The search dilemma: looking beyond Google’s third-party cookie death
- 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 already has access to your:
- 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.
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