How Does Apple’s New Tracking Protection Update Impact Your Campaign Data? Here’s What You Need to Know

Uncover Apple's MacOS 14 tracking protection update effects on URL tracking and campaign data.
Jun, Wed 21, 2023

With the recent MacOS 14 update, Apple is yet again introducing tracking restrictions to URLs. Find out what this means for you and how you can mitigate its effect on campaign data.

This month, Apple announced new privacy updates with the latest iOS 17. Starting with iOS 17, iPadOS 17, and macOS Sonoma, Safari now automatically eliminates tracking parameters from URLs when in Private Browsing Mode. Termed "Advanced Tracking and Fingerprinting Protection" by Apple, this feature aims to combat cross-website tracking during private and potentially regular browsing sessions in Safari.

Here's how this looks in practice: 

Advertisers and analysts append tracking parameters in campaign links or entities such as a tracking identifier directly a campaign page URL as a method to monitor campaign performance or user activity. In turn, this allows third-party advertising platforms to identify these unique parameters from the URL and associate them with their backend user profiles, enabling the delivery of e.g. personalized ads.

During web browsing or when copying a link, Safari employs a mechanism to identify these tracking parameters. When detected, Safari will strip the identifying tracking components of the URL, while leaving the rest intact. Like this: 

More specifically, Safari will automatically remove unique user identifiable ID’s including click identifiers such as Google’s gclid (contained in the URL string for a Google Ads) Facebook’s fbclid (contained in the URL string for a Facebook ad), and potentially other tracking parameters listed in a lookup file. Currently, there is no sign of this update impacting Google's default UTM parameters or Adobe Analytics' tracking codes (which are custom and non-generic).

The links will still work as expected, but will no longer have unique identifiers.

Should you be concerned? 

As you probably know, this is not the first time Apple announces enhanced tracking restrictions for Safari. Apple's recent ITP updates targeting first-party and third-party cookies drastically impacted the way marketing campaigns used to be tracked by online advertisers and analysts. Apple's Intelligent Tracking Prevention ITP 2.1 update, for example, heavily impacted first-party cookies and cross-site tracking, which created new challenges for online businesses, especially the ones relying on behavioral data.

With that thought in mind, the latest June 2023 update will probably not be the last one of its kind.

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Here's what you can do

With Apple's decision to remove click IDs from URL strings often used with paid campaigns, there has never been a better time to start thinking about the way your company collects and employs marketing data across teams, business entities, locations, and advertising sources.

If you're still relying on click-identifiable information from third-party platforms to solve marketing data tagging, now is a good time to embark on your campaign naming standardization journey.

Here are three things you and your team can do right now to mitigate the potential negative impact that the latest tracking prevention methods can have on your advertising.


1. Establish consistent naming conventions for all your campaigns

We cannot stress this enough:

Naming consistency for marketing data collection is crucial for being able to analyze and accurately attribute campaign data in the first place. Apple's latest update brought to the surface a requirement that's already on the agenda of many companies.

Consistent and well-defined campaign naming provides clarity and structure, ensuring that everyone within the organization can easily understand and interpret the purpose and context of each campaign.

A campaign naming convention taxonomy promotes streamlined collaboration, facilitates more accurate tracking, and simplifies reporting and analysis processes. It enables stakeholders to efficiently compare and evaluate campaign performance, identify trends, and make more data-driven decisions. The data that is being collected for paid and non-paid advertisement needs to follow your taxonomy and conventions for campaign tracking. Otherwise, data moving forward will be of little use when aggregated in your marketing or analytics platform.



2. Activate and evangelize your naming convention taxonomy

Marketing data governance serves as the fundamental framework for managing and leveraging marketing data effectively.

It is crucial to understand that implementing a robust data governance strategy is not an instant solution. Rather, it is a progressive process that begins with establishing ownership and implementing standardized practices.

Activating and evangelizing the naming conventions that you have established empowers you to maximize the potential of your marketing data.This update from Apple will impact businesses differently, as some might see a greater need for media platform reporting, while others focus on analytics platforms, closer to the user behavior on the website. Regardless of this, campaign naming needs to be compliant with your taxonomy in order to be utilized at its full potential.

However, it is essential to acknowledge that achieving significant and lasting change requires dedication, allocation of resources, and knowledge of the subject matter.


3. Expand your campaign reporting capabilities

With Apple's latest update, attributing campaign conversions accurately back to the media platforms may become more challenging, as this is normally done with the help of the click identifiers mentioned above.

Consequently, there will likely be a heightened emphasis on conversion reporting within platforms like Adobe Analytics, with reporting breakdowns based on campaign values provided by e.g., a campaign data platform.

Additionally, exploring alternative methods of ingesting analytics conversion data back into media platforms for attribution and automated bidding optimization could potentially open up new possibilities. This will still be possible with the use of custom parameters and aggregated campaign data, moving away from click identifiable information.

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