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law firm digital marketingRecently, Google announced their plan to make a change in the type of advertisements users can see when they are browsing the web. The plan is to block all third-party cookies on the Google Chrome browser (a similar plan has already been adopted by Safari and Firefox). Google plans to take a phased approach that would eventually block all third-party cookies by 2022. Third-party cookies are cookies set by a website other than the one you are currently browsing. This is a big deal because a huge portion of the advertising you see – and maybe even place – on the web is driven by third-party cookies that have become part of an infrastructure digital marketers rely on. This development further complicates the lives of legal marketers as they try to understand the best ways to reach their target audience.

What are third-party cookies and why is Google Chrome blocking them?

In order to understand the ultimate impact that Chrome’s blocking of third-party cookies will have on the legal landscape, law firm marketers must understand what cookies are and what the difference is between first- and third-party cookies. Cookies are tiny data files that are used to collect certain pieces of your browsing behavior and information to provide a personalized browsing experience. They are also one of the most common methods of carrying out advertising processes like behavioral profiling and retargeting.

There is a big difference between first- and third-party cookies, and first-party cookies are not going anywhere. The notable difference between these audience tracking cookies are the websites that place them. A first-party cookie is created directly by the website that a web user is visiting. For example, if you visit a site like NYTimes.com, a first party NYTimes cookie will be created and saved to your computer by the site. Meanwhile, a third-party cookie is often unknowingly created by a party other than the website that the user is currently visiting. For example, a third-party cookie can be added to a user’s browser from an advertisement for a Cole Haan shoe that appears on NYTimes. Not many people know or understand the complexity of third-party cookie tracking, and this lack of transparency is seen as an infringement of privacy and security. Thus, Google will be disabling third-party cookie tracking that many companies use to serve their ads and also to report on attribution

Law firm digital marketing in a third-party cookieless ecosystem

The digital marketing ecosystem is quickly becoming more adaptive and creative in forming new online advertising efforts in light of third-party cookie blocking. This is nothing new, since as we’ve mentioned, third-party cookie regulations already exist on Safari and Firefox. As we’ve previously written, there are plenty of audience targeting strategies and technologies that law firm marketers can take advantage of to reach their target audience that do not rely on third-party cookie tracking. 

Programmatic advertising, the automated buying and selling of online advertising, is an audience-first advertising strategy, that when implemented properly, will help your firm reach its target audience without relying on third-party cookies. Programmatic advertising uses a data warehouse referred to as a “DMP” (data management platform) to house user information and ensure that advertisements are exposed to the right audience. There are a lot of programmatic technology options available for legal marketers today and some use first-party data and cookies, while others still rely on third-party cookies to target users. Therefore, be wary of the programmatic advertiser you decide to partner with. See: A Beginner’s Guide to Programmatic Advertising for Law Firms.

Another up-and-coming form of law firm digital marketing is the use of predictive advertising. Predictive advertising technology uses artificial intelligence and statistical algorithms to create specific audiences. An example of this is Facebook’s look-alike modeling. See: Predictive Advertising for Law Firms: The Future of Legal Marketing?

Takeaway

Until a few years ago, third-party cookies were the backbone of the digital marketing ecosystem. In light of data privacy and security issues, as well as advancements in ad technology, the digital advertising ecosystem has made great strides without having to track, target, and remarket audiences using third-party cookies.

If you need assistance with your law firm’s digital marketing, don’t be afraid to bring in a partner who understands not only your industry, but also the digital landscape as a whole and how to navigate it. Our turnkey data-driven advertising solutions enable us to develop and distribute content that is impactful and meets the evolving needs of your unique target audience. Contact us today and we will help you formulate a digital strategy that aligns with your law firm’s specific marketing and business development objectives.

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