By Chuck Leddy
In its just-launched Chrome 85, Google has made some important privacy changes to how its browser handles “referrers.” A “referrer” provides information to tools like Eloqua about the visitor’s browsing history and their current location on a website. Chrome is changing their default policy for referrers to be more restrictive with what information gets shared, and that change impacts tracking for Eloqua users.
The policy change is called “strict-origin-when-cross-origin” and impacts only cross-domain traffic. As a result, and for cross-domain traffic, Eloqua tracking will not capture the full path of the URL (unless your web team already has an explicit more relaxed referrer policy in place on your website that allows the full URL). The Chrome 85 change will potentially have multiple impacts on marketing efforts that take advantage of a granular level of visitor tracking information.
To help us fully understand these changes to Chrome 85 and tracking, we spoke to Sojourn Solutions Managing Partner Adam Mitrosz about the details of the change, its impact on Eloqua users and tracking, and what users can do in response to the change.
What is a ‘referrer’ and why is this important for tracking in Eloqua?
What exactly is changing?
Mitrosz: Google is changing its default policy for how the Chrome 85 browser handles referrers. So, in the context of cross-domain traffic, when users browse via Chrome 85 the full URL will no longer be shared with the Eloqua marketing automation platform under the browser’s referrer default setting, which is now more restrictive, The new Chrome version sets the browser policy to the less permissive strict-origin-when-cross-origin, removing visibility into the source of navigation for cross domain traffic. So if the referrer policy is not explicitly set to no-referrer-when-downgrade, the source URL will not be shared in cross domain traffic.
Under the new Chrome 85 default policy, for example, a visitor arriving to “https://sojournsolutions.com/services/oracle-marketing-cloud-consulting/” sourced by an email click-through, will be reported in Eloqua as a visitor to “https://sojournsolutions.com/. That said, any navigations within the same domain will be visible in Eloqua with no change, since both the originating URL and destination URL are within the same domain. The impact of the Chrome 85 change also extends to the Microsoft Edge browser, which is using Chromium.
What’s the reason for the change in Chrome 85?
Mitrosz: It’s a consequence of ongoing privacy improvements started a few years ago in the Chromium Project, aiming to address well-founded concerns around security and privacy standards in web browsers. It’s a change that all end users would certainly welcome. Discussions have been happening for years about security and web browsers and third-party cookies, anything related to cross domain tracking and the gathering of volumes of data for free. GDPR, for instance, is already addressing some of these same concerns.
What’s the impact on marketing and Eloqua?
Mitrosz: With this one policy change, tracking across the domain has become tougher. With the default referrer policy being more restrictive, it means that if you were tagging content, then the page the visitor arrived through is no longer visible by default. The full URL information will be lost within Eloqua and therefore that loss will affect you in areas where you use that information in your analytics, lead scoring, segmentation and reporting. So you can’t get that contextual nurturing, all that information about your audience by default.
You get the top of the iceberg in terms of URL information, but the bottom of that iceberg is no longer visible by default. If you continue using default tracking, as 90% of our clients do, it’s likely going to have a big impact on you. One of the big strengths of Eloqua, after all, is having that ability to track, that’s why marketers create content that can address what their clients are interested in, based on full tracking information. If you’re losing a significant portion of that visibility, then your marketing and content is no longer so data driven.
How might Eloqua users work around the impact of the changes to tracking information?
Mitrosz: In some cases, there’s not so much impact. If you have complete tracking enabled for email activities, then you’ve got this tracking information somewhere else. So you can use that. Or you might rely on your web activities or email activity in Eloqua. But if you only use web tracking, then there would be a full loss on that first touch point. So you’d basically be left with fewer tools to understand your clients.
What should Eloqua users do next to resolve the problem of lost tracking information?
Mitrosz: We recommend that our Eloqua clients/users update the tracking script on all externally hosted pages. Remember that the landing pages hosted by Eloqua do not need to be updated. You’ll need to update your Eloqua website tracking script to explicitly include the full URL of the page being tracked. This is a relatively small change if you are managing the Eloqua script in a single location and deploying it to all of your pages.
To change the Eloqua tracking script to explicitly send the current location of the visitor, find the following line in the script:
and replace it with:
In practical terms, to change that policy often requires going through some hoops to get the IT team to change it. They will likely review the change from a security standpoint.
What else should Eloqua users know about this change in Chrome 85?
Mitrosz: That it’s impacting our marketers and Eloqua users and other platforms. It’s probably a good idea to just be more proactive about new releases and in understanding their impact on what you do. Getting help is always a good idea, and we’re always here to support our Eloqua users in adapting to change and optimizing their use of the platform to meet marketing goals.
To learn more about changes in Chrome 85 and tracking, reach out to us here.