How to Prep for a Cookie-less World With RebelMouse

As consumer privacy takes priority in 2020, strategize to capture the right data

2020 will be a pivotal year in the ongoing battle for user data, as the almighty cookie sees layers of its power stripped away for the sake of preserving consumer privacy.

Great Power Required More Responsibility

Since the early 90s, cookies have been a fundamental component of how the web works. These small text files were designed to make it easy for sites to identify visitors and be a convenience. Businesses certainly capitalized on cookies, based on stats from a recent Information Commissioner's Office study that found:

  • The average website places 34 cookies on a device during a person's first visit
  • 70% were third-party cookies set by websites other than the one being visited

This side-door access to data allowed companies to freely share detailed user profiles without consent. So it's no surprise that within recent years, most publicly after Facebook's Cambridge Analytica episode in 2018, increasingly distrustful users demanded more insight into how their data is used. As a result, new standards will transform how users can be tracked across the web.


Present-day platforms and browser gatekeepers, which hold large amounts of personally identifiable information (PII) about millions of people, have no choice but to update or be more transparent about data usage standards to foster safer browsing experiences.

  • Apple's Intelligent Tracking Prevention not only blocks third-party cookies, but recent updates also crack down on the ability to piggyback on first-party cookies for cross-site tracking in Safari.
  • After intense scrutiny in the last two years, Facebook has become a more closed ecosystem by limiting third-party access to user data.
  • Starting in February 2020, Google will release Chrome updates that enforce higher standards for third-party cookies while also creating a path for users to choose whether they are tracked.

But these platforms, who have enjoyed autonomy for so long, are no longer being trusted to regulate themselves. In 2018, the EU passed the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to give control to individuals over their personal data. The U.S. passed similar regulation in 2020 with the California Consumer Privacy Act, or CCPA, which will undoubtedly pave the way for more states to define rights over user data and companies' access to it.

Secure First-Party Data With the Right Partners

These regulations can have huge implications as brands and publishers consider their site experiences moving forward.

Brands need to navigate how to maintain consistent and accurate audience measurement across channels. Publishers need to be concerned about ad revenue, since many publishers currently rely on programmatic ads for the bulk, if not all, of business revenue. eMarketer estimated that U.S. advertisers spent nearly $60 billion on programmatic display in 2019. If it becomes inefficient to track users and dynamically target ads across the open web, publishers could see steep declines in programmatic CPMs and ad budgets could disappear overall. And as brands and agencies are potentially forced to double down with platforms like Google, Facebook, and Amazon (which have plenty of first-party information across their sites and apps), publishers without a plan will be left with not enough ad dollars to sustain their business.

Whether you're a brand or publisher, these industry shifts can appear scary. Particularly if you're a publisher, you may wonder how a media business can survive if cookies become obsolete and you can't rely on programmatic ads for support. But you will thrive if you instead recognize the opportunities. Now is the time to further establish credibility and build trust so audiences are willing to share their personal information directly with you.

RebelMouse has best practices and strategies built into the platform that make it easier to capture and wield first-party data from audiences that opt to maintain a relationship with you.

Ask for Data That Better Serves Your Audience

Don't give users a reason to be suspicious of your intentions. Basic site login experiences should be simple for users and only require the most necessary information, like an email and password, or social media credentials. If you're providing an option for personalized content, present a list of topics for users to choose from or ask for a zip code. With RebelMouse, you can use custom fields to completely map to your marketing taxonomy. You can also leverage RebelMouse APIs that let you get that data in and out entirely.

Capture Data at Key Touchpoints With Clear Benefits

Users that opt to engage deeper with your content, your site, or with each other are a valuable audience segment that should be treated separately. You can build a range of experiences that weave in data requests or login prompts so that your teams can easily track, target, and maximize revenue against your most loyal users.

With RebelMouse, you can seamlessly surface these prompts to unlock certain privileges, including:

Dynamically Target Users When They're Logged Out

For users that may be casual visitors or are not logged in, you can still provide a dynamic content experience. RebelMouse allows you to establish primary and secondary tags for each piece of content so, for example, you can recommend tech content even though they are on an article page about politics. You can also pass the tags to your ad server (e.g., Google Ad Manager) to ensure ads are relevant to the editorial experience.

RebelMouse Is Here to Guide You

Whether you're a brand planning to pair content and commerce for higher conversion or a media company looking to diversify monetization strategies, it's only smart business to optimize your site experience and include levers for data capture as a trade-off for content access. A world without cookies can appear scary, but you don't have to approach these paradigm shifts alone. At RebelMouse, we pride ourselves on gauging what's ahead in the media industry and helping our clients plan for long-term success.

If you're a RebelMouse client, talk to your account manager if you have questions. Not yet a Rebel? Feel free to reach out and we'll be happy to have a conversation about how we can work together.

Why RebelMouse Is the Best Content Marketing Platform

RebelMouse is a unique platform and company. The company was founded on the vision that media companies would need an always-modern solution to thrive in the new connected internet, and that brands would have to behave like new media companies and use the same platforms.

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Why Premium Creative Agencies and CTOs Choose to Develop on RebelMouse vs. WordPress and Drupal

The Intersection of Design and Development: Where Your Clients Thrive

We started RebelMouse seven years ago knowing that there was a fundamental design flaw in the world of traditional CMSs: Every instance, on every platform, had to be updated independently. It's similar to an era when users had to manage their own Microsoft Exchange Server for email. The costs of managing, maintaining, and iterating on a CMS to keep it awesome and world class is typically a $10 million-a-year endeavor. But even then, these cost-prohibitive CMSs are still behind the times.

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Native Multivariate Testing at Scale With RebelMouse

What Differentiates Our Approach

There are many popular tools that allow you to perform experiments and A/B tests on your users — primarily Google Chrome Experiments and Optimizely. But all of these solutions are JavaScript additions to your web page that sidestep the problem of old, outdated, and clumsy CMSs. These solutions work by calling on a third-party JavaScript library that rewrites a page after it's rendered. This approach adds extra page weight and creates strange user experiences due to having to wait for everything to load and be rewritten on the fly.

At RebelMouse, we've solved this in a very elegant way. At the core level of our platform, we can natively render different layouts and track the exact differences in performance when comparing a test to your other layouts.

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Modern E-Commerce: Blur the Line Between Content and Design

Create Modular + Reusable Design Patterns on RebelMouse

Content saturation is an industry-wide problem, and the e-commerce space is no exception given that it's filled with big brands, small Etsy stores, and everyone in between all fighting for similar audiences. The best way to fight this symptom is to understand your audience and provide them with what they want.

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Instagram-style E-commerce Features on RebelMouse

Revolutionizing E-commerce on RebelMouse

Whether you're a brand with a blog or a media company with a site, driving purchasing behavior and building an audience that uses your content to find things they love to buy is vital. We're very proud to have built out the same functionality that everyone is now used to on Instagram, with layovers on images that lead to products with attribution.

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Building Premium Communities and User Journeys on RebelMouse

RebelMouse is much more than just a replacement for a traditional CMS. Our platform is a tremendous community-building experience. Today's social ecosystem has given us a seemingly limitless number of premium creators who understand how to create gorgeous and relevant content that drives the growth of their own audiences. These creators and influencers are either experts in certain topics, or heavily engaged in targeted content that drives their interests. They're not only consuming the content they're passionate about, but they're contributing to the conversation, too. The new role of the editor is not just to cover the most important topics and people around their expertise, but also to invite those preferred influencers into their community and get them to participate in creating premium content.

Read our deck here...

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Dynamic Voting: Grow Traffic and Engagement Organically

Help your audience find its voice.

Creating quality content is no longer on marketers alone. We live in a universe of creators who are willing to not only consume content that resonates, but play a role in the creation, promotion, and conversations surrounding it.

Since the start of RebelMouse, we've been on a journey to create dynamic media that is easier for content creators to curate and amplify on social. It's why we've built an online engagement platform centered around the power of communities that thrive naturally in the digital ecosystem.

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How to Monetize Your Website in Today’s Publishing Environment

In order to define distributive publishing, we have to ask the following question: If you have quality content, but nobody sees it, does it even exist? The answer is no, because your content needs to be supported in a way that lets it move seamlessly across all channels, especially site, search, and social. But let's take this question a step further: If you can't monetize your content to generate the support it needs, how do you create quality content in the first place?

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RebelMouse Outperforms Every Other CMS. Here’s the Data to Prove It.

Our Core Web Vitals drastically outpace every competitor, and we have the receipts

In an effort to build user retention and increase conversions, publishers are making a common mistake. They're adding more features to their websites, including ad placements, but losing sight of the main revenue driver: user experience.

The key to unlocking user retention lies completely in site performance. Currently, publishers are trying to build optimized websites that translate easily across devices and platforms, but fail to deliver an experience that checks all their boxes and prioritizes their readers. It takes less than a second of delayed load time to turn away a user. This is why Google has made page speed a top ranking factor on search, and shepherded the entire open web's newfound prioritization on site performance.

Game Changer: Google's Core Web Vitals Announcement

Google cemented its seriousness about page experience with the announcement of its Core Web Vitals measurements in Google Search Console. Core Web Vitals are three specific metrics that Google uses to determine a site's overall usability. While these data points will evolve over time, the 2020 version of vitals consists of three specific metrics:

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): A website's LCP is the time it takes to load the main content on a page. Google wants LCP to happen within 2.5 seconds of when a page first starts loading.

First Input Delay (FID): This metric quantifies a user's experience when trying to interact with unresponsive pages. This usually occurs between First Meaningful Paint (FMP) and Time to Interactive (TTI) (more on what these two mean below). You want your FID score to be low to prove the usability of your site. According to Google, pages should haven an FID of less than 100 milliseconds.

Cumulative Layout Shift Score (CLS): CLS determines how often your users experience unexpected layout shifts or changes on a page. To ensure visual stability, you want your CLS score to be low. Google wants pages to maintain a CLS score of less than 0.1.

From Google.

Google says Core Web Vitals scores will be considered across every page, and will be a ranking factor in its Top Stories feature. While relevant quality content will always be the most important, the page experience ranking is now a make-or-break metric for your site's survival.

"A good page experience doesn't override having great, relevant content. However, in cases where there are multiple pages that have similar content, page experience becomes much more important for visibility in Search."

—From Google's page experience announcement, May 2020

Core Web Vitals will determine every site's performance score. You can see your site's Core Web Vitals specifically via Google Search Console, but your website's overall page performance is measured using Google's PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse tools.

At RebelMouse, we guarantee a performance score of 90 or higher via PageSpeed Insights. To do this, we've built out a platform infrastructure that exceeds industry standards on Google's key metrics, particularly its Core Web Vitals, outperforming most industry leaders.

You can read more about how we've mastered Google's KPIs here. But the truth is in the data. Below is table that provides a snapshot into how RebelMouse-powered sites score:

And here's what the scores look like for some of the biggest sites on the open web:

As you can see, there's a lot of data Google takes into account even outside of Core Web Vitals. Here's a quick summary of the other important metrics that Google trusts to measure page performance:

First Contentful Paint (FCP): This metric measures the time from click to the time when a user's browser renders the first bit of content from the Document Object Model (DOM), which is your site's HTML structure. According to Google, this is an important milestone for your readers because it provides signals that your page is loading.

First Meaningful Paint (FMP): This is the amount of time it takes the most important content, what Google calls "hero elements," to load on site. Hero elements are different for every site, but should be intuitive based on your content. This metric helps determine your site's usability.

Time to Interactive (TTI): This is the most important metric to keep an eye on. This is when the site is fully rendered and ready for user action. This is a critical point when slow load time can occur, usually because JavaScript or other complex content hasn't fully rendered. So, in short, think of TTI as how long it takes for your site to load in its entirety.

Total Blocking Time (TBT): TBT measures a page's load responsiveness to quantify how long a page is non-interactive prior to becoming interactive. You want your site to have a low TBT to maintain its usability.

Speed Index (SI): SI is the measurement of how quickly the contents of a page are populated. You want your speed index score to be as low as possible.

Creating quality content is only half the battle in 2020, and publishers are already burdened with the around-the-clock task of creating content that resonates. This is why quality content must be supported by modern technology that can keep up with the speed of the web. RebelMouse provides publishers with a CMS that supports the new content lifecycle with an editorial suite designed for reach on site, search, and social.

Click here to read more about our modern approach to web performance. If you want to make performance a priority, request a proposal today. We can easily transform your site into one of the fastest on the web, giving you increased user retention and better conversion rates than ever before.

A Modern Story of Web Performance From RebelMouse Founder + CEO Andrea Breanna

If I had more time, this website would have loaded faster

In the first months of 2020, we've focused at RebelMouse on page speed and performance. We worked very hard and found ways to take 90% of the sites we power to 90+ performance scores via Google's PageSpeed Insights tool — even with sites that are loaded with ads, embeds, third-party analytics, and other typical slow-loading elements. You can read more about our victories here.

A few months after we started this process, COVID-19 hit the world very hard. Suddenly, every media company was faced with a huge problem: Advertising fell off a cliff in what seemed like seconds. The only way to survive this unprecedented downturn is to grow traffic and control costs at the same time. So we started to shave our code and made our websites faster. We dropped costs just as dramatically as we were increasing scores.

Here are some surprises we found when doing this: If you want truly exceptional performance, none of the JavaScript and CSS frameworks that developers love so much make the cut. We thought the React version of RebelMouse was going to be the huge page speed breakthrough, until we realized the only way to achieve this goal was to write the code carefully and refactor it endlessly until it was as short as possible. As any author will tell you, like editing a book or a blog post, the revision process is never really done. By stepping away from frameworks, and methodically shaving vanilla code, our customers continue to see major improvements in performance.

As we announced this to our site network and rolled it out publicly, many of our clients asked me personally, "How did you do it?" The answer is easy to understand regardless of how technical you may be. It's perfectly summarized in this wonderful quote attributed to Mark Twain:

"If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter."
—Blaise Pascal, 1657 (and later, more famously Mark Twain)

The universe is sometimes very beautiful, and especially when you keep it simple. If you would like to start publishing on a site optimized for both speed and sustainability, request a proposal and let's start working together.

Google Launches Journalism Emergency Relief Fund for COVID-19 Publishers

Through the Google News Initiative, relief fund aids news outlets covering the virus

Small and medium-sized news organizations producing original content about the COVID-19 pandemic for their local communities could be eligible for money from Google.

The search engine announced a global Journalism Emergency Relief Fund through the Google News Initiative to support journalism during the crisis. Funds will range from the low thousands to tens of thousands depending on the size of the newsroom, according to Google.

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