Keep Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention from Breaking AdWords Tracking

Andy Semenihin  /  
February 14, 2018
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With the latest Safari browser update, a new Apple’s feature called “Intelligent Tracking Prevention” (ITP) has been released to limit cross-site user tracking. This means, in a nutshell, that any third-party cookies that are determined to track users will expire after 24 hours. Crucially, AdWords conversions will be no longer correctly tracked in the Safari browser. So how should you react to this?

How does it work?

ITP is a feature based on a machine-learning classification model that analyzes various user interactions such as clicks, taps and text entries. Apple’s ITP reduces cross-site tracking by further limiting cookies and other website data. This means that essential AdWords click and conversion data is being lost as it cannot be tracked from the browser after 24 hours. After 30 days, these cookies are automatically and entirely purged.


In short, after 24 hours since landing through an AdWords click a user will not be tracked on your site and any conversions will not be associated with this click and your AdWords campaign.

What are my options?

There are several ways to ensure correct AdWords tracking depending on your current AdWords and Analytics setup.

Option1. Link your AdWords account with Google Analytics. If you have the native integration in place, the new cookie _gac will be set along with the standard _gclid used in auto-tagging. AdWords conversion tag will be able to take the click information stored in this new cookie. Since Google Analytics uses first party cookies, data sharing with AdWords will not be blocked by the ITP.

Option 2. Install AdWords Conversion Linker via Google Tag Manager. If, by any chance, you installed the AdWords Conversion Tracking via GTM but haven’t linked it to Google Analytics, you will need to deploy the Conversion Linker Tag. To do so you will need to log in to your GTM container, create a new tag, choose Conversion Linker as a tag type and deploy it on All Pages. No additional configuration is required.

Option 3. Use new Global Site Tag – gtag.js. Finally, if you don’t use GTM, you can start using the new Global Site Tag that was introduced by Google not so long ago as the main default tracking script for Google Analytics. One of the key benefits of the new tracking framework is the configuration that supports AdWords, DoubleClick and Google Analytics tracking in one single tag. Since gtag.js creates a first party cookie that is used for remarketing and conversion tracking, this will deter Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention from blocking the user data.

Final Takeaway

To reiterate all the above, if you have linked AdWords and GA then you will not see any changes in the way your conversions are reported.

If you neither link these accounts, nor use gtag.js or conversion linker, Google will be only able to record the conversion activity that happened within the 24-hour period. After this threshold, it will be using statistical modeling based on the historical conversion activity to estimate the Safari conversions that will be included into your AdWords reports. In case this estimation doesn’t meet your requirements, you can always opt out and implement one of the fixes mentioned above.

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