Surviving a cookie free world

In last week’s column, we talked about the fact that third-party cookies and our ability to use the data those cookies mined are going away. The question, of course, becomes – how do we pivot the way we’ve been marketing online to prepare for this change?

Cookies allowed us to track and follow people online at an individual level. Their online behavior allowed us to determine particular interests or buying patterns. We could then put them into an advertising sequence that followed them on the web and served up the ads specifically targeted to them because of what we’d learned.

We’ve all experienced it as consumers, and most of us have leveraged it as marketers. The good news is, there are other effective ways to get your message in front of the right consumer.

First-party data: This is not a new concept, but now it’s critical. We have to find ways to get to know our own customers better. First-party data is the information you collect directly from your audience or customers. It includes data from behaviors, actions, or interests indicated across your website or app. It would also be information you have in your CRM system and your subscription and social data.

First-party data also includes off-line information you might gather like completed surveys, customer feedback, and other information you gathered during the sales process.

The more you know about your customers and even potential customers, the more personalized your communications can be to them as a captive audience. But those relationships also support your outbound marketing efforts. In terms of knowing who to target, the more you know about who already loves you and what matters to them, the easier it is to craft marketing messages to attract more clients that look a lot like them.

Contextual targeting: Contextual advertising or targeting refers to the practice of placing ads on web pages based on the content of those pages. For example, this could be ads for a fishing rod on a news article about fly fishing, or it could be ads for laptops on an appropriate eCommerce site. This is done through contextual targeting on an ad network, which involves segmenting ads based on parameters like keyword or website topics.

This concept may have a place on your own website or social channels, but it’s also a smart way to buy ads or links on other properties. If done well, your ad can feel like part of the story or theme of the page.

Keyword targeting: Keyword targeting uses keywords relevant to your product or service in website and ad copy to achieve a top listing in the search engines. Proper keyword research is vital to determine which keywords your business should be targeting.

This is SEO 101. There are many tools to help you determine which keywords have enough search volume to be beneficial for you. As you build out your content strategy, this should be one of the most significant criteria. It’s an art form to create useful, engaging content that also supports your keyword objectives. This is not about keyword stuffing. It’s about knowing your audience well enough to write what they’ll find valuable and are already searching for.

You’re going to be hearing a lot more about the crumbling cookie, but you don’t have to worry. While it has undoubtedly served marketers well, we have many other tools and tactics at our disposal.

If we’re being honest, some of the tools I’ve reminded you of in this column are actually more effective and better for our audience long-term. And when we serve our audience more authentically and helpfully – we always benefit in the long run, as do they.


This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.