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Startup Founders’ Guide to iOS 17 Link Protection

Startup founders must navigate iOS 17’s link protection carefully. Founders seek innovative approaches as protection reshapes marketing strategies. This protection era requires founders to be agile. Transparency and respecting user privacy become paramount, and savvy founders who understand this protection can still thrive in a data-conscious marketplace.

As a startup founder, you likely rely on platforms like Google Ads, Facebook Ads, or LinkedIn Ads to drive growth for your business. These platforms provide built-in reporting tools to help you track clicks and conversions. However, your ability to measure the performance of your advertising is about to become less accurate due to a new feature, iOS 17’s Link Tracking Protection.

This presents a significant challenge because without accurate tracking, you won’t know which ad campaigns are effectively generating leads and customers. In a time when securing funding is increasingly challenging, optimizing your marketing budget’s effectiveness is more critical than ever.

Let’s delve into what Apple’s Link Tracking Protection is, how it functions, and what you must do to ensure precise tracking of your leads and customers from your ads.

Understanding Apple’s Link Tracking Protection

When you advertise on platforms such as Google Ads or Facebook Ads, you are required to embed a piece of code on your website. This code allows the platform to track the number of visits and conversions resulting from your ads.

What’s not immediately evident is that when someone clicks on one of your ads, the ad platform, like Google Ads, appends a unique ID, known as the click ID, to the URL they direct people to. For example, if your ad was directing users to olmosoftware.com, the actual URL might appear as olmosoftware.com?gclid=123456789.

The code on your website reads this data, determining which campaign, ad group, or ad the visitor interacted with. If they later convert (e.g., making a purchase or submitting a form), this information is employed to track conversions and report the data back to the ad platform’s reporting tools, enabling you to monitor the number of conversions.

Apple’s new Link Tracking Protection feature removes these click IDs introduced by Google and Facebook, among others, before the visitor arrives at your site. Consequently, the code snippets you placed on your website to track conversions won’t have the necessary information to discern the source of each visitor. As a result, their ability to accurately track conversions and attribute them to specific campaigns and ads will be significantly impeded, leading to less accurate reports.

Does This Mean the End of Tracking? How to Ensure Accurate Analytics in a Privacy-Focused World

To prepare for this change, you need to adapt your tracking and reporting strategies. Apple has not publicly disclosed which click IDs and tracking parameters this new feature will block, but you can take proactive steps to maintain accurate analytics:

Rely Less on Built-in Reporting Tools: Over the years, the effectiveness of built-in reporting tools on ad platforms has dwindled, partly due to the blockage of third-party cookies and other changes. With the advent of Link Tracking Protection, these tools will be further affected. It’s time to reduce your reliance on them.

Utilize UTM Parameters: Implement UTM parameters for each of your ads. UTM parameters are additional pieces of text added to the end of the URL you use in your campaigns. They convey essential information to analytics tools about the source of your visitors. For example, your URL with UTM parameters might look like this: attributer.io?utm_medium=paidsearch&utm_source=google&utm_campaign=brand-campaign.

Leverage Analytics Tools: Instead of relying on ad platforms to report the number of conversions, utilize analytics tools that can capture and interpret UTM parameters. Most analytics tools can handle this data.

If your business involves direct online purchases (e.g., e-commerce), tools like Google Analytics can help you track the number of visits and conversions with different UTM parameters. For businesses where leads are generated through website forms and require follow-up for sales, using tools like Attributer to capture UTM parameters and integrate them into your CRM will enable you to track leads and customers from each campaign effectively.

In conclusion, if you depend solely on reporting within ad networks to assess clicks and conversions from your ad campaigns, Apple’s Link Tracking Protection will affect the accuracy of these reports. To overcome this challenge, transition to using UTM parameters alongside your ads and rely on tools like Google Analytics or Attributer for precise tracking of visitors, leads, and customers generated by your ad campaigns.

Aaron Beashel is the co-founder of Attributer and Simul Docs.

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