Attributing clicks through to conversions on third party websites is going to be getting even trickier for companies such as Facebook and Google.
Attributing clicks through to conversions on third party websites is going to be getting even trickier for companies such as Facebook and Google, who potentially stand to lose out on ad revenue. Safari’s latest update, announced on the 24th April, is scuppering the efforts of those who insistently track users around different websites.
What Was ITP 2.1?
ITP (Intelligent Tracking Prevention) 2.1 put a seven-day shelf life on first-party cookies once they were installed on a users’ browser. This update came into place in response to a workaround which bypassed ITP 2.0 (a third-party cookie restriction). The workaround used first-party cookies that mimicked third-party cookies, thus enabling them to keep tracking and attributing.
The seven-day limit of 2.1 meant that unless a user converted within that period after clicking on an ad, the conversion could not be attributed back to the original click through. Not a massive issue for fast-moving consumer goods or throw away fashion brands, whose buyer cycles tend to typically be days or even hours, but for those of us in the Travel Industry the update is proving problematic.
With a large amount of consumer pre-purchase research originating on mobile (whilst latent browsing), the Safari specific restriction is causing havoc for tracking longer conversions cycles. Add into the mix the popularity of IOS powered smartphones, and the fact that Safari is the default browser on these devices, and you end up with an analytics black-hole that leaves a void in our attribution channel understanding. Analytics is about to get interesting.
IPT 2.2, What Is the Update?
ITP 2.2 limits the tracking life of cookies to a 24-hour period, another dramatic change to our ability to understand click through to conversion on Safari. If someone is on your site looking at a product or service and they take more than a full day to consider that purchase, the event will not be connected as the cookie will expire.
Why Do They Want to Stop Companies Tracking and Attributing
Well, the short answer is.. they don’t really. Intelligent Tracking Prevention is more of a security update to protect users. It only targets certain types of the first-party cookie, so all is not lost.
Link Decoration Cookies… Sounds Tasty?!
Safari’s biggest problem seems to be insistent tracking using link decoration to pass information to other websites. Link decoration adds an information parameter onto a URL about where the click came from and passes it onto the destination site. So, a URL that gets a click in an email or on an ad will get passed on with an extra bit of info attached so it can be associated with its original source.
How Does This Affect My Conversion Rate?
The issue lies in the fact that your unique conversion rate (a formula which divides conversions between unique users) will be thrown out of whack if you have significant Safari traffic. Where a new user to the site would be counted as new only once in a seven day period, they will now be counted as a new user every 24 hours, even if they have been visiting the website for days.
This artificially inflates the number of unique users in your site analytics, whilst the conversions stay the same. As a result, the same amount of conversions get divided by a larger number of uniques and your conversion rate goes down. Artificial as it may be, but it doesn’t look great for reporting and it also messes with our understanding of organic search visits versus direct visits.
And What About Attribution Channels?
The Safari specific update may not be as big a deal for some as it will be for others. Take a look at your device channels. Is it mostly desktop or mobile that your traffic is coming from?
Desktop traffic through Safari’s browser is much smaller a percentage than it is for mobile, where Safari sessions can account for over a quarter of the market share. The exception to this is in the US, where half of the browser activity is in Safari. If your traffic is predominantly desktop, you won’t experience as much of an issue as those whose traffic mostly originates on mobile.
I predict that companies, especially those with the collateral to put behind the development of solutions, will continue evolving ways around these updates to keep up with the continual changes. Just how these solutions will work remains to be seen at the moment, but watch this space!