Who doesn’t love a delicious cookie? They’re sweetly satisfying and invoke the simple pleasures of our bygone childhood. Not surprisingly, chocolate chip cookies were recently named the most iconic dessert in America.1 What does this have to do with how we advertise behavioral health online?
Well, you may not realize that the tech cookie is crumbling. That’s right. For decades, businesses and browsers have collected consumer data through third-party cookies. But in the last several years, Firefox and Safari turned off their cookies by default.2 Now, Google plans to follow suit in 2023.3
What Are Third-Party Cookies?
Just like the cookies you eat, there are several types of internet tracking cookies. In general, cookies are small files or bits of code that enable websites to track, personalize, and save information about how visitors engage with the site
There are several different types of cookies that complete different tasks. Session cookies are short-term and let you click the “back” button to return to a previous screen or save items in a shopping cart while you continue to browse the site.
Persistent, or first-party, cookies last longer than a single session but still don’t last forever. These cookies allow users to save preferences on a specific website or keep items in their carts after navigating away from the website.
We’re talking about third-party cookies, though. These invasive little pieces of code track your online behaviors and collect data about your online preferences. Usually, this personal information about you is sold to advertisers who create custom promotions and advertisements based on your internet habits.
Yes, third-party cookies are a valuable marketing tool. From an addiction treatment perspective, third-party cookies can be collected from users who search for various addiction treatment terms and then sold to a healthcare group specializing in treatment or even a pharmaceutical company seeking to identify and convert new patients.
Why Are Third-Party Cookies Going Away?
Well, from the description above, the issue should feel obvious. Even though you may have agreed to cookie collection via a consent banner, gathering information about your site visitors this way seems questionable, at best. Many consumers aren’t as informed as they should be about internet privacy, and 60% say they aren’t familiar with tracking prevention4 or the long-term implications of collecting third-party cookies.
At the same time, there’s another group of consumers who are more aware of their internet privacy than ever. As a result, 42% of people say they’ve taken steps to reduce5 the amount of data they share online.
How Do You Advertise Behavioral Health Online Without Cookies?
The changes in cookie collection have enormous implications for how we advertise behavioral health online. For most of the internet’s history, advertisers used cookies to inform digital marketing strategies, including yours! So how do you effectively market your behavioral health center on a cookie-free internet?
1. Collect Data in New Ways
Eighty percent of the consumer data visible in 2021 will have vanished by the end of 2022.6 As a result, there’s a massive gap between the information you could once access and what’s still available. But the end of third-party cookies doesn’t mean the end of data-informed digital marketing.
There are other methods for obtaining site user data. You can still collect cookies on your site as long as visitors voluntarily opt-in. And buying data is an option, too. Although those datasets may become scarce and less cost-effective through the end of 2022 and beyond.
2. Integrate Your Data
You can also use the data you already have. As a provider of healthcare services, you own a great deal of information about your patients. In the absence of cookie-produced data, why not integrate your patient data systems with your marketing data systems?
Use past client information to create profiles, or personas, that will help you predict preferences and behaviors in the future. The information you collect won’t be as effective at identifying new patients as third-party cookies, but this is a great way to market to your current client list.
When using patient data, be certain to comply with all applicable HIPAA and local regulations around patient privacy and data protection.
3. Focus on Anonymous Users
The availability of data in the last decade has made marketers a little lazy. Third-party cookies created a landscape where information that once took months to flesh out became available with the click of a button. But, for good reason, those days are ending.
Now, you’ll need to get back to the basics and dust off a few of the fundamental marketing principles to gain a better understanding of your current patients, and the prospective patients out there who need the services and treatments your center provides.
Worried about what the cookie-free future looks like for your addiction treatment center’s digital marketing strategy? Dreamscape Marketing can help you navigate through this shift and create dynamic marketing that doesn’t rely on third-party cookies. Contact us at 888.307.7304 to schedule a strategy session.
For a list of references, please contact us.