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The Difference Between First-Party and Third-Party Cookies

Posted at Dec 13, 2018 6:09:00 AM by thatagency | Share

Have you heard the recent news about Facebook? For the first time, the world’s largest social media platform is allowing brands to use first-party cookies. In the past, Facebook only allowed businesses to use third-party cookies.

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But why is this move of import to you? From improving data analysis to enabling more effective ad retargeting, first-party cookies are incredibly beneficial to brands.

Third-Party vs. First-Party Cookies

But first, let’s get into some definitions. A third-party cookie is from a domain other than the one you’re browsing. So, say you’re on Facebook and click on an ad. It directs you to the advertiser’s website. Simple.

A third-party cookie is saved to your computer. This enables Facebook to track your actions within their site, assuming, of course, you have not disabled third-party cookies.

A first-party cookie also tracks activity on a website, but they come from the domain you are browsing.

Here’s why it matters: more browsers are moving away from third-party cookies. For instance, Safari 11 blocks them by default. Users of other browsers can disable them, and/or use “Incognito” or private sessions that prevent you from gathering and tracking data accurately.

Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne says, “We are offering a first-party cookie option for the Facebook Pixel to help businesses continue understanding site activity and ad attribution across browsers. This change is in line with updates made by other online platforms, as use of first-party cookies for ads and analytics is becoming the preferred approach by some browsers.”

He notes, “The controls people have over ads will not change.”

Solving the Problems Associated with Third-Party Cookies

First-party cookies are an effective workaround for browsers and apps that block third-party cookies. They are also stored longer, so you can track activity over a longer period of time. There are two other key benefits:

  • They allow you more control because they come from your domain.
  • Consumers tend not to disable first-party cookies because they’re beneficial to their user experience. Say, for example, you’re shopping at your favorite online vendor. If the site didn’t employ first-party cookies, you couldn’t purchase multiple items in one transaction. Each time you added a product to your cart from another page on the website, it would be considered a “new” order.

For brands, first-party cookies enable more effective tracking of user activity. You can leverage this in any number of ways: for example, you may notice people are opting out on a certain page. Why? Or you may see that someone has visited your site on several occasions but hasn’t completed the CTA: you can then work on ad retargeting techniques to get them to come back to you.

For data-driven brands, this recent news about Facebook and its cookie policy is welcome indeed. If you need help implementing first-party cookies, analyzing data, and/or ad retargeting to enhance sales, let the experts at THAT Agency know! We're here to help.

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