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Third-party cookies have been the primary source of data for advertisers, allowing them to track users across the web and gather information about their interests and behaviors. Without this data, is more difficult for advertisers to deliver relevant and targeted ads to their audience

Have you ever wondered how websites remember your preferences and track your online activity? The answer is cookies!

So, what are cookies on the internet? Cookies are small pieces of data that are stored on your computer via your browser when you visit a website. They allow websites to effectively “remember” you and your preferences—like the items you’ve added to your shopping cart or your login information. The cookies themselves don’t reveal who you are so much as they are unique identifiers associated with a particular browser session.

Two Different Kinds of Cookies

There are two main types of cookies: first-party cookies and third-party cookies.

First-Party Cookies

First-party cookies are placed on your computer by the website you’re visiting. They enable that website to remember your preferences by storing settings associated with your actions on that specific site. These cookies are generally helpful for things like keeping you logged in or remembering items in your shopping cart.

Third-Party Cookies

Third-party cookies, on the other hand, are placed on your computer by a website other than the one you’re visiting. So a third-party advertising network could know that your browser visited a given merchant, even though you never visited the ad network to tell them that. 

Because these cookies can thus be used across sites, they’re often used by advertisers to track your online activity and show you targeted ads based on your interests and actions that you have taken on other sites.

How Third-Party Cookies are Used for Targeting 

When you visit a website that uses third-party cookies, the advertiser’s server sends a cookie to your computer. This cookie is stored in your web browser and contains a unique identification number. As you browse the web and visit other sites, the advertiser can use this cookie to track your online activity.

Advertisers and ad networks can chain together individual identifiers to create more persistent profiles of users based on their online activity. For example, if you visit a lot of sports websites, they might assume you’re interested in sports and show you ads for sports products, based on many cookies and not just one. These profiles are created using the data collected from third-party cookies.

So how do advertisers and ad networks use these profiles to show you targeted ads across different websites? It’s simple: they use the unique identification number stored in the cookie to “match” you with your profile. When you visit a website that’s part of their ad network, the advertiser can see the cookie on your computer and use the information in your profile to show you relevant ads.

Let’s say you visit a clothing website and add a pair of shoes to your cart. You might start seeing ads for those shoes on other websites you visit, even if you didn’t make a purchase (and sometimes even after you did!). That’s because a third-party cookie on your browser indicates that you visited that page, and the ad network is using that cookie information to relate back to the advertiser’s product catalog to show you relevant ads.

More relevant ads pay web publishers more, and people generally feel that more targeted ads are “better,” but there is a privacy tradeoff. Many people and advocacy groups worry about their online privacy and don’t like the idea of being tracked by advertisers. 

Furthermore, online advertising has become incredibly complex, so even consumers who like the idea of targeted ads are concerned they don’t have the data controls they need because third-party cookies can be abused. As a result, some web browsers, like Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox, have started blocking third-party cookies by default, and Google has pledged to replace third-party cookies with a more privacy-friendly solution soon—though they have pushed the date back a few times. 

What Is Happening Without Third-Party Cookies

Without third-party cookies, advertisers and publishers alike are trying to address several challenges. First, advertisers have to solve for the loss of targeting data that they currently rely on to deliver personalized ads. Third-party cookies have been the primary source of data for advertisers, allowing them to track users across the web and gather information about their interests and behaviors. Without this data, is more difficult for advertisers to deliver relevant and targeted ads to their audience.

Another challenge is the potential impact on ad tracking and measurement. Third-party cookies have been a key tool for measuring ad performance and attribution, helping advertisers to understand the effectiveness of their campaigns and optimize their ad spend. Without third-party cookies, advertisers are struggling to accurately track and measure the performance of their ads, which sometimes makes ad spend more difficult to justify. When you are in a fog, you slow down.

Publishers are also facing challenges without third-party cookies, as they rely on them to monetize their content and generate revenue through advertising. Without the ability to track and target users with ads, publishers see a decrease in ad revenue on some devices and may are looking at alternative ways to monetize their content.

The Solution to Data Loss: Better Technology

IntentKey by Inuvo addresses the challenges of cookie-based targeting without relying on third-party cookies. Instead of tracking users with cookies, IntentKey uses real-time analysis of the content users are viewing to understand their intent and deliver targeted ads. This means advertisers can still deliver relevant and personalized ads to their audience, without the need for cookies or data stored on consumer devices.

One of the key benefits of IntentKey is its ability to provide cookie-level targeting without cookies. This is because it uses content analysis to identify patterns and trends in user behavior, allowing advertisers to deliver targeted ads to specific segments of their audience. This means advertisers can still target their ads based on factors such as demographics, interests, and location—without the need for cookies or other tracking technologies.

Overall, IntentKey offers a real alternative to cookie-based targeting, allowing advertisers to deliver targeted ads to their audience without relying on third-party cookies or data stored on consumer devices. This is particularly important for advertisers looking to comply with privacy regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

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