POV

Google Tracking Retention After Safari & Firefox Updates

Background

Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) 2.0 was recently announced by Apple at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June 2018 and will be included in iOS 12 (mobile OS) and Mojave (Mac OS). The new feature will immediately partition cookies to limit cookie use relative to active domain; 3rd party entities will be blocked from writing a cookie on another domain, and cookies created from a first party interaction may not be used in a 3rd party state without explicit user consent (which provides permission for use of 3rd party cookies for 24 hours).  As a result, any tags not using first-party cookies on the current domain will be unable to measure conversions that occur on the Safari browser, unless explicitly approved for use in the defined window.  The changes close several loopholes that were being used to exploit Safari’s previous restrictions on 3rd party cookies, effectively closing them for most entities and diminishing capabilities for all.

The move comes on the heels of heightened interest in the security of personally identifiable information (PII). According to Craig Federighi, Apple’s SVP of software engineering, “We’ve all seen these like buttons and share buttons and these comment fields. Well, it turns out these can be used to track you whether you click on them or not. This year, we are shutting that down.” Federighi added, “Now, if you do want to interact with [a plugin] or one of these apps tries to access this information, you get a [pop-up notice] and you can decide to keep your information private.”

Google’s Potential Solution

For marketers seeking to ensure they retain the most accurate conversion measurement possible given the ITP 2.0 restrictions, Google recommends updating to one of three sitewide tagging solutions.  It is important to note that all of these solutions will write first party cookies to the users’ browser from the client site, and the client site privacy notice may need to be updated as a result.  Clients should follow their processes to appropriately consult the entity in charge of their privacy notice regarding these changes to ensure ongoing compliance.

Global Site Tag (gtag.js)

The Global Site Tag is a site-wide web tagging library that works across Google’s site and conversion measurement products. It is made up of two snippets of JavaScript: a global snippet to be placed on all pages and an event snippet to be placed on pages with specific tracking events. Unlike the current Floodlights and Google conversion tag, the Google Site Tag sets new cookies on the domain, which store unique identifiers for users or the ad clicks bringing users to the site.

Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager (GTM) is an alternative solution that works with all Google and non-Google tags. GTM requires adding the conversion linker tag on all pages for it to fire. In order to set up GTM, a piece of JavaScript code needs to be placed on all pages of the site, adding all existing tags to tag manager, and the conversion linker tag enabled for the current image tags to collect accurate conversion data.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics solves for Google Ads conversion tracking but does not directly tie back to the ad server data across all media to allow for real-time algorithmic optimizations to occur. Google Analytics requires JavaScript to be added to all pages to properly collect on-site data.

Note: At this time, the Google Site Tag and Tag Manager updates only support post-click conversion tracking from Google Search Ads products (Google Ads, formerly known as AdWords, and Search Ads 360, formerly known as DS3).  Google has stated that these tags will support tracking for Display & Video 360 (formerly DCM & DBM) in the future, but do not have a release date at time of this publication.

Alternative Solutions

Based on your tools and site capabilities, it may be possible to pass data to Google, or another party, for tracking of post-click conversions on-site through similar methodology utilized in the Google tags.  If you would like to explore alternative options to the Google approach, speak to your client team to discuss.

Resolution POV

Resolution and Annalect Consulting have partnered to provide details and solutions to our OMG clients to overcome the hurdles faced with these browser updates, while armed with the details and support to make an informed decision.

Conversion tracking is the backbone of many digital marketing campaigns. Knowing which customers converted online and at what stage of their experience provides invaluable insights for campaign optimization. Without that data, marketers could be put at a disadvantage when deciphering campaign and sales data.

Mozilla has already followed Apple’s lead with similar updates to their Firefox browser, and as security concerns around PII continue to grow, it is likely that more companies will follow Apple’s lead and implement solutions similar to Safari ITP 2.0.

With that said, it is also imperative that our clients maintain their website, consumer privacy policies and data retention requirements to secure their business.  We suggest that clients discuss with the appropriate parties within their company to determine if switching to one of Google’s solutions to obtain post-click measurement is needed and appropriate to maintain conversion tracking from these platforms on all critical websites; we would be happy to discuss these or other options with you further.

Summary

Given the sensitive nature of third-party JavaScript present on login pages or where PII is collected, marketers need to take a close look at any sites where they seek to track conversion data and consider the potential impact of tracking changes. Currently, Google offers a workaround – see above – that provides a solution for click-based conversion collection which can increase the data that Google obtains on client websites.

There are additional benefits to this updated site tagging. The Global Site Tag and Google Tag Manager updates operate as new versions of existing floodlight tags or link to existing floodlight tags, ensuring historical data retention while adding support of post-click tracking on Firefox and Safari. The Global Site Tag also reduces the amount of tags in use, as conversion tracking for Google Ads and/or Search Ads 360 and/or Display & Video 360 are all combined into a single tag.

However, re-tagging is a significant undertaking and potential drawbacks in functionality, QA and potential data loss must be considered and accounted for before beginning any re-tagging process.

Speak to your client team today to ensure your conversion tracking capabilities are properly accommodated following the roll-out of Firefox updates and Safari ITP 2.0.