Is it Time for Pardot Users to Switch to First Party Tracking?

As the internet evolves so too does people’s understanding of how it functions. When it comes to privacy, most people have a general understanding that there is always an unspoken bargain afoot that involves giving up data about surfing habits in return for information. To date, people have generally demonstrated that they are willing to reveal their patterns of interest to the websites they visit, but there is an overall unease when this information becomes shared with third party entities. As concerns about privacy issues become more acute, those who craft the architecture of browsing experiences are responding by limiting the tracking capabilities associated with cookies.

The primary type of tracking that is being targeted is third party tracking. A tracking mechanism known as a third party cookie enables a form of data sharing where website visitation history is exchanged with domains other than the one that placed the initial cookie. These are normally utilized by re-marketing platforms and are generally added through scripts. As a result, third party cookies can indirectly link search experiences with related products. For example, a visit to a website featuring grass growing tips might result in an advertisement for a lawn mower being served up. Although this type of association has legitimate benefits for both the person seeking information as well as the marketer, there is a surveillance factor that some people find disconcerting. It can be especially problematic for households that share the same device and IP address, as certain ads can tip the hand of another household member’s web surfing habits. In response to such concerns, Apple, in 2017, updated it’s Safari browser to dispense with the use of 3rd party cookies. Mozilla quickly followed suit and made a similar adjustment to its Firefox browser. By some measures, such an adjustment to Safari may not seem far reaching, but the picture changes when one considers that Safari is the browser used by the iPhone’s iOS platform, and claims a 55% market share of all mobile devices in North America. Moving a bit more cautiously, Google, as of April 2021, is rolling out sandbox capabilities in Chrome 90 that will eventually result in the phasing out of 3rd party cookies. For the moment, Chrome is offering users the ability to block 3rd party cookies. As a substitute to advertisers, it is offering advertisers access to depersonalized groups of users who share the same web surfing patterns. This mechanism anonymizes IP addresses, (thereby providing the individualized privacy), while at the same time offering demonstrably like-minded groups resonant advertising messages. Regardless of how the particulars play out, it is evident that the days of third party tracking are numbered.

In contrast to 3rd party cookies, there are also 1st party cookies. First party cookies are based on data relationships that are formed exclusively between the device being used to access a website and the website itself. First party cookies ensure continuity of experience as a person moves throughout the website. These types of cookies enable the website, maintain form fill data, shopping cart items, retain language settings and provide other functions that are indispensable to the user. The necessity of 1st party cookies ensures that they will be relied upon well into the future.

So, What are the Implications for Pardot Users?

Like most marketing automation platforms, Pardot uses a blend of third party and first party cookies to track prospects and yield analytics. Pardot, however, makes use of a script in its cookie, so by association, that makes it vulnerable to mechanisms that suppress third party tracking. In order to keep in step with the changes that are being realized in the browser ecosystem, Pardot is rolling out the ability to adopt exclusively first party tracking. It is achieving this end by converting the client-side tracker cookie to an HTTP cookie. This routing will take advantage of the Pardot tracker domain setup. Currently, this configuration is available in a beta format across all versions of Pardot. With this feature, users will be well positioned to weather the eventual phasing out of 3rd party cookies. By facilitating a shift to 1st party cookies, Pardot will ensure that the platform can continue to provide personalized experiences and the delivery of relevant content.

How to Enable First-Party Tracking in Pardot
Characteristic of Pardot’s ease of use, activating the new beta first-party tracking feature is easily achieved by clicking on the box First-Party Tracking checkbox. This checkbox can be found in the global settings environment that is associated with the gear icon in the upper right hand corner of the main Pardot window. Clicking on the edit button grants. Once activated, two subsequent checkboxes will appear; “Use third-party cookies with first-party tracking”, and “Use third-party tracking”. Pardot advocates clicking on these two additional checkboxes during the transitionary period. This is especially encouraged for those who are using multiple domains.

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To prepare for this configuration change it will be important to validate at least one HTTPS tracker domain in Pardot. After these measures have been taken, it will be necessary to substitute new tracking code for the now dated code and place it on the website pages that you wish to associate with prospect visitation. You may note that the code for default campaigns will lack a campaign ID (piCID) field, this is to be expected, and it should be placed on the website accordingly. The old codes will continue to work until you exchange them. If you only use one website domain, (as most users do), then the process should be fairly straightforward.

Integration Considerations
If you have multiple domains, it should be noted that first party tracking codes do not track across, multiple campaigns, so it will be necessary to associate a given campaign with a single root domain. First party tracking does not work with the default go.pardot.com domain, so if you have not established a tracker ID then, it’s is best to hold off on this configuration until one is set up. For a complete list of pre-integration considerations please refer to the Salesforce documentation.

Is This Worth Doing?
In a word, yes. Currently, Safari and Firefox are not acknowledging third party cookies. This is certainly starting to affect the metrics associated with campaigns. As Chrome signs on with its own unique response, (giving people more power to make custom browser choices), attribution models will only continue to erode. Shifting to a first party tracking configuration will future-proof your metrics and allow you to keep in step with the overall sentiments that are driving changes in the browser ecosystem.

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Jeff Stiles

Jeff Stiles is a marketing automation specialist, and digital marketing enthusiast. His favourite colour is #00a3e0, formerly Pantone 299 C.