What Do Marketers Need To Do About First Party Cookie Tracking?

WTF Facebook? What Do Marketers Need To Do About First Party Cookie Tracking? Data Driven Daily Tip 226

By: Paul Hickey, Founder and Lead Strategist

So I know that if you’re a marketer or small business owner running any kind of Facebook Ads, using the Facebook Pixel, you’re confused AF by this email you just received sometime around October 5, 2018.

The email references the fact that starting October 24, 2018, Facebook will be offering businesses the ability to use First-Party Cookies instead of Third-Party Cookies, but WTF?

It doesn’t explain the difference, and it doesn’t tell you that if your Facebook Pixel is associated with a Facebook Ads Account, it doesn’t matter, you HAVE to use the Third-Party Cookies, but now you also have the option to use First-Party Cookies.

So in essence, NOTHING REALLY CHANGES.

All things stay the same for Advertisers using the Pixel. You don’t have to do anything, but according to the Facebook Help Center link in the email they sent you, you can do something if you want.

The options for using cookies with your Facebook pixel are:

  1. Use the Facebook pixel with both first and third-party cookies

    Beginning on October 24th, 2018, this is the default option for Facebook pixels. With this option, you will use first-party cookie data with your Facebook pixel, in addition to third-party cookie data. This option is recommended if you use your Facebook pixel for advertising, because using both first and third-party cookies will enable you to reach more customers on Facebook and to be more accurate in measurement and reporting.

  2. Use the Facebook pixel with third-party cookies only

    You can disable first-party cookies and use the Facebook pixel with third-party cookies only. With this option, your Facebook pixel will be less effective in reaching customers on Facebook and less accurate in measurement and reporting.

Here’s HOW you can make your change…

How to check your pixel and cookie settings

  1. Log into your Facebook advertising account, and goto Events Managerlocated in the main menu under Measure and Report.
  2. Select your pixel, then click onto Details button on the top right-hand corner to check its settings.
  3. Under Pixel and Cookie Settings, edit or confirm your preferences. If your pixel is associated with an ad account you will not see Pixel Usage settings.
  4. If you choose to edit Pixel Usage, you will have two options: Advertising and Analytics, and Analytics Only.

But if you run ads, you have to use Third-Party Cookies, so you can’t really make any changes.

So now that we know the email can be disregarded, what do we do with the fact that we now feel the burning need to know the difference between first-party cookies and third-party cookies?

Well, I’ll break it down for you, but I assure you it’s really not that exciting.

First-party cookies are owned by the website a person is currently viewing, while third-party cookies belong to a website other than the one a person is currently viewing. Compared to third-party cookies, first-party cookies are more widely accepted by browsers and stored for longer periods of time.

First-party cookies allow you to do things like place multiple items in a shopping cart on an eCommerce website.

Third-party cookies allow you to do the things within Facebook Ads like use your Facebook Pixel to run re-marketing ads to people who have visited your website before.

So congrats to Facebook for sending us marketers a WTF email that didn’t really do anything except take up precious mental bandwidth.

Why did Facebook send this email? Thanks to GDPR, they need to keep updating their Terms of Use, and options for how they allow advertisers to use data.

CYA, basically.

No worries, as long as you’ve updated your website’s privacy policy and cookies notice to be GDPR compliant, and in alignment with your digital advertising use of user data, you’re in good shape. You have, haven’t you?

If not, email me at paul@datadriven.design and we can help.

Note: Thanks to reader Dan Raloff for writing in and clarifying the following regarding this somewhat confusing subject matter. Great additional useful details Dan. We appreciate it! 

I’m writing about your article regarding Facebook adding First-Party Cookies as an option for the tracking pixel.
It seems like you’re pretty confused about the reason for this message, and you chalk it up to GDPR as to why Facebook would send you the email in the first place.
In actuality, the reason is much more direct than a duty to European Data laws.
With Safari 12 coming soon to the wider internet audience, 3rd party cookies will be drastically reduced in their ability to be used to track audiences. Safari will only allow specific kinds of cookies to be accessed for specific time periods regardless of the cookie’s expiration date.
In order to continue to track users who are using Mobile or Desktop Safari, advertisers and analytics companies have been making changes to their tracking pixels and tracking tags in order to set first-party cookies that will continue to be trackable for all users.
Because your article omits these details, it reads as though you don’t have a very strong grasp on the importance of this change. You also seem to show confusion concerning the options Facebook gives you.
You claim that as an advertiser you have to use third-party cookies anyway, which is true. But both options offer third-party cookies, it’s just that the default going forward will also add first-party cookies into the mix to mitigate the wave of Safari changes mentioned above.
They sent this email out not to warn people of GDPR-compliant changes (although it may serve a dual purpose in this way) but to assure their advertisers that by default their tracking pixels will still be able to record conversions in the way that they always have, unless of course you choose to opt-out.

Thanks for reading, watching and listening, and have a great day!

KEEP MARKETING!

Paul Hickey, Founder / CEO / Lead Strategist at Data Driven Design, LLC has created and grown businesses via digital strategy and internet marketing for more than 10 years. His sweet spot is using analytics to design and build websites and grow the audience and revenue of businesses via SEO/Blogging, Google Adwords, Bing Ads, Facebook and Instagram Ads, Social Media Content Marketing and Email Marketing. The part that he’s most passionate about is quantifying next marketing actions based on real data.

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