AdWords and DoubleClick react to Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention

You may have heard about Apple’s update to Safari (including as part of iOS): the browser now intelligently interferes with the operation of third-party tracking cookies. You may have also seen a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth. What we’re attempting to do here is put things in perspective…

What’s going on?

Apple is (rightly) trying to protect their users’ privacy: by identifying third-party tracking cookies and causing these to be prematurely removed from Safari. First-party cookies are unaffected; these are the cookies that a website uses to support and track its own features and content.  Third-party cookies for tracking are Apple’s target with their new ITP technology: these cookies are accessed potentially across any website and are central to advertising technology.

What’s the impact?

Any tracking solution which relies on cookies – and that’s most of them – will be affected, including Google AdWords and DoubleClick’s Floodlight. It’s worth noting that Google Analytics will not be affected – and if your Analytics account is linked to your AdWords account properly, there will be no impact. You can read more about this in Kev Joyner’s excellent post here.

If you don’t have Google Analytics, then AdWords and Floodlight are going to start guessing the amount of conversions they’re seeing from Apple’s Safari browser – using historic conversion performance as a benchmark. Any kind of guessing or assumptions are never going to be a reliable base on which to build a marketing campaign – so using Google Analytics is going to be a very smart move.

It’s REALLY IMPORTANT to note that this is only going to affect conversions which happen after 24 hours. If a conversion happens right after the click, it’s going to be recorded normally.

What can I do?

  1. Get Google Analytics set up as soon as possible. Google Analytics will use first-party tracking to track performance so will not be impacted by this.
  2. Keep a beady eye on your performance over the next few weeks, mobile especially, as a good quick indicator (since so much mobile is Safari). Segment your campaigns by device and by week and monitor any changes in performance.
  3. Keep an eye on your bidding strategies. If the assumptions AdWords/Floodlight is making are wrong, it will impact your bidding strategies quickly – so monitor click traffic and conversion performance closely too.
  4. It’s possible to use AdWords to figure out what your current time lag to conversion is too. Remember, it’s only conversions after a 24-hour window that are affected. To check what your window looks like in AdWords:

Go to Tools and then Attribution.

Then click on Paths and select Time Lag

Select From last click:

Here you’ll be able to see how many conversions happen in <1 day and from then on:

Here we can see the advertiser is likely to see a reasonable impact – out of 124 conversions, 72 happen within 24 hours, meaning 42% of conversions sit outside of the 24-hour window. But you also have to understand that of the 42% of conversions outside of that window, it’s only Safari-user conversions which will be affected.


It feels like a big change and change is always scary. However, every time the industry hears news like this we tend to see an immediate outcry followed by the realisation that a) it’s never really that bad, and b) everyone is in the same boat. You’re just gonna have to deal with it! Keep calm, keep monitoring your accounts, and get in touch if you want a hand setting up Google Analytics!

Further reading:

by Martin Reed
29 September 2017



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