Earlier this month, comScore released a study on the impact of cookie deletion on audience measurement in Australia. The report follows in a series of cookie deletion studies that comScore has performed around the globe including in the U.S., U.K., and Malaysia, that analyse audiences' cookie deletion behaviours and the implications this has on determining true site visitor counts.
What makes cookie deletion such an integral issue in audience measurement?
What is the difference between first- and third-party cookies?
Often cookies are referred to as first-party or third-party cookies and the difference between the two is important to understand. Cookies associated with a site delivering Web page content directly requested by the user are known as first-party cookies – in other words, cookies that are hosted and served by the same domain as the site that the user is visiting. Such cookies are typically used to directly improve the user experience with the site, and, to some extent, the user knowingly leverages these cookies when they intentionally navigate to the site.
Third-party cookies are those not served by the site that the user is visiting, but are embedded on the page. This includes most of the free Web analytics solutions like those offered from Google, Yahoo, and many others. However a page may have many other cookies that are associated with objects delivered within the context of a larger Web page. These cookies may be served with advertising, embedded content, hosted-content, or rich media applications managed by a third-party domain. Third-party cookies may be set by intermediate activity occurring between rendered page views, such as a request for an advertisement that appears on the page that is served by a third party. Many applications of third-party cookies provide means for tracking activity across a broad network.
Cookie Deletion Across Markets – A Global Behaviour
ComScore has observed that cookie deletion is a behaviour that crosses borders. During an April 2010 study on cookie deletion behaviours across markets, comScore observed that across the markets observed (Asia Pacific, Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, France, Germany, United States, and Brazil), each market saw third-party cookies being deleted on between 20-40 percent of computers, and in each case the number of cookies per computer was generally more than three. In terms of first-party cookies, deletion rates were in excess of 20 percent in each case and the average number of cookies per computer was generally between two and three.
ComScore observed that an average computer in the Asia Pacific region had 4.2 third-party cookies, and 4.0 first-party cookies. Among the three Asia Pacific markets measured individually (Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand) in the study, all three saw first third-party cookie deletion rates hover around 35 percent, while Malaysians exhibited the largest percent of first-party cookie deletion at 33.5 percent of Web users.
So, why is cookie deletion such a big deal?
The implications of cookie deletion are far-reaching, affecting both site-centric analytics and ad-server analytics, and ultimately leading to inaccuracies for those choosing to rely solely on server-based unique user/browser data for weekly or monthly audience numbers.
Cookie deletion leads to the following inaccuracies in site-centric measurement when unique user/browser numbers are used as a proxy for unique visitors to a website:
Accurate, reliable measurement that both publishers and advertisers agree on is the cornerstone of building a vibrant digital advertising economy. At the end of the day, advertising has always been about how many eyeballs and the number of times they see the advertisers' messages.
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Joe Nguyen is vice president, Southeast Asia, at comScore, a global Internet information provider. He's responsible for new business development and expanding sales of comScore products and services throughout the Southeast Asia region. ComScore reports on market-specific measurement of Internet usage for 13 Asia-Pacific countries and is rapidly increasing its footprint in Asia Pacific with people and products. Joe has more than 15 years of sales experience in the Asia-Pacific region and is a thought leader in the industry, regularly speaking at conferences and holding a seat on the Advisory Board of ad:tech Singapore and on the leadership council of the Interactive Advertising Bureau Southeast Asia, Singapore chapter. He's a veteran of the online analytics industry with experience on both the user and vendor sides of panel-based audience measurement and site-side analytics. Please follow this link to view Joe's LinkedIn profile.
March 19, 2014