Apple’s big Privacy Changes

And what they might mean for your business.

From Nrdly Learning

Back in March, Apple announced its latest iOS software (that’s installed on all Apple mobile devices) would now prevent app owners from tracking user activity outside their own app. 

Meaning, for example, if you were on Facebook, then used Safari to visit a site, that site owner would no longer know you visited them (and you wouldn’t get those creepy “did you forget something?” ads in your feed). 

It also meant that advertisers would find it much more difficult to see which of their ads resulted in a sale – or lead – because that data wouldn’t be shared with you (note – the data still exists, you just don’t get to see it anymore). 

It also makes it more difficult to target users who visit your site, perform certain actions, or those people who might have interacted with you in some way outside of the advertising platform’s own app. 

Worrying? Potentially not.

Apple Store shop front
Apple’s privacy changes could have wide implications

The Workaround

It’s a given that any ads platform is going to have some wiggle room in their reporting. So best practice has always been to create unique funnels for each advertising platform (and often each campaign) and track results either through unique pages or using UTM codes.

(UTM codes are little snippets of text you add to your URLs that can be recorded by Google Analytics).

And if you want to track the effectiveness of ads to lead capture pages, you can just set up unique landing pages for your ads – or use UTM code in your links – that will do this job for you. 

And if the user clicks a link inside the Facebook app on their phone (for example) the webpage will usually open inside the Facebook browser, meaning the clicks can be tracked through to your site. No loss there, then. 

Want to run ads to people who visited your site? Just create a lookalike audience of your email list. Or even better, to your customer list.

Or run video ads and run retargeting ads to those who watch a certain amount of it. Then create lookalikes. 

And so on.

Added to the fact that conversion tracking on platforms like Facebook were never particularly great anyway, and the impact for most businesses that aren’t selling apps is fairly manageable. For those selling on platforms like Amazon, it’s likely most people won’t notice the difference. 

So, panic over. 

But wait, there’s more. 

black laptop computer
Apple Mail will pre-load pixels, scripts, and images before passing on to the user – making it impossible to accurately track open rates.

Email Pixel Blocking

Every email that gets sent out from (most) modern email marketing platforms contains an invisible pixel – which fires off when the email is opened. This tells you whether someone has opened your email or not. 

For years, big newsletters relied on “open rates” to judge the effectiveness of their campaigns and provide a baseline value for their reach (if they were selling ad space in their newlsetters, for example). 

With recent iOS changes, these pixels are now blocked. Meaning every email you send to an iPhone user will show up as “opened”, whether it has been or not. 

So it’s “bye bye” to effecive open-rate tracking. 

Worrying? Potentially not.

The “open rate” metric has always really just been one of several ways to measure the effectiveness of your email campaigns. And it wasn’t even the most useful. 

All your “open rate” tells you – in reality – is how effective your subject line was. 

And in our experience – sending millions of emails a year – we’ve found that the difference between a great subject line and a terrible one would only result in about 7-8% difference in the number of people opening the email. 

(It often didn’t affect the number of clicks we had, though. And it could never tell you whether those people actually READ the email). 

So while your ability to track open rates might have gone down the toilet, your click rates and conversion rates are really the place to focus (and always have been). 

In other words, this change shouldn’t influence the way you send email. 

You should still aim to send emails people actually want to read – and if you want to track effectiveness, focus on the metrics that matter: clicks, replies, and sales. 

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Apple has introduced anonymous email, allowing users to sign up under a temporary email address

Anonymous Email

In addition to blocking tracking pixels in email, Apple will now make it possible for users to sign up for newsletters using a unique, anonymous email address – meaning the users actual email address is never revealed.

Instead, this auto-generated email will be created solely for the purposes of joining an email list (or registering for a service) and all incoming mail will be forwarded to the users’ actual email inbox automatically.

If the user no longer wants to receive those emails, they simply turn off the auto-generated email address and it’ll stop working.

Meaning… if you’re building an email list, you might actually never get your hands on your readers’ email addresses.

Worrying? Not really.

Our goal as marketers isn’t “to get the email address”. It’s to open up a line of communication with people and deliver them value.

Apple’s email anonymity system will still be more of a hassle for the user to take advantage of than it would be for them to click the “unsubscribe” link or send your messages to junk.

In other words, why would someone go to the hassle of turning off the email forwarding when they can easily unsubscribe anyway? The end result is the same: they don’t get your emails any more.

It’s been a legal requirement for years to include an unsubscribe link – so I can’t see this having any major impact on your emails hitting inboxes.

The only instance where it might cause issues is if you’re building advertising audiences based on email addresses – in which case, you can still use the other approaches I’ve mentioned above.

Once again, the goal is to send email that people WANT. If you’re doing that already, these changes shouldn’t cause too much disruption.

i love you text on pink and white polka dot background
There are several theories about why Apple is doing all this

Why is Apple doing this?

There’s two schools of thought here. 

The first is that Apple is a benevolent force for good and they have your best interests at heart. 

Only kidding. Nobody thinks that. 

No, the growing consensus is that Apple wants to make it more difficult to use third-party advertising platforms to reach its users. 

Why? Well, no prizes for guessing: Apple want a slice of the advertising pie. 

  • Apple’s ad revenue last year was in the region of $3B. 
  • Amazon raked in over $22B
  • Facebook saw $84B
  • Google? They gobbled up $147B. 

So how does Apple catch up? 

By making it harder for their competitors to serve effective ads – so they can offer an alternative option and take some of the market share.

So there you have it. Yes, some aspects of marketing and advertising are going to get a little trickier – for some people. 

For you? It’s business as usual. Keep on applying the fundamentals:

  • Create great products or services
  • Build an email list (an audience you control)
  • Develop your email marketing skills so you can run effective launch and promo campaigns
  • Invest in advertising when it makes sense (and you have the profit margin to support it)
  • Repeat.
man in red jacket and black pants jumping near white roll up door
Where do we go from here?

What’s next?

Of course, it all sounds simple when you list it out like that. 

But like anything worthwhile, getting the hang of building up your author career takes time and patience (not just searching for hacks, loopholes, and “the next shiny thing”). 

If you can build a system and a process to handle each of those steps above, you WILL get there. 

Coming up this week, as part of the launch of our brand new Nrdly Learning training resources, we’ll be offering you an in-depth Facebook Ads training workshop, 100% free.

During the workshop, we’ll show you how to find and target the best audiences on Facebook, how to craft copy that converts, and how to manage, maintain, and scale your advertising profitably.

We’ll be launching more material soon – but in the meantime, we’d like to offer you this workshop for free – so you can design a roadmap to get where you want to be.

And, of course, if you’d like a website that’s been designed from the ground up to convert “traffic” into “customers”, take a look at one of our Nrdly templates – we’ll handle all the tech and set you up with a website you’ll love, with 30 days free.

Oh, and we’ll handle the hosting and give you a free custom subdomain too.

Have a play with the templates right here:

All Nrdly plans come with a 30 day free trial and include hosting, a custom subdomain, drag-and-drop site builder, our pre-made templates and content blocks, pre-made site pages, email list integration, full support, and more.