Published On: 14 Sep 2023
Link Tracking Protection, a new feature in iOS 17 that Apple is about to release, has got marketers buzzing. In a nutshell, the game has been changed by this new feature in terms of how user data is tracked and how campaign success is measured. So, why did Apple decide to introduce this feature? They're doubling down on user privacy, making it a cornerstone of their brand promise. For users, it's great news; it puts them in the driver's seat regarding their data. But for digital-first brands, it's a wake-up call.
Let's talk some numbers:
Before we dig into what this means for your brand and how you can adapt, let's clearly understand Link Tracking Protection.
There are two kinds of tracking parameters: URL and UTM that are necessary for understanding Apple's Link Tracking Protection.
UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) parameters are a special kind of URL parameter used specifically for tracking the performance of marketing campaigns. These parameters tell your analytics tool where your traffic is coming from, what campaign directed them to your page, and even what type of content they interacted with.
Next up, URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is the web address that directs you to a specific page on the Internet. These URL parameters, often called query strings, are the additional pieces of information appended to this URL to provide more context or functionality. It usually appears after a question mark (?) in the URL and is separated by ampersands (&).
For example, in the URL "website.com/page?source=google", "source=google" is a URL parameter indicating the traffic came from Google.
Now Apple's Link Tracking Protection steps in at this point and scrubs away that extra information. It's like a digital cleaner that makes sure the user leaves no trace while moving from one site to another. This feature doesn't just work in Safari; it's also active in Apple's Messages and Mail app.
Here an example of how iOS 17 LTP will change URLs:
Let's say you share a cool pet product with a friend through text. Normally, the URL might include information that reveals you're sharing it from a mobile device or even that you found the product through social media. But with iOS 17, that extra information gets stripped away before the recipient sees the link.
If your brand relies heavily on tracking URLs to understand customer behavior, you will feel the pinch. All those useful insights gathered from how users interact with your links? Yeah, those are taking a hit.
We don't think GA4 attribution will change as long as UTMs stay the same. But Google Ads is a different story. Currently, they use several parameters for tracking, but only gclid and dclid are mentioned as being stripped in iOS17. If the others stay the same, we think the effects won't be too bad, and you should be able to keep attributing without missing a beat.
Luc Nugteren, a Google Ads Coach, shared insights on how can marketers navigate changes due to the iOS17 update.
Next, let's move on to Meta's advertising. The fbclid, also known as "Click ID," is probably the most worrying thing about the list being deleted.
Head of Product at Lifesight, Rajeev Nair, stated that identifiers like fbclid are removed when this feature is turned on.
But this doesn't mean it's the end of the world. In Meta's documentation, email, phone number, IP address, device agent, name, and address information are mentioned before the click ID in order of importance.
Meta matches events from your server with Meta accounts using customer information parameters. The greater the number of events with customer information parameters and the greater the number of customer information parameters in each event, the more likely an event will be matched. The audience to whom you wish to show ads is also a consideration in determining which criteria are most effective.
This involves emphasizing the necessity of increasing your customer event match quality scores (for example, a higher percentage of emails related to CAPI events). If you're a Lifesight customer, you can do this using Session Enrichment.
Here are some tips on how to run effective ads in an iOS 17 world by the CEO of Optmyzr, Frederick Vallaeys.
Personalized marketing could get trickier. The ability to see where your traffic comes from helps tailor the user experience. Whether it's suggesting related products or offering location-based services, data plays a huge role. Without it, you're kind of shooting in the dark.
Taking information out of links that have been clicked on can affect attribution and other integrations that use that information, like website remarketing. As more people upgrade to iOS 17, you may notice a decline in the audiences you've been able to target with things like email and ad clicks.
Alright, we've covered a lot of ground on what's changing and what's getting trickier with iOS 17's Link Tracking Protection. But let's hit the pause button and shift gears for a moment. Not everything is doom and gloom. Let's break down what's not affected so you can sigh in relief.
So, what does that mean for you as a marketer? Tracking user behavior through URLs will now be more challenging. However, understanding this allows you to think creatively about new strategies. Stay tuned because we'll dive into those next.
Focus on getting as much information about your customers as possible when they visit your site. Give people something of value to get them to voluntarily identify themselves and consent. With third-party tracking getting the axe, first-party data is king. Use signup forms, surveys, or even quick quizzes to learn more about your audience. The more you know about your customers, the better you can tailor your strategies to meet their needs.
Next-Gen CDPs can help you dig deeper into anonymous user activity through advanced first-party identity graph solutions. It enables you to retarget a greater number of anonymous visitors, trigger more automations on your owned channels, and, most importantly, recover more sales.
Let's talk about multi-touch attribution. This technique looks at the entire customer journey instead of just one interaction. First-party data lets you track how multiple channels contribute to conversions over time. It's a fuller, more nuanced way of understanding how your audience interacts with your brand.
Measurement platforms can help you better understand your customers and lead them to loyalty. You can get a detailed image of your top customer journeys, which will help you understand how customers connect with your business at each touchpoint.
In light of Apple's Link Tracking Protection, you should stop relying primarily on email or a particular platform. You can reach your target audience more effectively by spreading your engagement efforts over various channels, such as social media, SMS, smartphone push notifications, website banners, in-app communications, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp.
There are many powerful platforms that allow you to set up advanced automations based on various user touchpoints, making customer interaction more personalized and effective. By using these tools you can start customer journeys in response to a wide range of store-level events, such as page visits or add-to-cart actions. The ability to direct customers along predetermined paths increases the likelihood that they will complete a purchase and become loyal customers.
Instead of relying on the user's browser to send data, server-side tracking sends it directly from your web server to the analytics server. It's a bit more complex to set up but can be more reliable in the long run, especially when browsers are becoming increasingly restrictive with data
Marketing expert, Sara Cohen advocates exploring alternate tracking methods like server-side tagging.
The move by Apple is in line with the larger trend of privacy-focused laws like GDPR and CCPA. Before you collect any information about your customers, make sure you have their permission and explain how the information will be used. Transparency helps customers trust your business and makes them more likely to interact with it.
Instead of lamenting the loss of traditional link tracking, shift your focus. Start relying on in-app analytics or engagement metrics like session duration or pages per session. Doing this allows you to gather valuable insights into user behavior without falling foul of iOS 17's new policies.
Always a reliable strategy, but now more critical than ever. Produce high-quality, engaging content that encourages users to share their data with you. Whether it's an insightful blog post, a riveting podcast, or an eye-catching infographic, make it something they can't resist sharing or talking about.
So there you have it. Even with iOS 17's link tracking protection, plenty of workarounds still let you keep tabs on your campaigns. Remember, the marketing landscape is always changing, so keep experimenting and stay flexible.
To sum it all up, yes, iOS 17's link-tracking protection does throw a bit of a curveball into your analytics game. But that doesn't mean you're out for the count. From exploring alternative attribution solutions to tweaking your existing strategies, plenty of ways exist to hit your marketing home runs.
So apply these insights, and don't let iOS 17 slow you down. Instead, view it as an opportunity to up your game and show your adaptability.
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