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Consent Mode V2 & The Imminent Death of Third Party Cookies: Is My Conversion Tracking Going to Break? 

Posted on: March 18, 2024

Paid Media

Irina Holliday

Rings

A few weeks back we saw the (seemingly devastating) news for the online advertising industry: the long-awaited and much feared third party cookie deprecation has finally started in one of the recent Google Chrome updates. Google, however, did not stop there and also announced that the Consent Mode had now become mandatory across EU and EEA countries by March 2024 (yes, this March!). Wait… What? 

Let’s take a step back here and look at these two things separately (even though they are essentially a part of the same Privacy Sandbox Initiative) to understand why this is happening and what exactly it means for advertisers. Let’s begin with third party cookies

Google has had a plan to block third party cookies for quite some time now, with some of the first plans announced in 2020. Every time they end up postponing for one reason or another – but not this year Starting on January 4th Google started testing their new tracking protection feature that will restrict a website’s access to third party cookies by default – with the plan to have them completely phased out by the second half of this year. This became available to 1% of randomly selected Google Chrome users and aims to reach 100% of Chrome users by Q3 2024

What Are Third Party Cookies?

Okay, but what does it mean for advertisers and why should we care? And what even are third party cookies?!

Basically, cookies are small files that are created on your browser when you visit a website. First party cookies are those that are created by the actual website you are visiting (e.g. items in the cart, recently viewed products or login information). Third party cookies are those created by other sites (e.g your interests, shopping habits, tracking codes etc.).

The question is, will these changes impact your paid campaigns? The short answer is yes - in a way, however, perhaps not quite as drastic and catastrophic as it may seem.

If you are running display and / or remarketing campaigns you may want to start looking into Privacy Sandbox APIs that will replace third party cookies eventually. However, if you are worried about your conversion data - third party cookies are not something that will take that away. 

However… phasing out third party cookies doesn't mean that websites won’t still need consent. Which brings us to the second part of the problem: Consent Mode V2

New third parties cookie prompt in Chrome

What is Consent Mode V2?

Back in November 2023, Google announced Consent Mode V2 with changes being rolled out in March 2024 and becoming mandatory across EU and EEA countries. 

In response to the DMA (Digital Markets Act) Google is making it mandatory for advertisers to use Consent Mode V2, which is no longer an option but a requirement. Which essentially means that Google must receive consent from a user to track them, and all the tags and tracking must be adjusted accordingly to respect the user’s choices. 

Consent Mode V2, on top of being mandatory, also contains 2 new variables, which are: 

  • ad_user_data: which tells Google whether the consent request for advertising cookies has been granted or denied;
  • ad_personalization: which tells Google whether the consent request to use personalised information for remarketing and other purposes has been granted or denied.

It’s worth mentioning that Consent Mode V2 has 2 implementation modes:

  • Advanced: where Google Tags will be loaded before the consent pop-up appears (which may also help recover even more data based on conversion modelling);
  • Basic: where Google Tags will be blocked until the consent is granted. 

This currently only applies to the advertisers in EU / EEA countries, however, it might be just a matter of time until this is rolled out globally. Now, here is where many of my colleagues and I have gotten confused...

The obvious question – whether or not EU / EEA countries include the UK – was not clearly answered anywhere. It wasn’t explicitly stated in the Google document, and we couldn't get answers out of Google representatives either by email or on various social media platforms. Eventually, we’ve got a few responses that made it clear that it does not apply to the UK. Yet... 

As I’ve mentioned above, it could be just a matter of time until this is rolled out globally, so what do we do to prepare for that? How do we make sure we keep receiving conversion data from the websites to ensure our Google bidding strategies are running as efficiently as possible? 

What Can We Do to Prepare For Consent Mode V2?

In our opinion, there are two things that you may want to start looking into sooner rather than later to make sure you’re all set for when Consent Mode V2 comes to the UK. 

Look into implementing enhanced conversions for both web and leads

This has been encouraged by Google for quite a while now and some of you may have already implemented this. However, with Consent Mode V2 being mandatory rather than optional, this is definitely a must as it generally helps recovering some of the data that could potentially be lost without it. 

Implement server-side tagging

This is something that could help with Consent Mode V2 as well as third party cookies which are being phased out, as it prevents a loss in data tracking – typically caused by issues like ad blockers or browser limitations. It also improves your page load speed and increases the tracking accuracy. The setup is quite technical, but, paired up with enhanced conversions, this could help recover a significant amount of data that would otherwise be lost. 

Once you’ve implemented both of the solutions above, you should be all set for Consent Mode V2 when it comes to the UK. 

Keep in mind however, that implementing these solutions will not mean you’ll have bypassed the Consent Mode restrictions or will be able to retrieve data from users who opted out of tracking. This is more about recovering the data that may not be available due to ad blockers, browser limitations, etc. 

All of the above can be quite a lot to take in, especially as conversion tracking can already be tricky as it is – but that’s what we’re here for. If you are looking into implementing enhanced conversions or server-side tagging or just want to know more about what’s coming with potential Consent Mode V2 implementation - get in touch and we will be happy to have a chat!

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Irina Holliday

Head of Paid Media

Irina Holliday is Head of PPC here at The Digital Maze. With over 16 years of PPC experience behind her, Irina joined the company in September 2022 as a senior PPC consultant, rapidly progressing to head of department. Irina is an expert in both paid search and paid social and is keen on growing and expanding her own knowledge as well as her team and her clients, moving towards more of a strategic and bigger picture way of approaching the business objectives.

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