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Intelligent Tracking Prevention

Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention: a major change to the Safari web browser that could have a big impact on your marketing

In September 2017 Apple released its latest version of iOS, with an updated version of its default web browser Safari. Among several new features, Safari 11 stops media with sound from automatically playing on most websites. It also adds the ability to configure Reader, content blockers, page zoom, and auto-play settings on a per-website basis, or for all websites. But one of the most important traits of the new Safari is probably less obvious for the ordinary iPhone user. It is the so called Intelligent Tracking Prevention, which handles cookies in a completely different way than earlier versions of the web reader.

This new feature means that both first- and third-party cookies have significantly shorter lives than they used to in earlier versions of Safari. The purpose of it is, of course, to protect the online privacy of its customers.

First-party cookies can remember login statuses, shopping carts and website settings but can also be used to track Safari users. Third-party cookies are so called conversion measuring and remarketing cookies from AdWords, Facebook, Analytics and Floodlight (the conversion tracking system for Google’s DoubleClick platform).

In the updated Safari first-party cookies now only live for 30 days, whereas third-party cookies, that used to live for up to 540 days, disappear after only 24 hours unless the user revisits the domain of the cookie within 24 hours and therefore refreshes it. This news could pose a threat to the business of online advertising that is so dependent on the use of cookies. To assess the potential impact of this threat we should first look Safari’s market share.

According to StatCounter Safari accounts for about 14 percent of all browser usage globally (Chrome has a market share of almost 56%). But it gets more interesting by region since the iPhone has significantly more market share in some regions. It’s for this reason that the Safari browser has 31%, 26%, 21%, and 17% market share in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland respectively. Safari Market Share across the Nordics

Country Mobile All Devices Sweden 49.9% 31.2% Norway 48.3% 26.5% Denmark 39.8% 21.1% Finland 25.9% 17.1%

For Facebook and Google’s services that use a cookie from and this will have less effect, since a majority of users visit and more or less on a daily basis and thereby make their cookies stay alive.

So what is the impact of losing these cookies? Regarding the measurement aspect specifically, if the cookie is lost both AdWords and Floodlight will estimate whether it led to a conversion instead.

However, Safari’s new Intelligent Tracking Prevention will cause considerably more problems for the remarketing lists in Display. The reason for this is that the domain a cookie used for display remarketing (e.g. Doubleclick’s Floodlight) is hosted on isn’t necessarily a domain users visits regularly. Therefore, there is a high risk that the user will not make a second visit on another site where these cookies exists, thereby refreshing it within 24 hours.

And to add salt to the wound, there is currently no solution that could make an estimate, which, in essence, causes the user to fall out of the remarketing list. Therefore, it’s important for anyone who works with campaigns, especially in Display, to keep track of the size of their remarketing lists.

Here are a few tips on how to estimate and handle a drop in conversions:

• When using Google Analytics, click-through conversions will not be affected within Search, Shopping and Display but there will probably be a decrease in view-through and cross device conversions. Be sure to work with Google Analytics and link this to your AdWords account and use Auto-Tagging. This ensures that click-through conversions are measured correctly on Search, Shopping and Display.  • If you use Google Analytics, check the share of traffic that comes to your site from Safari to estimate the impact this will have. When logged into Google Analytics you can navigate to Standard Reports > Audience > Technology > Browser & OS. You will find more details in the Google Analytics Help Center.  • Customers that are more exposed to Safari users could keep track of the size of their remarketing lists within Audiences in Adwords.   Implementation of best practices • Use the default website conversion tracking tag. Don’t remove the JavaScript code manually from the conversion tracking tag for a “pixel-only” implementation. • Link active Google Analytics property to an AdWords account that owns website conversion actions. • Turn on auto-tagging in all AdWords accounts.