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iOS 17 Link Tracking Protection Updates: What You Need to Know

Apple always seems to have a way of keeping things interesting, first there were the massive impacts of Apple’s iOS 14, now meet Apple's iOS 17 update, which introduces significant changes that if you’re marketing across email or digital advertising, you’ll want to know about!

Apple’s iOS 17 Update

Apple's always been a huge advocate for user privacy, and the iOS 17 update is no exception. The most impactful release with iOS 17 comes ‘Link Tracking Protection’. Automatically enabled in Mail, Messages and Safari's Private Browsing mode, this feature is Apple's answer to those sneaky tracking parameters in link URLs. Clicking a link from your email or other apps? If it has tracking parameters, these are automatically stripped away.

What's Changing?

If your business or organization relies on tracking parameters, this is going to be a considerable shift as those tracking capabilities are the secret sauce for understanding user behavior and optimizing campaigns. But Apple's developed an alternative feature that will help provide similar information: Private Click Measurement (PCM). PCM measures conversions without revealing individual user activity, allowing your business to still have access to valuable, data-driven insights.

More on Private Click Measurement

Here's how PCM works: The website browser keeps tabs on clicks and conversions. If a click leads to a conversion, the browser takes note. The aim? Capture click and conversion data while keeping the rest of the user's browsing behavior private.

Next Steps and What to Expect

Thankfully, most folks won't rush to update to iOS 17, but by March 2024, it's estimated that about 90% will be on board. On a positive note, this update doesn't touch UTMs. So, ensuring your UTM parameters are on point will be crucial long-term for continued tracking capabilities.

However, platforms like Meta (Facebook) Ads and Google Ads will feel this shift a bit more, as they’ll be working with a more limited data set. These platforms will still have aggregate engagement data, and aggregate conversion data available, but will just have limitations in terms of user behavior for a given campaign.

Preparing for the Shift

So, what can you do right now to prepare?

Analyze Your Traffic: Check how much traffic comes from iOS or Safari. This will give you an idea of the data you might lose.

UTM Parameter Review: Ensure your UTMs are perfectly set up across paid channels for maximum insights.

Google Analytics 4 Setup: Have a robust GA4 setup to track custom events as needed.

First-Party Data: Consider using more first-party data to feed Google or Meta's machine learning systems.

Final Thoughts

By staying informed and proactively addressing the impact of iOS 17, your business will be able to navigate these changes with confidence, and will be set up to continue maximizing the power of digital advertising and email marketing. Whether you’re on a larger marketing team or running things solo, prioritize checking in on your traffic sources, auditing your UTMs, investing in robust analytics and leaning further into first-party data.

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