method is poised to change. In 2023, Google will finalize the third-party cookie deprecation process, altering the ways in which countless companies will handle ad targeting. These top seven questions can help you both understand this changing landscape and create a game plan for the future.

What Are Third-Party Advertising Cookies?

Third-party cookies are cookies that are placed on a website you are visiting from any other third-party website e.g Facebook. If the website you are visiting has a Facebook like button, this button would store third-party cookies. These cookies are placed on sites using various scripts or tags, and then are used to track customer behavior across the internet. With these cookies, advertisers can follow user behavior and tailor ads accordingly.

What Is the Difference Between a First-Party Cookie and a Third-Party Cookie?

A first-party cookie is one placed specifically by a publisher, either via the web server or any JavaScript that loads on the website, for internal use. Third-party cookies are those placed by any other party, generally through a third-party server like an AdTech vendor. The primary difference lies in who places the cookie – the website owner or a third-party advertising on the site.

What Is the Future of Third-Party Cookies?

Google has been discussing phasing out the use of third-party cookies for some time now, but the future is finally here. Starting in 2022, Google will begin blocking third-party cookies in Chrome. This process is already underway for Safari and Firefox, but since Chrome accounts for 64% of browsers around the world, the impact will be far more significant into next year.

Why Is Google Phasing Out Third-Party Cookies?

The end of the third-party cookie is largely driven by privacy concerns. Consumers are motivated by protecting personal information, as well as transparency by providers and choice and control over how data is used.

Once third-party cookies are out of the way, Google’s Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) will take precedence instead. Using this technology, which rolled out in 2019, Chrome keeps track of browsing habits and uses this information to place its users in “cohorts,” or groups based on browsing patterns. Advertisers must then target ads to cohorts rather than individual users. This allows a similar end result for a user, but a wholly different process for advertisers.

What Is the Google Third-Party Cookie Timeline?

Google’s plan to move away from third-party cookies is scheduled over a number of years, starting with a test stage in late 2022. During this time, which is anticipated to last around nine months, publishers and advertisers will have the opportunity to migrate services. In mid-2023, support for third-party cookies will begin to phase out, with a completion date targeted for late 2023.

What Happens When Third-Party Cookies Go Away?

When thirty-party cookies are no longer an option, advertisers will still be able to use first-party cookies and private sandbox tools with Google Ads. However, platforms that exclusively use third-party data will need to pivot directions as there is no directly comparable backup in place. FLoC will be the next best thing, but incorporation won’t be an overnight process.

What Will Replace Third-Party Cookies?

Google doesn’t intend to replace third-party cookies in a direct way, which means advertisers and publishers will need to find other ways to hone in on target audiences.

This may mean utilizing more first-party data collection, as well as contextual advertising, a keyword-focused way to target using the context of other products or topics on a screen to place ads. People-based targeting is also an option; this is similar to how Facebook functions, with a customer-centric approach. Google’s Privacy Sandbox can be a possibility for those dependent on Google’s infrastructure as well. This allows access to FLoC and Google’s cohorts to place ads. How this is handled will vary from one brand to another, and may involve the use of a variety of strategies.