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First Over Third Party Tracking

3rd July 2020 by Dan Rees | Data

First over third party tracking

 

By default, Adobe Analytics is set at third-party tracking, which means it uses third party cookies. Whilst Google Analytics is set at first-party tracking as it uses first party cookies. 

 

 Cookies, in short, are strings of text that are stored on the user’s browser, they can contain any type of information regarding the user and their journey on the site. The most common is the visitor ID; this allows the entire journey to be tied together. If the visitor ID cookie wasn’t present, then this would result in every page load being considered as a new visitor, meaning an increase in visitors, bounce rates and visits etc.

 

The difference between third party and first party cookies is the domain attribute. This will match the domain of the website that the user is currently on for first party cookies but will differ for those using third party cookies. The only benefit to third party cookies is that they have the ability to be used across different sites; this is why they are used in online web adverts.

 

As the importance of security on the web increases, more browsers are becoming aware of issues that can come from third party tags, such as advertisers passing user information to other websites or other parties without the knowledge of the user. 

Browsers are responding to this by blocking third party cookies from firing on the websites. Both Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox block third party cookies with Google Chrome scheduled to block them by 2022. As Google holds a rough 70% of the browser market share, it does mean that third party cookies are still usable for the majority of the traffic for now. Below is the current market share for the top browsers used over the last year:

Each of these browsers currently offer the ability to block third party cookies, but only Firefox and Safari block them by default. It is possible to block all cookies from being used, but this tends to have a negative effect on the users experience on the website as some functionality is reliant on the presence of cookies on the site. This results in many people only blocking third party cookies.

As there is an end in sight for the ability to use third party cookies it’s advised to use first party cookies and implementations wherever possible for web analytics tracking. This generally only occurs on the website and doesn’t require the cookies to be read on another domain.
One downfall to a first party implementation is that of cross domain tracking, as the cookies can’t be read on the second domain this means that they can’t be used to track the visitor across the two domains. Luckily there are techniques that circumvent this issue with the simplest solution being to add the visitor ID into a query string parameter of the first URL the user sees when switching domains. This parameter is then used to fill in the visitor ID cookie on the secondary domain. Resulting in the continuation of the tracking of the journey across the second domain.

Implementing first party tracking in Adobe Analytics

In order to implement first party tracking in Adobe Analytics, there are a few steps that need to be complete firstly. These are the following:

  1. Complete the CNAME request form
  2. Create the CNAME to be used
  3. Update the Adobe product configurations to use the new CNAME

The CNAME is a type of resource record in the DNS that maps an alias domain to another. In its simplest form, it allows services and or servers to operate as though they are on the same domain as your website when they aren’t.

1. Complete the CNAME request form

The form linked here allows Adobe to purchase a certificate on your behalf, this is required to initiate the process. You will be required to fill in the form and provide this to your Adobe analytics representative, or to Adobe Client Care.

The form is separated into 3 sections, the company information, the tracking information and data collection hostnames. The company information requires knowledge on the certificates used on the site. These can be found by navigating the site and clicking on the padlock icon in the URL of the browser.

 

COOKIE TRACKING

Then clicking on the certificate option and expanding the details option to see the information. Use this information to fill out this section.

COOKIE TRACKING

The tracking information will consist of the adobe analytics information you will be using. This will be the report suite ID and the estimated daily page views.

Finally, the data collection hostnames will require the domain of the site you are working on, and the host names you will use for the first part of the implementation. These will be the domain “smetrics.” For the secure hostname and “metrics.” For the non-secure hostname.

2. Create the CNAME to be used

Once the form has been submitted, Adobe will provide you with a set of new hostnames. A CNAME record will need to be created that points the subdomains you provided to Adobe (the “smetrics.” and “metrics.” values) to these new host names.

The creation of this will be required to be undertaken by your IT team

3. Update the Adobe product configurations to use the new CNAME

Once the CNAME is set up, in the product configurations you will need to replace the current tracking server references to those of the new CNAME values i.e. the “smetrics.” and “metrics.” values across all the other adobe products you implement.

Once this is done and pushed live you will be able to see the tracking server be used in the hit as shown below, highlighted in yellow is the location of the tracking server and the report suite ID. It would be advised to monitor the analytics tracking after this has been done to confirm that the data is still being tracked correctly.

Cookie Tracking

If the implementation isn’t a fresh implementation, an additional step will be required:

  • Visitor migration which allows for existing visitors to be remembered when they return to the site, otherwise they will be considered as new visitors. This just requires you to contact Adobe client care to request one. They should inform you if this is needed when you contact them with the CNAME request form.

Got a question?

And there you have it – the key fundamentals for first over third party tracking. If you have any questions surrounding implementing tracking, navigating Adobe Analytics or creating a lasting data-led strategy, don’t hesitate to contact a member of our team today.

Our team of experienced data scientists work with you to identify gaps in your data capture and management strategies, creating an optimisation roadmap that will help you reach your target audience and better serve your customers.

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