How Safari 12 and iOS 12 Affect Search Marketing

Arcalea - Safari 12 and iOS 12 impact on search marketing

As internet use has increased, so has user tracking. Not all user tracking is bad- sometimes the data can be used to serve up better user experiences, products, and services for visitors. Previously, we’ve covered how heat maps can influence web design.

However, many users feel that too much data is being collected and used toward advertising and third-party access. Sometimes, user information is collected without proper consent or notice.

Apple recently released iOS 12 (the software that powers iPhones and iPads) and Safari 12 (the latest version of Apple’s web browser), and while the general public may not notice, some of the new features will have a significant impact on how users navigate the internet.

What’s new in iOS 12?

First, let’s cover some of the changes in the latest updates. Previous updates have centered around a major overhaul- in iOS 4 it was multitasking, in iOS 7 it was a completely revamped interface. iOS 12 instead focuses on streamlining the existing software, focusing on stability and security.

In addition to faster overall performance, iOS 12 features a couple of notable updates, among them:

  • Screen Time: a new app that tracks how much time users spend on certain apps.
  • ARKit2: an update to the augmented reality API that allows 2D image tracking and object detection
  • Shortcuts: an app that streamlines certain actions and tasks through Siri.
  • Dozens of security and performance updates
  • And many more

What’s new in Safari 12?

  • Icons in Tabs: There will be an option under Preferences for users to identify tabs visually with website icons.
  • Automatic Strong Passwords: Safari will now automatically generate strong, unique passwords when signing up for accounts or changing passwords on websites.
  • 3D & AR Model Viewer: With the Safari browser update, users will be able to view 3D models or jump into AR viewing experiences when available on web pages.

How will the update affect my search marketing?

Out of all the features from the new features, marketers and business owners will want to keep an eye on the updated Intelligent Tracking Prevention the most. This feature prevents cross-site user tracking, which can greatly affect the accuracy of web analytics.

What is Intelligent Tracking Prevention 2.0?

The Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) feature was first introduced in 2017 as a feature of WebKit, the web browser search engine used by Safari, and other MacOs, iOS, and Linux apps. ITP was designed to reduce cookies and other web data collected by certain websites. ITP 2.0 builds on that framework by permanently partitioning third-party cookie access, adding a user prompt to the Storage Access API, and creating protections against first-party bounce trackers and tracker collusion.

What does all of that mean? Let’s break it down:

24-Hour Cookie Access Removed

In the past, some domains were able to track users 24 hours after the interaction was removed. This is done through cookies, a line of text a website stores on a computer so it can identify the user. With ITP 2.0, permissions are only granted depending on the use case. If the user does not reuse the cookie within 30 days, the cookie is purged, along with other website data and storage access from that domain.

Arcalea - Safari Cookies by Days

User Prompt for Storage Access API

Sometimes a user may want to re-access content on a website that they already authorized, like playing a video on a blog they trust. The Storage Access API is the feature that allows this content to play, even if the user blocks other third-party cookies. Now, WebKit is adding a prompt. If the user allows access, their choice is remembered, but if not, they are prompted later on if they change their mind.

First Party Bounce Tracker and Tracker Collusion Protections

Some domains don’t actually send users directly to links, but instead first send them to a tracker website or domain that accesses user information. At times, these trackers will even work together, even if they’re totally different domains, just to identify the user. ITP 2.0 is smart enough to understand when this happens and purges all data collected by these trackers.

In a nutshell, ITP 2.0 limits the ability for advertisers and site owners to track users across domains.

Websites that load elements such as scripts or images across domains will be classified according to a machine-learning algorithm, and the cookies that those sites deposit will be essentially sectioned off — preventing websites from tracking the user 24 hours after their first interaction with the site.

Once the cookie is partitioned away, it sits there for 30 days. If the user does not interact with that site again during that 30-day window, the cookie is purged.

Has ITP 2.0 impact search visibility?

In terms of organic search, there is no direct impact. The ITP update will only impact how the users are tracked as explained above, so there are no real implications on the organic visibility front.

Will ITP 2.0 impact PPC?

ITP has no real impact on ad visibility or performance. However, there may be an impact on specific script-based conversions, such as video views or similar on-page scripts. The good news is that any of the conversion tracking imported from Google Analytics will not be affected by this change.

In addition, Google has responded to the Intelligence Tracking Prevention initiative by changing how it captures and reports conversions within Google Ads. These changes have been made according to Apple’s own recommendations, which are to implement “server-side storage for attribution of ad impressions on your website” and ensure that “[l]ink decoration (padding links with information) [be] used to pass on attribution information in navigations”.

How Arcalea prepared for the shift

With some guidance from Google, Arcalea has already implemented a solution through Google Tag Manager, thus ensuring that campaign data remains accurate and useful. All clients were informed of the changes, and Arcalea continues to monitor any additional updates Apple may make to WebKit.

The world of search marketing changes each day with every new technology breakthrough or market trend. By monitoring the news and staying on top of these changes, Arcalea can brace other brands for major shifts. If you want to stay current in a dynamic online landscape, partner with a search marketing agency that walks the talk. Contact Arcalea today.