Note: This post focuses primarily on web tracking data. The iOS 14 tracking updates also affect native app tracking—stay tuned for a follow-up post on exactly this!
As a technical analytics professional, the tracking updates related to iOS 14—the most recent and highest-profile example of a greater industry trend toward privacy protection and user rights—have been a dominant issue in my life since the beginning of 2021. I have written, rewritten and scrapped this post on at least three previous occasions as new information has emerged and changed the dynamics of the update. However, with the updates finally launched, I am now comfortable providing a point of view on the subject, what it means and what you should be focusing on in its aftermath.
A Quick Rehash of Events
It all started with an announced update from Apple at the beginning of this year. The update is a major overhaul, and honestly, we could spend a week discussing everything it entails as it relates to websites and app tracking/disclosure. However, it will affect the majority of marketers, analysts and users the most by requiring iOS 14 users to opt in to third-party cookie tracking (previously, users had the ability to opt out of this tracking). If you are a marketer, you would have had to be living under a rock to miss the litany of notifications in Facebook ads related to this. We will forgive Facebook if it feels like this update is targeted specifically at them, because it probably is—with all platforms that utilize third-party cookies being caught in the wash.
Taking note of that, there are also a number of things that are not happening. For instance:
- Your primary website analytics tracking tool (Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, Webtrends, etc.) is unlikely to be affected. These platforms utilize first-party tracking cookies—i.e., the cookies are stored by the domain the user visits. Third-party cookies, such as Facebook, are stored by the third-party site.
- You’re also not going to lose data directly associated with what happens on third-party platforms (you will still get click, cost, CTR and CPC data from ad vendors).
- The iOS 14 update will yield drastic results immediately, in most cases. While it is the newest version of the most popular brand (Apple) of the most popular way to access most websites (mobile devices), it would still represent only 5% to 15% of web traffic for most sites (varying by industry and marketing mix).
Now, with that out of the way, let’s jump to three takeaways for dealing with iOS 14’s tracking changes.
3 Takeaways to Deal With iOS 14’s Tracking Changes