The Search Dilemma: Looking Beyond Google’s Third Party Cookie Death
30 second summary:
- In 2020, most of the $ 181.7 billion in revenue came from advertising on Google Sites or their network sites
- Although the third-party cookie will be removed 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 drop in price is evidence of Google’s monopoly and why it should no longer be enjoyed
- The Google expert Susan Dolan draws from her rich experience and in detail the current search environment, insights and predicts future key topics that will result from the 3p cookie death
Think of the search as a climbing frame. You automatically imagine Google as the kingpin player in this field. This has been a reality for decades and we all know the drawbacks of autonomy which is why the industry is now recognizing the need for regulation. Google has announced that it will remove a third-party cookie from 2022. However, a lot can happen in a year. 2020 is proof of that! Does this mean cookies completely bite the dust? Think again I dive deep into years of experience with the internet to share some thoughts, observations, and insights on what this really means.
For once, Google is a latecomer
Given the monopoly that Google has enjoyed and the list of lawsuits (such as antitrust law and several), this move is a regulatory move to create a “web environment” that feels less like a web and is geared towards transparency and search equality.
But Firefox and Safari had beaten Google in 2019 and 2020, respectively. Safari released the ITP (Safari Intelligent Tracking Prevention) update on March 23, 2020. Firefox introduced the “Extended Tracking Protection” feature in September 2019 to protect users from tracking cookies and third-party crypto miners.
Google’s solution for protecting user privacy
Google recently announced that it would not use identifiers. Google is developing a “privacy sandbox” to ensure that publishers, advertisers and consumers strike a fair balance in terms of data control, access and tracking. The idea is to protect anonymity while delivering results for advertisers and publishers. The Privacy Sandbox will use the FLoC API which can help with interest-based advertising. Google doesn’t use fingerprints or PII graphics based on other people’s email addresses. Google will turn to a Facebook-like “lookalike audience” model that groups users together for profiling.
Did that raise your eyebrows? There is more.
Don’t be fooled – you still have a rich distribution of first party data
Google is already rich in clusters of historical, individual, unique data that has been stored, analyzed, predicted, and mastered over the years and across its platforms and services. These statistics will give you a clear idea of the severity of the situation:
- Google has more than 270 products and services (source)
- Among the leading search engines, Google’s global market share was almost 86 percent in January 2021 (source)
- In 2020, the bulk of the $ 181.7 billion in revenue came from advertising on Google Sites or Google Network Sites (source).
- There are 246 million unique Google users in the US (source)
- Google Photos has over a billion active users (source)
- YouTube has over 1.9 billion active users every month (source)
- According to Google statistics, Gmail has more than 1.5 billion active users (source)
- A lesser known fact is that Google Ads (source) has over two million accounts.
- There are more than 2.9 million companies using one or more of Google’s marketing services (source)
- As of January 2021, Google’s branch into the Android system has gained a whopping 72 percent of the global market for smartphone operating systems (source).
- Google sees 3.5 billion search queries worldwide and 1.2 trillion search queries per year (source)
Google has an almost never-ending range of products, services and platforms –
Here is the full, full list of Google’s gigantic umbrella.
Google already has access to your:
- Search history
- Credit / debit card information shared on Google Pay
- Data from companies (more than 2.9 million!) That use Google services
- Your device microphone
- Mobile keyboard (G-Board)
- Apps that you download from the Google Playstore and to which you grant access
- Device camera, and that’s not even the tip of the iceberg
Google’s decision to remove a third-party cookie reduced The Trade Desk’s inventory by 20 percent
Nobody should have a monopoly and this incident serves as remarkable evidence. Google’s decision to delete 3p cookies shocked The Trade Desk’s share prices, causing its share value to plummet 20 percent. The Trade Desk is the largest demand-side platform (DSP), and Google’s decision has reduced the demand for The Trade Desk’s proprietary Unified ID 1.0 (UID 1.0) – a unique asset that eliminates the need for a cookie synchronization process and the accuracy of the Match rate eliminates up to 99 percent.
Google’s statement not to use personal data also endangers the fate of The Trade Desk’s Unified ID 2.0. that already has more than 50 million users.
Here’s what Dave Pickles, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of The Trade Desk, had to say:
“Unified ID 2.0 is an extensive industry collaboration that includes publishers, advertisers and everyone in the ad tech ecosystem.”
“UID offers the opportunity to hold discussions with consumers and offer them the transparency that we as an industry have long been trying to offer.”
At Adweek City Hall in March, advertisers and publishers were plagued by the mystery surrounding Google when Google refused to attend the event. The industry is becoming more and more precarious that Google will use this as a new way to establish a 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 that this is how people think when they are followed on the web:
- 72 percent of people think that almost everything they do online is being followed by advertisers, technology firms, or other companies
- 81 percent say the potential risks of data ingestion outweigh the benefits to them
These stats are originally from the Pew Research Center, but the irony is that I found these stats on one of the Google blogs.
In search of escaping those cookies, or trying to understand the world’s largest “cookie jar”, I checked out YouTube, which seemed like a good place to start as it has over 1.9 billion monthly active users. You can visit this link to see how ads are personalized for you – the list goes on!
My YouTube curiosity brought me further to this page to see how my cookies are shared (you can turn them off). Even my least used account had 129 sites on this list. Imagine how many websites are accessing your data right now.
When I was the first to crack the page rank algorithm in 2011, I could already feel the power Google had and where this giant was going – the playground just wasn’t big enough.
The bottom line is that cookie death opens up conversations for advertising transparency and a web verse that is user-centric and privacy compliant. I foresee the following in search and in the digital realm:
- Ethical consumer targeting
- Adtech companies work together to find ways that respect their audience’s privacy
- A more private, personalized web
- More talks about how much and what kind of data collection is ethical
- More user-guided choices
- Increase the use of alternative browsers
- Incentives for users to voluntarily share their data
- Make better use of technology forever
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 who was the 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 is designed to help people and love the planet.