Apple has announced iOS 17 which is now available for users to download.
Beginning with iOS 14.5, Apple rolled out significant changes to data tracking that affected how third-party cookies are stored and, subsequently, how marketers track and analyze traffic.
Link Tracking Protection
iOS 17 includes another new feature called Link Tracking Protection that strips most UTMs from links on most major platforms. This makes it more difficult to see in analytics which campaigns are driving results.
UTMs (or Urchin Tracking Modules) pass marketing data to the clicked URL. The impetus for this change is that many marketers were passing additional ID parameters in the URL to circumvent the loss of third-party cookies. Those ID parameters are then stored in a first-party cookie and passed in any conversion pixel fires. Apple is moving to block this fingerprinting.
How Will this Affect My Data Analytics?
As a consequence, for paid search and paid social, this change removes Google’s and Meta’s bclid and gclid parameters that store all of the campaign, keyword, etc. data. This means less data will pass into your analytics platform.
It is important to recognize that the Source and Medium UTM appends will remain unaffected. This update will only affect your campaign data. Additionally, this update only applies to Apple Messages, Apple Mail, and Safari Private Browsing. Standard Safari sessions will continue to pass on relevant UTM data to your analytics platform.
What Can My Business Do?
If you’re worried about how this degradation in marketing tracking fidelity will affect your business, don’t fret. Here are some novel ideas to help you work around the newest barriers in link tracking:
Whenever possible, you should segment campaigns between iOS 17 and non-iOS 17 devices or between Apple and non-Apple devices. Also, make sure to segment Safari browser traffic versus non-Safari browsers. Due to Link Tracking Protection, non-IOS 17 and non-Apple devices may have higher statistics than IOS 17 and Apple devices, and the segmented reporting will give you more clarity when analyzing your campaign success.
Landing Page URLs
You can add a redirect to your landing page URLs that then loads any additional campaign UTMs. However, This option is a lot of work, as it is very timely to create dedicated landing pages for each campaign, ad group, ad, etc.
Incrementality Testing Model
With a high enough ad spend, you can move to an incrementality testing model/platform. This is much better than relying on direct attribution or multi-touch modeling.
Google Tracking Improvements
Finally, Google announced that they are rolling out Chrome’s built-in ad tracking improvements. Under the guise of privacy, this is actually a direct response to some of the tracking fidelity losses from Apple’s iOS privacy changes. Importantly, the Chrome browser also holds a much larger market share of users in the U.S. compared to Safari.
By default, unless opted out by the user, Chrome will now share advertising topics of interest to advertisers. This change is happening because eventually Chrome will also start blocking third-party analytics cookies like Safari has. Google’s original deadline has passed, and this change will likely happen later in 2024.
Get Ahead Of The Game
In conclusion, Apple’s iOS 17 release, featuring Link Tracking Protection, is no joke. It will bring about significant changes in how businesses track and analyze their campaign data. And getting an accurate read on your data is how you can continue to grow and optimize your marketing channels.
With the right team, you can adapt to this evolving landscape. Whether it’s segmenting campaigns, optimizing landing page URLs, or exploring incrementality testing models, we’ve got you covered. Our hands on account managers have navigated updates like this in the past, and we’re eager to help your business get ahead of the game.
Interested in learning more? Drop us a line here for a free consultation.