Starting Oct. 30, Google will make parallel tracking the default way to run third-party tracking for Google search and shopping ads. It’ll become mandatory for display and video ads by March 2019.
For now, only Chrome traffic will use parallel tracking, with other operating systems and browsers to be added throughout the rest of the year.
Parallel tracking, which Google first introduced as an option last year, changes the way third-party click tracking functions across its ad products. Google claims it can shave as much as five seconds off of a page’s load time.
Without parallel tracking, ad trackers introduce latency between click and page load, which can cause frustrated users to bounce.
Rather than redirecting users who click on an ad to a Google tracking URL before depositing them on the advertiser’s site – aka sequential tracking – Google is separating ad tracking from the user experience by loading the ad tracking mechanism in the background simultaneously with the user’s click.
In other words, an express train to the final destination without any additional stops along the way.
Parallel tracking is also arguably more secure, because it requires that all ad trackers use the HTTPS protocol, said Wes MacLaggan, SVP of marketing at Marin Software. It’s also “more stable, because it removes the ability for ad tracking servers to augment the experience before landing on the advertiser’s website,” MacLaggan said.
Advertisers that use any type of third-party ad trackers need to enable parallel tracking within the settings of their Google Ads/AdWords account. It’s also a good idea to check in with third-party tracking partners to verify that they’re properly set up to handle the new tracking process.
“The best way to ensure the transition is done right is to migrate small accounts first and monitor them for a short period,” said Will Martin-Gill, chief strategy officer at Kenshoo. “Then move on to the rest of the program.”
Failure to adjust campaigns and update to the new system could interfere with how tracking functions and how conversions are counted, Martin-Gill said.
Advertisers that don’t use third-party click trackers don’t have to do anything before the deadline. Their pages will simply load faster automatically.
Google has been banging the drum on speed for a while with AMP for content and ads and a move in July to use page speed as a ranking parameter for mobile searches.
But 2018 has also been a year of sea changes for third-party ad tracking.
Apple is cracking down on third-party cookies in Safari, Firefox recently followed suit within its browser and, in Europe, prior consent is the only avenue for any entity that doesn’t have a legitimate interest to track and process data.
And now, with parallel tracking, ad trackers that rely on redirects to set cookies are increasingly on the wrong side of history.