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Apple iOS 17 link tracking protection: a marketer’s guide

Learn all about Apple's iOS 17 update, how its link tracking protection affects digital marketing, and tips to adapt strategies for a privacy-focused future.
Marketer learning details about Apple’s iOS 17 link tracking protection.

In mid-September, Apple released iOS 17 which included a new feature called link tracking protection (LTP). This feature aims to enhance user privacy and security. 

Craig Federighi, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Software Engineering, has emphasized that this update shows that Apple is committed to keeping users in the driver’s seat when it comes to their data. This is great news for user privacy. However, you may have some questions regarding how your data usage may change.

In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at how iOS 17’s link tracking protection works, assess its impact on marketing strategies, and give tips on how you can adapt to these privacy-focused changes.

Link tracking protection limits the use of cookies and tracking of user behavior across Apple’s Mail app, Messages, and Safari’s Private Browsing mode.

Link tracking protection removes user-identifiable tracking parameters that are used in URLs. These parameters, also known as tracking parameters or UTM parameters, are special codes added to the end of URLs. 

They are generally used to track various aspects of a user’s interaction with a digital marketing campaign, such as the source of traffic, the medium through which users arrive, and specific campaign details.

By removing these parameters, link tracking protection makes it harder for companies to track your online behavior. Therefore, it significantly enhances your privacy. 

As an example, a campaign tracking URL on Dotdigital might look like this: 

Dotdigital campaign tracking URL.

You’ve likely been utilizing data to create successful campaigns for some time. However, with the introduction of Apple’s link tracking protection, these techniques now face notable limitations. To gain a better understanding of how to adjust your marketing strategies, let’s explore the impact of iOS 17’s link tracking protection on marketers and how to adjust to these changes.

Third-party cookies and retargeting

Third-party cookies are commonly used to monitor user activity across different websites, capture preferences, behaviors, and interests. However, with the introduction of iOS 17’s link tracking protection, these cookies are prevented from functioning properly, making it harder for you to create targeted ads based on user activity.

Also, retargeting campaigns, which depend on third-party cookies to show ads to users who have previously interacted with your website, are also affected by iOS 17’s link tracking protection. This reduction in trackable user data can reduce your ability to deliver retargeting ads, ultimately impacting the conversion rates.

To overcome this challenge, you should focus on collecting and utilizing zero and first-party data. You can use tools such as preference centers, surveys, and on-site behavior tracking to gather valuable user data. This data can then be used to create better-targeted campaigns that are more likely to resonate with users.

Opt-in tracking requirements

Apple’s recent update highlights the significance of obtaining user consent for tracking. It has made it mandatory for apps to seek the user’s permission before tracking them. This change implies that you cannot presume user participation in tracking. Consequently, this limits your data collection opportunities which can make it more difficult to track users and measure your campaign performance.

To adapt to this new requirement, you need to prioritize opt-in tracking. Make sure that your users understand the value of tracking and the benefits it provides to enhance their customer experience. By doing so, you can increase the likelihood of users opting in and consenting to tracking.

Difficulty in conversion attribution

Conversion attribution can be a big challenge in marketing. It’s important to accurately identify which marketing campaigns and channels are driving results. But with iOS 17 limiting tracking abilities, you may find it more difficult to measure marketing metrics like ROI. 

To overcome this challenge, you should prioritize developing a marketing attribution model that considers various data sources and takes into account alternative metrics such as engagement and customer loyalty to gauge campaign success.

An attribution model is a framework that helps you understand how different touchpoints in a customer journey contribute to a sale or conversion. By analyzing data from multiple sources such as social media, email marketing, and website analytics, you can create a more accurate picture of how customers interact with your brand and what drives them to make a purchase.

In addition to traditional metrics such as clicks and conversions, you should also consider alternative metrics such as engagement and customer loyalty. Engagement metrics such as time spent on the site, shares, and comments can provide insights into how customers are interacting with your brand and what content resonates with them.

Similarly, customer loyalty metrics such as repeat purchases, referrals, and customer lifetime value can provide a more comprehensive understanding of the impact of a marketing campaign on your brand’s bottom line.

Preparing for a privacy-centric future

Apple’s iOS 17 link tracking protection sets a precedent for a future where data privacy takes center stage. This change serves as a reminder that data-driven strategies must adjust to accommodate growing concerns about privacy and data protection.

As technology continues to revolutionize the marketing industry, you must stay ahead of the curve and adapt to the changing landscape. By shifting your focus to first-party data collection and adopting privacy-focused and responsible marketing practices, you can effectively navigate the challenges of iOS 17 and beyond.

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