Last Fall, Safari introduced something called Intelligent Tracking Prevention, or ITP, which created new limits on the effectiveness of third-party advertising tracking using pixel-based methodologies. In the recent Apple Worldwide Developers Conference technology preview, the company announced that it will be implementing a second set of ITP policies, Intelligent Tracking Prevention 2 (or ITP 2). This blog post is intended to:
- Recap the first generation features of ITP
- Outline what is being added and changed in ITP 2
- Explain the implications for partner and affiliate marketers
- Propose a way forward for marketers looking to replace pixel-tracking for their partner marketing programs
Here’s what you need to know.
RECAP: THE FIRST GENERATION OF ITP
ITP was a new feature released simultaneously with the launch of iOS 11 and Safari 11. The idea behind ITP is to limit the ability to track users across domains. In a nutshell, the feature is designed to limit the collection and usage of a user’s cross-site visitation data. This information is called “cross-site tracking.”
Under ITP, tracking cookies are evaluated using a proprietary algorithm. The stronger the consumer’s direct relationship with the domain associated with the cookie, the more leeway it is given to be used for tracking purposes. For example, first-party cookies are indicative of a stronger relationship than third-party cookies. In ITP 1, cross-site tracking cookies were partitioned and some of their ability to deliver tracking data was suppressed after 24 hours.
ITP affected browsing using Safari version 11.0 and later. Given this, it’s important to understand the market share of Safari and Safari versions 11.0 and later. While data vary based on source, the worldwide share of all Safari browser versions is typically estimated at around 14.
ON TO ITP 2
ITP 2 strengthens the control and choice that consumers have regarding ad and other forms of user tracking and intelligence gathering.
No More 24-Hour Tracking Window
The first relevant difference between ITP 1 and 2 for partner marketers is the timing of the cookie partition. Under 2, the 24-hour cookie access window has been removed. That means that while ITP 1 enabled pixel tags to track immediate conversions, 2 does not.
Protection Against Tracker Redirects
For many tracking solutions based on pixel tags, an ad or link click invisibly redirects the browser to a tracking-company-controlled domain to record the action before redirecting the user to the desired final destination. Under ITP 2, actions like tracking cookie drops on these tracking-company-controlled sites will be blocked.
Referring URL Truncation
ITP 2 also reduces the amount of information that advertisers can get from referring URLs. Advertisers will be able to read the domain name, for example <<partnername.com>>, but not more in-depth information from a URL, for example <<partnername.com>>/department.
IMPLICATIONS FOR PARTNER AND AFFILIATE MARKETERS
Pixel-based third-party cookie tracking is by far the most common tracking technology used in the partner and affiliate marketing spaces. Some advertisers have long favored it because deployment is relatively straightforward and often does not require tech team involvement.
Over the past several years, however, advertisers have learned that such cookies, while still potent and valuable, are an imperfect way to capture the totality of customer data.
ITP 1 limited the duration and information sharing for many third-party cookies. ITP 2 further limits data collection. Further, new versions of Safari that will support ITP 2 represent a significant share of total web traffic. That means that a significant number of conversions may be affected.
WHY WE RECOMMEND REPLACING PIXEL-BASED TRACKING WITH AN API-BASED INTEGRATION
We believe that moving away from pixel-based tracking is a question of when, not if. Most industry analysts expect use of pixel-based tracking will decline quickly over the next five years. Partnerize recommends that clients move away from pixel-based tracking to direct, API-based measurement.
For clients that must use pixel-based tracking, we are constantly innovating to ensure our clients get the industry’s most accurate pixel-based data available. That said, the effectiveness of pixel tracking has been declining, and ITP 2 further challenges cookie-based tracking. While many advertisers have traditionally chosen pixel-based integration because it is easiest to execute, our team has made great strides in streamlining and automating the process so that, in most cases, an API-based integration involves just one or two developers for one or two sprints.
Another great advantage of API is that it allows for more precise attribution models. Since every consumer event is captured and stored at the client server, marketers can understand the entire customer journey and develop specialized attribution/compensation models that reward contributing upstream partners in addition to the converting partner. We advise API-based integrations because they deliver a more robust solution with additional ability to insert conversion data retrospectively . Our pixel-based data are unsurpassed by other vendors, but API-based solutions offer greater reliability.
GET MORE INFORMATION
If you are a client interested in learning more about API-based integration, get in touch via your CS lead. If you aren’t a client but work in the partner marketing space, we will also be happy to explain the differences between pixel-based tracking and API-based tracking so that you can approach the decision with maximum information -- whomever you work with for technology or network services. Visit our contact page to request additional information.