It’s hard not to notice the feud brewing between our friends at Facebook and Apple. One side keeps talking about small businesses not being able to reach their customers, and the other about people not having privacy online anymore. So what gives? Like anything worth jawing about, it’s complicated. Let’s dive in.
In the early days of the internet, you had to dig into your server logs to know how much traffic your site was getting. It was difficult and generally limited to IT and software development departments. (Though that started to change with software that could build easy-to-digest reports.) But server logs were always pretty bare bones—you could count page views, but what users actually did on your pages was a mystery.
It was all rather convenient for marketers and folks using the web for their businesses. Unfortunately, it was a little less convenient for visitors and customers. Sites got slow. One day you’d buy a vacuum cleaner from your favorite digital storefront and the next, you’d see the rest of the internet lit up with ads suggesting you buy two, three, or even a dozen more vacuums. It seemed like sites and services knew a lot more about you than you did—and that sealed page tags’ fate.
We’ve gotten used to news of data breaches and privacy violations over the last decade. It seems like the bill’s due for the tech sector. Legislation and regulation is coming—if not already here—and it has folks reasonably spooked. More immediately, Apple’s making pretty big changes around how they handle user data on their platforms.
Apple has kicked these updates down the road a few times so don’t hold your breath, but the TL;DR on what’s starting to happen with iOS 14 and macOS Big Sur:
As users, all this sounds long overdue. As digital marketers, there is a lot of uncertainty around where we go from here.
While Facebook is busy making a real fuss over these privacy changes via full-page ads in the national papers, folks are already charting the new frontier: server-side analytics. But wait a minute, isn’t that what we did back in 2002? Kinda. Facebook is promoting their Conversions API (CAPI) and Google has Server-side GTM. Here’s how they’re a little different than in 2002:
Analytics and ads page tags will still exist, but when they collect data, it’ll have to be forwarded from your own servers to your analytics or ads platform of choice.
Breathe in. Breathe out. We good?
Let’s be real: while this is a little scary for companies like Facebook and Google, they are much more likely to come out of this unscathed than your mom-and-pop ad-serving shops. Google announced Chrome is going to drop support for third-party cookies (i.e. random ad and analytics trackers) in the next few years; Facebook is undoubtedly focused on keeping its ad offerings compelling across their platforms.
If we’re being optimistic, multi-billion dollar companies are generally a lot better about keeping data secure and mostly-anonymized so nobody can do anything too nefarious. If we’re being pessimistic (or realistic), it’s convenient Google will be the only one able to sell targeted ads for Chrome users, and Facebook has their suite of apps and companies.
So what’s your friendly neighborhood e-commerce business supposed to do? We recommend you start here:
Rome wasn’t built in a day and a new standard for advertising and analytics won’t be either. The world of adtech has lots of moving parts and you’re not alone if you feel lost or confused about next steps. There’s nothing we like more than setting facts straight and being thoughtful about our clients’ problems, so drop us a line. We’re here to help.