Cookies are crumbling: Salesforce Pardot launches first-party cookie feature - what you need to know

June 4, 2021 Chuck Leddy

This blog post was co-produced by Ana Laura Zain, Sojourn Solutions Senior Marketing Automation Consultant. 


We’ve called this ongoing blog series “Cookies Are Crumbling” because third-party cookies are disappearing from the marketing landscape, making it more difficult for B2B marketers to track customers across websites/domains and gain full visibility into the buyer’s journey. The most popular operating systems, Google Chrome (with 60% of all users) and Apple iOS, have shared they will be eliminating support for third-party cookies. (Google recently amended their initial notice date to "by the end of 2023.") Less used operating systems like Safari and Firefox have already stopped supporting third-party cookies.

Salesforce Pardot launched a first-party tracking service in its Spring ‘21 release as part of an ongoing effort to become more privacy friendly and anticipate the massive changes happening in the areas of cookies and tracking.

Clarifying the context

Before we explain what Pardot has done, how it might impact you, and what you should consider doing next, let’s clarify a few basic terms. First-party cookies are stored by the website you are visiting. They allow website owners to collect analytics data, remember language settings, and perform other useful functions that help provide a good user experience on the website.

Third-party cookies are created by websites other than the one a person is visiting directly. They are used for cross-site, cross-domain tracking, retargeting and ad-serving, all of which benefit marketers as they seek to understand, engage and target their customers across domains. While third-party cookies are going away, first-party cookies are not.

What are the benefits of marketers using first-party cookies, you might ask? 

  1. First-party cookies can’t be blocked with incognito browsers or cookie blockers;
  2. Your customer experience improves since you can allow form prefill, language settings, and other advantages that enable marketers to give customers with a better overall experience;
  3. You have more control over first-party data since you will be collecting it via your own domain/website.

The purpose of Pardot’s first-party cookie tracking

The purpose of Pardot’s new first-party cookies feature is to enable marketers to track visitor interactions and activities even before those website visitors become prospects, meaning before they fill a form and you have their information.

Pardot made this feature available to its users for an obvious reason, which we’ve described above: i.e., the marketing industry and big operating systems are moving away from third-party cookies. Therefore, Pardot tracking capabilities have been updated (Spring ‘21 release) in order to fully comply with new and evolving industry standards so Pardot users can stay ahead of the curve on changes to cookies. 

Key considerations for Pardot users of first-party tracking

While the biggest impact around the removal of third-party cookies may be on the ad tech industry, which will have less capability to target ads to customers, the change will also make gaining visibility into the full, cross-domain customer journey more challenging. In addition, the unavailability of third-party cookies will have negative impacts on reporting/attribution, customer segmentation, personalization efforts, and more -- all of which may reduce marketing ROI and revenue generation. Here are some key considerations from a Pardot perspective, issues you need to be aware of if you were previously using third-party cookies: 

  1. Pardot customers will be unable to track visitors anonymously across domains. 
  2. Domain alignment will be key to maximizing engagement data in a cookieless world. All your links and assets should therefore share the same root domain. While first-party cookies don’t track across domains, they can track across subdomains of the same root domain.
  3. Use only HTTPS links across your marketing campaigns. Using both HTTPS and HTTP protocols can result in new visitor IDs being issued and activity not being linked appropriately.
  4. Using Pardot’s First-Party Tracking feature has some risk as browsers evolve their privacy practices. Pardot monitors and responds to these developments to refine its tracking strategy and features.

A more comprehensive list of considerations is available at Pardot Trailblazer, the user community for Pardot.

Migrating from third- to first-party cookie tracking

If you don’t migrate to first-party cookies, your web engagement data will become less accurate and reliable, which also diminishes your reporting and attribution efforts. You also risk not having visibility into all your website visitors (it’s like a black hole), which is an equally serious consequence for B2B marketing. To help you implement and start using Pardot’s first-party cookies tracking feature, here are some steps you can take to migrate from third- to first-party cookie tracking:

  1. Audit websites you are tracking to have a list so you can more easily replace the Pardot tracking code;
  2. Pardot hosted content will also use first-party tracking so make sure you have a list of that content;
  3. Go to your Pardot account settings and turn off the third-party tracking functionality in Pardot;
  4. In your Pardot account settings, enable first-party tracking.

As cookies continue to crumble, more changes will surely be coming to Pardot and other marketing automation platforms. We’ll continue to monitor these important trends around cookies and tracking in our “Cookies Are Crumbling” series, explaining how these changes impact your marketing efforts and suggesting what you should do next.

For more information about using Pardot’s new first-party cookie feature, reach out to us for help.   

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