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The search dilemma: looking beyond Google’s third-party cookie death

April 17, 2021 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • In 2020, majority of the 181.7 billion U.S. dollar revenues came from advertising through Google Sites or its network sites
  • Even though they will be removing the third-party cookie from 2022, the search giant still has a wealth of first-party data from its 270+ products, services, and platforms
  • The Trade Desk’s 20 percent stock price drop is proof of Google’s monopoly and why it shouldn’t enjoy it anymore
  • Google expert, Susan Dolan draws from her rich experience and details the current search scape, insights and predicts future key themes that will arise out of the 3p cookie death

Imagine search as a jungle gym, you automatically imagine Google as the kingpin player on this ground. This has been a reality for decades now and we all know the downside of autonomy which is why the industry now acknowledges a need for regulation. Google announced that it would remove the third-party cookie from 2022. But a lot can happen in a year, 2020 is proof of that! Does this mean that cookies will completely bite the dust? Think again. I dive deep into years of my experience with the web to share some thoughts, observations, and insights on what this really means.

For once, Google is a laggard

Given the monopoly that Google has enjoyed and the list of lawsuits (like the anti-trust one and more) this move is a regulatory step to create a “net-vironment” that feels less like a net and is driven towards transparency and search scape equality.

But Firefox and Safari had already beaten Google to the punch in 2019 and 2020 respectively. Safari had launched the Safari Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) update on March 23, 2020. Firefox had launched its Enhanced Tracking Protection feature in September 2019 to empower and protect users from third-party tracking cookies and crypto miners.

Google’s solution to respect user privacy

Google recently announced that it won’t be using identifiers. Google is developing a ‘Privacy Sandbox’ to ensure that publishers, advertisers, and consumers find a fair middle ground in terms of data control, access, and tracking. The idea is to protect anonymity while still delivering results for advertisers and publishers. The Privacy Sandbox will don the FLoC API that can help with interest-based advertising. Google will not be using fingerprints, PII graphs based on people’s email addresses that other browsers use. Google will move towards a Facebook-like “Lookalike audience” model that will group users for profiling.

Did that raise eyebrows? There’s more.

Don’t be fooled – They still have a lavish spread of first-party data

Google is already rich with clusters of historical, individual unique data that they’ve stored, analyzed, predicted, and mastered over the years and across their platforms and services. These statistics give you a clear sense of the gravity of the situation:

  • Google has 270+ products and services (Source)
  • Among the leading search engines, the worldwide market share of Google in January 2021 was almost 86 percent (Source)
  • In 2020, majority of the 181.7 billion U.S. dollar revenues came from advertising through Google Sites or Google Network Sites (Source)
  • There are 246 million unique Google users in the US (Source)
  • Google Photos has over one billion active users (Source)
  • YouTube has over 1.9 billion active users each month (Source)
  • According to Google statistics, Gmail has more than 1.5 billion active users (Source)
  • A less-known fact, there are more than two million accounts on Google Ads (Source)
  • There are more than 2.9 million companies that use one or more of Google’s marketing services (Source)
  • As of Jan 2021, Google’s branch out into the Android system has won it a whopping 72 percent of the global smartphone operating system market (Source)
  • Google sees 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide (Source)

Google has an almost-never ending spectrum of products, services, and platforms –

Here’s the complete, exhaustive list of Google’s gigantic umbrella.

Google's 270+ products, services, and platforms

Source: Matrics360

Google already has access to your:

  • Location
  • Search history
  • Credit/debit card details shared on Google Pay
  • Data from businesses (more than 2.9 million!) that use Google services
  • Your device microphone
  • Mobile keyboard (G-board)
  • Apps you download from the Google Playstore and grant access to
  • Device camera, and that’s not even the tip of the iceberg

Google’s decision to eliminate the third-party cookie dropped The Trade Desk’s stock by 20 percent

Nobody should have monopoly and this incident serves as noteworthy proof. Google’s decision to drop 3p cookies shocked The Trade Desk’s stock prices causing a 20 percent slump in their stock value. The Trade Desk is the largest demand-side platform (DSP) and Google’s decision kills the demand for The Trade Desk’s proprietary Unified ID 1.0 (UID 1.0) – a unique asset that chopped out the need for cookie-syncing process and delivered match rate accuracy up to 99 percent.

Google’s statement on not using PII also jeopardizes the fate of The Trade Desk’s Unified ID 2.0. which already has more than 50 million users.

Here’s what Dave Pickles, The Trade Desk’s Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer had to say,

“Unified ID 2.0 is a broad industry collaboration that includes publishers, advertisers and all players in the ad tech ecosystem.”

“UID provides an opportunity to have conversations with consumers and provide them with the sort of transparency we as an industry have been trying to provide for a really long time.”

Adweek’s March town hall saw advertisers and publishers haunted by the mystery that surrounds Google as Google denied to participate in the event. The industry is growing precarious that Google will use this as a new way to establish market dominance that feeds its own interests.

We love cookies (only when they’re on a plate)

Cookies are annoying because they leave crumbs everywhere… on the internet! Did you know, this is how people feel about being tracked on the web:

  • 72 percent of people feel that almost everything they do online is being tracked by advertisers, technology firms or other companies
  • 81 percent say that the potential risks of data collection outweigh the benefits for them

These stats were originally sourced from Pew Research Center, but the irony, I found these stats on one of Google’s blogs.

On a hunt to escape these cookies or to understand the world’s largest “cookie jar” I checked out YouTube which seemed like a good place to start since it has over 1.9 billion monthly active users. You could visit this link to see how ads are personalized for you – the list is long!

My YouTube curiosity further landed me on this page to see how my cookies are shared (you can opt out of these). Even my least used account had 129 websites on this list, imagine how many sites are accessing your data right now.

Back in 2011 when I was the first to crack the Page rank algorithm, I could already sense the power Google held and where this giant was headed – the playground just wasn’t big enough.

Key themes that will emerge

Bottom line is, the cookie death is opening up conversations for advertising transparency and a web-verse that is user-first, and privacy compliant. Here’s what I foresee happening in search and the digital sphere:

  • Ethical consumer targeting
  • Adtech companies collaborating to find ways that respect their audience’s privacy
  • A more private, personalized web
  • More conversations around how much and what data collection is ethical
  • More user-led choices
  • Rise in the usage of alternative browsers
  • Incentivizing users to voluntarily share their data
  • Better use of technology for good

What do you think about the current climate on the internet? Join the conversation with me on @GoogleExpertUK.

Susan Dolan is a Search Engine Optimization Consultant first to crack the Google PageRank algorithm as confirmed by Eric Schmidt’s office in 2014. Susan is also the CEO of The Peoples Hub which has been built to help people and to love the planet.

The post The search dilemma: looking beyond Google’s third-party cookie death appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Everything you need to know about audience targeting without relying on third-party cookies

March 14, 2021 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Following the passage of landmark consumer privacy laws, Google announced its intention to phase out third-party cookies by 2022
  • Businesses that rely on these cookies for granular consumer data are now forced to rethink their strategies for accurate audience targeting
  • Some businesses are turning to publisher walled gardens, while others are leaning more into contextual advertising
  • Coegi’s Sean Cotton explores the challenges and opportunities marketers face in the absence of third-party cookies, as well as viable alternatives they can use to keep audience targeting on point

Following the passage of landmark consumer privacy laws, Google officially announced its intention to phase out third-party cookies on Chrome browsers by next year. This is certainly a victory for the conscious consumer wary of selling data to advertisers, but it’s also one that might leave businesses scrambling when the cookie jar disappears. But these businesses should be more excited than alarmed. While the death of third-party cookies is an obstacle, it’s also an opportunity: As alternatives to third-party cookies emerge, advertisers might find themselves better-equipped audience targeting and acquirement methods.

Third-party cookies haven’t always been perfect right out of the oven, and their quality was largely dependent on factors such as the data provider’s methodologies, the latency and recency of that data, and any related acquisition costs. Although occasionally stale, these prebuilt audiences allowed advertisers to quickly scale their audiences. The forthcoming phaseout will put pressure on marketers to rethink their strategies for accurately targeting audiences.

What are the alternatives to third-party cookies?

Publisher walled gardens (in which publishers trade free content for first-party data) are a solid starting point for advertisers seeking alternatives to third-party cookies. These audiences won’t come cheap, but it will be possible to find publishers with audiences that strongly align with your own customer base. And because these sources of data are generally authenticated, they’re also an accurate source of modeling data to use as you construct your own user databases.

Many purchases these days begin with online research, so savvy marketers are also exploring contextual advertising as a third-party cookie alternative. Mapping out the sales funnel for your product or service will help you identify opportunities for targeted advertising as your audience performs research, but it’s important to be precise at the same time. Be sure to use negative search terms and semantic recognition to prevent your brand or product from appearing in potentially embarrassing or unsafe placements. (Just consider the word “shot,” which in this day and age could relate to anything from COVID-19 or health and wellness to debates surrounding the Second Amendment.)

There’s still time for a smooth transition away from your dependency on cookies, but you shouldn’t wait much longer to get started. As you explore new ways to get your message out to precise audiences, these strategies are a great place to start:

1. Lean on second-party data

Second-party data (such as the kind provided on publisher walled gardens) can offer accurate audience targeting for advertisers in a hurry to replace third-party cookies. This type of data can inform people- or account-based marketing strategies, helping you identify individuals in a specific industry or those with a certain relevant job title. Similarly, integrating second-party data with your broader digital marketing strategy can create use cases for lookalike modeling or provide a strong foundation for sequential messaging.

Because second-party data will come at a potentially high cost, however, try to partner with publishers and providers for the long term to keep rates as low as possible. As an added benefit, this will give you time to experiment and use various types of data in different ways.

2. Implement mobile ad ID (or MAID) targeting

MAID targeting is based on an anonymous identifier associated with a user’s mobile device operating system. MAIDs have always been the go-to for application targeting because they’re privacy-compliant and serve as a great way to segment audiences based on behaviors and interests. In fact, everyone expected MAIDs to grow as mobile and in-app usage has accelerated. In the U.S., for instance, mobile users spend just over an hour more on those devices than their computers each day, and they spend 87 percent of the time on their smartphones in-app. But the death of third-party cookies will certainly accelerate the usage of these audiences across channels even more.

One of the most powerful insights offered by MAIDs is the ability to track a user’s location data. If a device is frequenting an NFL stadium, for example, you can infer that the user is a football fan, which allows a host of other inferences to form. You can also enrich MAIDs with offline deterministic data, allowing you to construct a more complete picture of the user, their demographic information, and their relevant interests.

Note that recent changes to Apple’s iOS 14 platform might limit this type of targeting on the company’s devices. Besides this, it’s also important to verify the precision and accuracy of the provider giving you location data.

3. Build custom models and indexes

Algorithmic targeting or lookalike modeling caught a bad rap from advertisers who worried the modeled audiences would broaden targeting too far. But as the quality of your audience input increases, the quality of your modeling output increases as well. In other words, concerns are justified only if you’re modeling audiences after modeled data.

On the other hand, models can be an excellent source of additional insight if you’re using deterministic data. This information comes from all kinds of sources, including social media platforms, questionnaires and surveys, and e-commerce sites that have information on user purchase history. In short, it’s data you can trust — meaning it can inform the creation of accurate audience segments and models that capture real customer intent. With deterministic data at the helm, you can create your own models and indexes to aid in your targeting efforts.

First-party data from customers and active social media followers generally provides the best source for models. Be aware of outliers when it comes to audience insights, though; signals should be strong enough to imply the target audience’s actual behavior.

4. Use Unified ID solutions

The death of third-party cookies doesn’t mean the death of all your strategies, and you can expect to see a variety of sophisticated solutions emerge in the coming years that offer audience segmentation with increased control for advertisers and enhanced privacy protections for consumers. In fact, some companies are already working collaboratively to create Unified ID solutions that modernize audience targeting and measurement.

The solutions they’re creating aim to collect user information (such as email addresses) in exchange for free content. Those addresses will then be assigned encrypted IDs that are transmitted along the bid stream to advertisers. If publishers widely adopt unified identity products, they’ll provide an excellent alternative to an overreliance on walled gardens.

However, one of the biggest hurdles for a unified ID solution will be scalability: It will likely not be a solution that can stand on its own for some time.

The death of third-party cookies will absolutely shake up the advertising world, but that’s probably a good thing. Cookies were never designed to be the backbone of digital advertising, and their disappearance makes room for alternatives to third-party cookies that actually deliver a better experience for advertisers and the audiences they’re looking to target. As advertisers gain more granular control over who hears their messaging (and when) and customer data is ensconced behind modern encryption and privacy protection tools, it’s not hard to argue that everyone wins when we put away the cookie jar.

Sean Cotton is the president and co-founder of Coegi.

The post Everything you need to know about audience targeting without relying on third-party cookies appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Fleetsmith customers unhappy with loss of third-party app support after Apple acquisition

June 27, 2020 No Comments

When Apple confirmed it had acquired Fleetsmith, a mobile device management vendor, on Wednesday, it seemed like a straightforward purchase, but Fleetsmith customers quickly learned a key piece of functionality had stopped working  — and many weren’t happy about it.

Apple systems administrators began complaining on social media on the morning of the acquisition announcement that the company was no longer allowing them to connect to third-party applications.

“Primarily Fleetsmith maintained a third-party app catalog, so you could deploy things like Chrome or Zoom to your Macs, and Fleetsmith would maintain security updates for those apps. This was the main reason we purchased Fleetsmith,” a Fleetsmith customer told TechCrunch.

The customer added that the company described this functionality as a major feature in a company blog post:

For apps like Chrome, which are managed through the Fleetsmith Catalog, we handle all aspects of testing, packaging, triage, and deployment automatically. Whenever there’s an update (including security patches), we quickly add them to the Catalog so that our customers can enforce the latest version. In this case, we had the Chrome 78.0.3904.87 patch up within a couple hours of the update dropping.

As one system administrator pointed out, being able to manage Chrome browser security in an automated way was a huge part of this, and that was also removed along with third party app support.

As it turned out, Apple had made it clear that it was discontinuing this feature in an email to Fleetsmith customers on the day of the transition. The email included links to several help articles that were supposed to assist admins with the transition. (The email is included in full at the end of this article.)

The general consensus among admins that I spoke to was that these articles were not terribly helpful. While they described a way to fix the issues, they said that Apple has turned what was a highly automated experience into a highly manual one, effectively eliminating the speed and ease of use advantage of having the update feature in the first place.

Apple did confirm that it had responded to some help ticket requests after the changes this week, saying that it would soon restore some configurations for Catalog apps, and was working with impacted customers as needed. The company did not make clear, however, why they removed this functionality in the first place.

Fleetsmith offered a couple of key features that appealed to Mac system administrators. For starters, it let them set up new Macs automatically out of the box. This allows them to ship a new Mac or other Apple device, and as soon as the employee powers it up and connects to Wi-Fi, it connects to Fleetsmith, where systems administrators can track usage and updates. In addition, it allowed System Administrators to enforce Apple security and OS updates on company devices.

What’s more, it could also do the same thing with third-party applications like Google Chrome, Zoom or many others. When these companies pushed a new update, system administrators could make sure all users had the most recent version running on their machines. This is the key functionality that was removed this week.

It’s not clear why Apple chose to strip out these features outlined in the email to customers, but it seems likely that most of this functionality isn’t coming back, other than restoring some configurations for Catalog apps.

Email that went out to Fleetsmith customers the day of the acquisition outlining the changes:

 

Attempts to reach Fleetsmith founders for comment were unsuccessful. Should that change we will update the article.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


Hitchhiker’s guide to the end of the third-party cookie as we know it

March 25, 2020 No Comments

Google’s planned cross-site tracking changes for Chrome are far from earth-shattering, and with a few safety checks, you should be good to go. Let’s take a look at what Google has planned and what folks in the ad tech and martech world need to do:

How Google Chrome’s privacy update affects ad tech

As of this month, Google has implemented a new secure-by-default model for cookies, enabled by a new cookie classification system.

This system will stop sending third-party cookies in cross-site requests unless the cookies are secure and flagged through SameSite, which is meant to prevent the browser from sending the cookie along with cross-site requests.

While SameSite is not a particularly new concept, this will be the first time a secure cookie flag will be a requirement for those using Chrome — not just a best practice, as it has been up until now.

Google implemented these new requirements with Chrome 80 on February 4 as the first step in a larger multi-year plan to phase out support for third-party cookies, leaving the ad tech and martech industry with just a few weeks left to make the necessary tweaks to ensure their cookies continue to function properly.

The Google Chrome update means a little change, but a lot of hype for ad tech 

Given similar changes that have already been made by browsers like Safari, this new update from Google is not something that should send advertisers into a panic.

If anything, these updates are part of the ongoing trend in creating more stringent policies regarding data and privacy.

While Google represents the most immediate change, Mozilla and Microsoft both have similar updates planned in the future. But while this may soon become the new norm, advertisers need to prepare now in order to avoid data loss and chaos later.

When it comes to privacy updates, fortune favors the prepared 

So, what steps should anyone in the ad tech industry take to make sure they aren’t caught unaware?

First, any organization that hasn’t already moved to HTTPS must do so before the changes go into effect, or risk having their cookies discarded by Chrome.

Second, any tech vendors that use tracking cookies will have to set SameSite cookie attributes with one of three values: “strict,” “lax,” or “none.”

A setting of “strict” means that a cookie will not work on any website other than the domain in which it was placed. A setting of “lax” allows cookies to be shared across domains owned by the same publisher, and a setting of “none” allows full third-party cookie sharing, providing other security requirements are met.

Today, “SameSite=None” is the default within Google Chrome, but as of February, developers have to manually enable “SameSite=None” in order for cookies to continue working.

If they do not, cookies will automatically default to “SameSite=lax,” and will cease working across all websites.

What’s the future of cookie-based tracking?

Given Google’s expressed intent to “make third-party cookies obsolete,” it’s clear that the industry needs to be prepared for a world without the ability to track users with third-party cookies.

As I’ve said before in the context of Apple’s ITP, the best way to future-proof your partnerships program is to take advantage of server-to-server tracking — in other words, APIs.

I believe APIs are the future of online tracking, and not just because they provide a way to circumvent browser policies.

When an advertiser can communicate directly with a tech platform without relying on a browser as an intermediary, it means better attribution and less sharing of user data — and that’s a win for everyone.

Matt Moore is a Product Marketing Manager at Impact, and he’s been in the affiliate and partnerships space for the last six years. He’s always on the lookout for a good story to tell or a good dog GIF to share.

The post Hitchhiker’s guide to the end of the third-party cookie as we know it appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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6 million users had installed third-party Twitter clients

August 20, 2018 No Comments

Twitter tried to downplay the impact deactivating its legacy APIs would have on its community and the third-party Twitter clients preferred by many power users by saying that “less than 1%” of Twitter developers were using these old APIs. Twitter is correct in its characterization of the size of this developer base, but it’s overlooking millions of third-party app users in the process. According to data from Sensor Tower, six million App Store and Google Play users installed the top five third-party Twitter clients between January 2014 and July 2018.

Over the past year, these top third-party apps were downloaded 500,000 times.

This data is largely free of reinstalls, the firm also said.

The top third-party Twitter apps users installed over the past three-and-a-half years have included: Twitterrific, Echofon, TweetCaster, Tweetbot and Ubersocial.

Of course, some portion of those users may have since switched to Twitter’s native app for iOS or Android, or they may run both a third-party app and Twitter’s own app in parallel.

Even if only some of these six million users remain, they represent a small, vocal and — in some cases, prominent — user base. It’s one that is very upset right now, too. And for a company that just posted a loss of one million users during its last earnings, it seems odd that Twitter would not figure out a way to accommodate this crowd, or even bring them on board its new API platform to make money from them.

Twitter, apparently, was weighing data and facts, not user sentiment and public perception, when it made this decision. But some things have more value than numbers on a spreadsheet. They are part of a company’s history and culture. Of course, Twitter has every right to blow all that up and move on, but that doesn’t make it the right decision.

To be fair, Twitter is not lying when it says this is a small group. The third-party user base is tiny compared with Twitter’s native app user base. During the same time that six million people were downloading third-party apps, the official Twitter app was installed a whopping 560 million times across iOS and Android. That puts the third-party apps’ share of installs at about 1.1 percent of the total.

That user base may have been shrinking over the years, too. During the past year, while the top third-party apps were installed half a million times, Twitter’s app was installed 117 million times. This made third-party apps’ share only about 0.4 percent of downloads, giving the official app a 99 percent market share.

But third-party app developers and the apps’ users are power users. Zealots, even. Evangelists.

Twitter itself credited them with pioneering “product features we all know and love,” like the mute option, pull-to-refresh and more. That means the apps’ continued existence brings more value to Twitter’s service than numbers alone can show.

Image credit: iMore

They are part of Twitter’s history. You can even credit one of the apps for Twitter’s logo! Initially, Twitter only had a typeset version of its name. Then Twitterrific came along and introduced a bird for its logo. Twitter soon followed.

Twitterrific was also the first to use the word “tweet,” which is now standard Twitter lingo. (The company used “twitter-ing.” Can you imagine?)

These third-party apps also play a role in retaining users who struggle with the new user experience Twitter has adopted — its algorithmic timeline. Instead, the apps offer a chronological view of tweets, as some continue to prefer.

Twitter’s decision to cripple these developers’ apps is shameful.

It shows a lack of respect for Twitter’s history, its power user base, its culture of innovation and its very own nature as a platform, not a destination.

P.S.:

twitterrific

Mobile – TechCrunch


Prominent Twitter accounts compromised after third-party app Twitter Counter hacked

March 15, 2017 No Comments

 A number of prominent Twitter accounts were hacked to tweet Nazi messages after Twitter Counter, a popular tool for analyzing Twitter followers, was hacked. Official Twitter accounts belonging to Amnesty International, Forbes and other prominent organizations, not to mention many regular users, were accessed to post swastikas and other Nazi-related messages in a move thought to be… Read More
Social – TechCrunch


Klarna tracks third-party iframe with Universal Analytics’ cookieless approach

February 22, 2014 No Comments
Klarna is one of the biggest providers in Europe of in-store credit and invoice based payment solutions for the ecommerce sector. The company enables the end-consumer to order and receive products, then pay for them afterwards. Klarna assesses the credit and fraud risk for the  merchant, allowing the merchant to have a zero-friction checkout process – a win-win for the merchant-customer relationship.

Third-party domains pose a problem

Merchants use Klarna’s iframed checkout solution. The iframe is located on the merchant’s domain, but the actual iframe contents are hosted on  Klarna’s own domain. Browsers such as Safari on iPhone and iPad, and later generation desktop browsers such as Internet Explorer 10 prevent  third-party cookies by default. Many analytics solutions rely on the use of cookies though. In order to prevent the loss of nearly all iPhone visits and  many desktop visits, Klarna wanted to address this problem.

A cookieless approach to the rescue

Working with Google Analytics Certified Partner Outfox, Klarna found exactly what it needed in Universal Analytics, which introduces a set of features that change the way data is collected and organized in Google Analytics accounts. In addition to standard Google Analytics features, Universal Analytics provides new data collection methods, simplified feature configuration, custom dimensions and metrics, and multi-platform tracking.

“Thanks to Universal Analytics we can track the iframe on our merchants’ domains and be sure we get all traffic.”

– David Fock, Vice President Commerce, Klarna

In Klarna’s new cookieless approach, the “storage: none” option was selected in creating the account in Universal Analytics. The checkout iframe meanwhile uses a unique non-personally identifiable ‘client ID’. These measures cause Universal Analytics to disable cookies and instead use the client ID as a session identifier. Because no cookies are in use, browsers that don’t allow for third-party cookies aren’t an issue at all.

Virtual pageviews are sent on checkout form interactions. Custom dimensions and metrics are used for tagging a visit, with a dimension  indicating which merchant is hosting the iframe, and a metric showing what cart value the user brings to the checkout.

Complete tracking and assured analysis

With Universal Analytics features, Klarna ensures iframe tracking is complete across all browsers. By using the virtual pageviews as URL goals  and funnel steps, goal flow visualizations are used to find bottlenecks in the checkout flow. The new custom dimensions and metrics together with  ecommerce tracking mean that reports can now be set up to reveal how each merchant’s cart value correlates to its final transaction value.

Be sure to check out the whole case study here.Posted by the Google Analytics Team


Google Analytics Blog


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