What is Cookieless Tracking? The Future of Affiliate Marketing S2S Tracking

cookieless tracking

Did you know that third-party cookies, which have long been the backbone of online tracking and digital marketing, are becoming obsolete? With concerns over online privacy and user data protection on the rise, major advertising ecosystems and tech companies are phasing out these cookies. But what does this mean for the future of digital marketing and affiliate tracking?

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the world of cookieless tracking and explore how it is reshaping the landscape of affiliate marketing and web analytics. We’ll discuss the impact of eliminating third-party cookies, the role of server-side tracking as an alternative, and the challenges and benefits that come with this shift. So, if you’re curious about the future of online tracking and data privacy, keep reading!

Understanding Third-Party Cookies and Their Role in Digital Advertising

Third-party cookies have played a crucial role in digital advertising by allowing marketers to track user behavior across different websites. These cookies provide valuable insights into the websites users visit and their online behavior, enabling marketers to deliver personalized and targeted ads.

On the other hand, first-party cookies are specific to the website a user is visiting and do not transfer data to third-party services. They help websites remember user preferences and provide a more personalized browsing experience.

While both types of cookies serve important purposes in understanding user journeys and driving marketing efforts, third-party cookies have come under scrutiny due to privacy concerns and their association with criminal activities like ad fraud.

In response to these concerns, major browsers and ad tech companies are phasing out third-party cookies. This shift is aimed at protecting user data privacy and improving online security. As a result, marketers need to adapt and explore alternative tracking methods to ensure effective advertising campaigns.

Let’s take a closer look at the main features and implications of third-party cookies:

“Third-party cookies have been instrumental in tracking user behavior across different websites, enabling marketers to deliver personalized and targeted ads.”

The Role of Third-Party Cookies

Third-party cookies have been the bedrock of digital advertising, helping marketers gain insights into user behavior, track conversions, and optimize ad campaigns. Some of the key roles of third-party cookies include:

  • Cross-site tracking: Third-party cookies allow marketers to track user activity across multiple websites, providing a holistic understanding of their online behavior.
  • Retargeting: By leveraging third-party cookies, marketers can retarget users who have shown interest in their products or services, increasing the chances of conversion.
  • Ad-serving: Third-party cookies enable advertisers to deliver targeted ads based on users’ previous interactions and preferences.

These capabilities have been essential for advertisers to reach their target audience effectively and measure the success of their campaigns. However, concerns about user privacy and data security have prompted the industry to seek alternative tracking methods.

The Phased Elimination of Third-Party Cookies

Major browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, along with ad tech companies, are gradually phasing out support for third-party cookies. This decision stems from the growing demand for enhanced online privacy and user data protection.

The phased elimination of third-party cookies has several implications for digital advertising:

  • Privacy enhancement: By reducing reliance on third-party cookies, online privacy can be better safeguarded, giving users more control over their personal information.
  • Shift towards first-party data: With the decline of third-party cookies, marketers are placing more emphasis on collecting and analyzing first-party data directly from their website users.
  • Alternative tracking methods: Marketers need to explore alternative tracking methods like contextual advertising, probabilistic attribution, and server-side tracking to understand user behavior and optimize their campaigns.

This transition to a cookieless future presents both challenges and opportunities for advertisers. It calls for a shift in strategies and a deeper understanding of user behavior through alternative tracking methods.

Next, we’ll explore the implications of the elimination of third-party cookies and the importance of data privacy compliance in the digital advertising landscape.

The Implications of the Elimination of Third-Party Cookies

The elimination of third-party cookies is not solely driven by Google’s decision, but also by increasing concerns over data privacy and protection. While digital companies comply with GDPR and other data privacy laws, instances of data compromise and cybercrime have undermined user trust. To address these concerns, major ad tech companies and browsers, such as Firefox and Safari, have taken steps to block or eliminate third-party cookies. Additionally, mobile operating systems like iOS 14.5 are improving user privacy by blocking cross-app tracking.

In a cookieless future, marketers need to adapt by developing first-party data strategies and exploring alternative tracking methods. This shift has significant implications for targeting campaigns and retargeting campaigns, which heavily rely on third-party cookies. Marketers must find new ways to deliver personalized experiences while respecting data privacy and complying with regulations.

“The elimination of third-party cookies presents both challenges and opportunities. Marketers need to navigate this new landscape to ensure a seamless user experience while safeguarding data privacy.” – Marketing expert


  • Loss of traditional targeting capabilities
  • Increased reliance on first-party data
  • Reevaluating measurement and attribution models


  • Emphasis on user consent and transparent data practices
  • Improvement in user experience with reduced tracking
  • Shift towards privacy-focused marketing strategies
Impact of the Elimination of Third-Party CookiesConsiderations for Marketers
Loss of cross-site tracking capabilitiesDevelop first-party data strategies
Reduction in retargeting effectivenessExplore alternative targeting methods
Increased focus on data privacy and complianceEnsure GDPR compliance and transparent data practices
Less reliance on data from third-party providersEstablish direct relationships with customers and trusted publishers

The Role of Server-Side Tracking in a Cookieless Future

As traditional tracking methods reliant on third-party cookies become obsolete, server-side tracking emerges as a viable alternative. Server-side tracking involves direct communication between servers, bypassing user browsers and potentially reducing the impact of ad blockers. It allows businesses to improve customer privacy, enhance website loading time, and maintain accurate conversion tracking.

In the context of affiliate marketing, server-side tracking enables advertisers to rely on first-party data from trusted publishers, ensuring precise attribution and better campaign performance measurement. Additionally, server-side tracking facilitates incrementality testing, which helps determine the impact of marketing activities on business outcomes.

Benefits of Server-Side Tracking:

  • Improved customer privacy
  • Enhanced website loading time
  • Accurate conversion tracking
  • Precise attribution through first-party data
  • Better campaign performance measurement
  • Incrementality testing for evaluating marketing impact

Direct Interaction with Publishers:

Server-side tracking enables direct interaction with publishers in affiliate marketing. By establishing a direct connection, advertisers can utilize the first-party data from these trusted publishers. This ensures more accurate tracking and attribution, allowing advertisers to make informed decisions based on reliable data.

The Impact of Ad Blockers:

Ad blockers pose a challenge to traditional tracking methods reliant on third-party cookies. However, server-side tracking works independently of user browsers, potentially reducing the impact of ad blockers. This ensures that advertisers can continue tracking user behavior effectively, even in a cookieless environment.

Enhancing Customer Privacy:

Server-side tracking prioritizes customer privacy by directly communicating between servers. This reduces the reliance on third-party cookies, which are often associated with privacy concerns. By implementing server-side tracking, businesses can demonstrate their commitment to protecting customer data and foster trust with their audience.

Server-Side TrackingThird-Party Cookies
Enables direct communication between serversRelies on user browsers
Potentially reduces the impact of ad blockersVulnerable to ad blockers
Enhances customer privacyRaises privacy concerns
Relies on first-party data from trusted publishersDepends on third-party data
Accurate conversion trackingMay face limitations in conversion tracking

Transitioning to Cookieless Advertising Strategies

With the deprecation of third-party cookies, it is essential for advertisers to adapt their advertising strategies to align with a cookieless future. Traditional programmatic advertising, which heavily relies on third-party cookies for targeting and tracking, may no longer be as effective. To navigate this changing landscape, marketers can explore alternative approaches such as contextual targeting and direct interaction with publishers, particularly in the context of affiliate marketing. These strategies open up new opportunities for advertisers to reach their target audience in a privacy-conscious manner while ensuring accurate tracking and attribution.

Programmatic advertising has traditionally allowed advertisers to target audiences based on their online behavior and interests as tracked by third-party cookies. However, with the deprecation of third-party cookies, this targeting method becomes less effective. Instead, contextual targeting advertising offers a valuable alternative. Contextual targeting focuses on delivering ads based on the content of the webpage itself. By analyzing the context in which an ad is placed, advertisers can ensure that their messages align with the interests and intentions of the audience, ensuring higher engagement and relevance.

Direct interaction with publishers is another powerful strategy in a cookieless advertising landscape. By leveraging direct relationships with publishers, advertisers can access first-party data that resides within the publisher’s ecosystem. This approach allows for accurate tracking and attribution, as well as a deeper understanding of the target audience. In the context of affiliate marketing, direct interaction with trusted publishers can be particularly valuable, as it enables advertisers to tap into the first-party data of these publishers and leverage their influence and audience to drive successful campaigns.

In summary, the transition to a cookieless future requires advertisers to rethink their advertising strategies. With the limitations of traditional programmatic advertising, exploring alternatives such as contextual targeting and direct interaction with publishers becomes crucial. These strategies offer advertisers the ability to deliver targeted and relevant ads while ensuring accurate tracking and attribution. By embracing these new approaches, advertisers can navigate the challenges of a cookieless advertising landscape and continue to achieve their marketing objectives.

Leveraging Alternative Tracking Methods and Metrics

In the absence of third-party cookies, you can still measure the impact of your advertising campaigns using alternative tracking methods and metrics. It’s important to evaluate various brand metrics to understand how your brand is perceived by your audience. Some key metrics to consider include:

  • Ad Recall: Assess how well your ads are remembered by your target audience.
  • Brand Awareness: Gauge the level of awareness and recognition your brand has among consumers.
  • Consideration: Measure the extent to which consumers are considering your brand when making purchase decisions.

Beyond brand metrics, you can also leverage other indicators to track your advertising performance:

  • Organic Search Demand: Monitor the number of searches related to your brand or products on search engines to gain insights into consumer interest and intent.
  • Social Listening: Utilize social listening tools to gather information about how consumers are talking about your brand on social media. This can provide valuable feedback and uncover trends.

In addition, probabilistic attribution can be employed to assign conversions to your marketing campaigns. By analyzing data points and patterns, probabilistic attribution can determine the most likely source of a conversion, helping you understand which marketing efforts are driving results.

Example of Brand Perception Metrics

Ad RecallMeasures how well your ads are remembered by consumers.
Brand AwarenessEvaluates the level of awareness and recognition your brand has among your target audience.
ConsiderationAssesses the extent to which consumers are considering your brand when making purchase decisions.

By leveraging these alternative tracking methods and metrics, you can gain valuable insights into the effectiveness of your advertising campaigns and make data-driven decisions to optimize your marketing efforts.

The Benefits and Challenges of Server-Side Tracking

Server-side tracking offers numerous benefits in the evolving landscape of digital marketing. By implementing server-to-server tracking, advertisers can enjoy improved data accuracy, privacy compliance, and seamless compatibility with the cookieless future.

One of the key advantages of server-side tracking is the enhanced accuracy in tracking user behavior. Unlike traditional methods relying on third-party cookies, server-to-server tracking enables advertisers to gather more precise data, allowing for better understanding of customer journeys and more targeted campaigns.

Privacy compliance is a top concern in the era of evolving data protection regulations. Server-side tracking provides a privacy-focused solution by bypassing user browsers and collecting data directly on servers. This approach ensures that user privacy concerns are respected, helping advertisers build trust with their audience.

However, transitioning to server-side tracking may present some challenges. Its technical complexity requires proper integration of tracking systems and software. Advertisers need to invest resources into setting up and maintaining the infrastructure, ensuring seamless communication between servers.

In spite of the challenges, server-side tracking is a strategic choice for the future of digital marketing. Its long-term benefits in terms of data privacy, accuracy, and campaign optimization make it worth the investment. By embracing server-side tracking, marketers can enhance data accuracy, ensure privacy compliance, and optimize their advertising efforts in the rapidly evolving digital landscape.


The ever-changing digital landscape and concerns over data privacy have led to the elimination of third-party cookies, forcing marketers to adapt to a cookieless future. In this new era of affiliate marketing and web analytics, implementing alternative tracking methods, such as server-to-server tracking, and privacy-focused tracking solutions becomes crucial.

Server-to-server tracking offers a more reliable and accurate data collection method, ensuring improved privacy compliance. By embracing server-to-server tracking, advertisers can continue measuring campaign performance and optimizing their marketing strategies in the absence of third-party cookies. Although transitioning to server-to-server tracking may involve challenges and technical complexity, the long-term benefits make it a strategic choice for marketers seeking data privacy, accurate tracking, and effective campaign optimization.

The cookieless future presents an opportunity for marketers to take a privacy-focused approach, prioritizing user data protection. By exploring alternative tracking methods and implementing privacy-focused tracking solutions, marketers can build trust with their audience and ensure compliance with evolving data privacy regulations. In this privacy-conscious era, the use of server-to-server tracking and other privacy-focused approaches will shape the future of affiliate marketing and web analytics, enabling marketers to navigate the evolving digital landscape while safeguarding user data privacy.


What is cookieless tracking?

Cookieless tracking is a method of tracking user behavior online without relying on third-party cookies. It involves alternative tracking technologies and privacy-focused approaches to gather data about website visitors and their actions.

Why are third-party cookies being eliminated?

Third-party cookies are being phased out due to concerns over data privacy and protection. Major browsers and ad tech companies are taking steps to block or eliminate these cookies to address privacy issues and protect user data.

How does the elimination of third-party cookies impact advertisers?

The elimination of third-party cookies affects advertisers by requiring them to explore alternative tracking methods, such as server-side tracking and contextual targeting. Advertisers need to adapt their advertising strategies to reach their target audience effectively.

What is server-side tracking?

Server-side tracking is a tracking method that involves direct communication between servers, bypassing user browsers. It offers improved data accuracy, privacy compliance, and compatibility with a cookieless future.

What are the benefits of transitioning to cookieless advertising strategies?

Transitioning to cookieless advertising strategies, such as contextual targeting and direct interaction with publishers, allows advertisers to maintain accurate tracking and attribution in a cookieless future. It ensures effective ad delivery and campaign performance measurement.

How can marketers leverage alternative tracking methods and metrics?

Marketers can leverage alternative tracking methods and metrics by evaluating brand metrics, assessing organic search demand, and using social listening tools to understand audience reactions and feedback. Probabilistic attribution can also help attribute conversions to marketing campaigns.

What are the benefits and challenges of server-side tracking?

Server-side tracking offers benefits such as improved data accuracy, privacy compliance, and compatibility with a cookieless future. However, it may involve technical complexity and resource investment during the transition phase.

How does server-side tracking contribute to the future of affiliate marketing and web analytics?

Server-side tracking plays a crucial role in the future of affiliate marketing and web analytics by providing advertisers with more reliable data, privacy compliance, and accurate campaign optimization. It ensures the protection of user data and allows for tracking in a changing digital landscape.