First Mail Privacy Protection, and now Link Tracking Protection (LTP). Apple’s latest platform privacy change will undoubtedly have already-traumatized marketers concerned, given how much MPP undermined open rates and made it much harder to only send to engaged email subscribers.
However, LTP is mostly aimed at online advertisers, so marketers will generally be much less affected by LTP than they’ve been by MPP. And some email marketers will almost entirely escape the effects of LTP.
We’ll talk about that all in detail, but first let’s explain…
What Does Link Tracking Protection Do?
Debuting as part of Safari 17, LTP is intended to make it harder for brands to track consumers across channels, particularly with the aim of thwarting conversion tracking around ads. It does this by removing some parameters from URL strings when they resolve in Safari—regardless of whether the link was included on a website, in a social media app, or in an email, SMS, or push message.
Which URL Parameters Are Being Removed by LTP?
According to our tests on the beta version, Link Tracking Protection will be removing all of the parameters listed in the Tracking Query Parameters Tests section on privacytests.org.
At the time of publication, that list included mostly ad tracking parameters used by companies like Facebook and Google, which are prime competitors of Apple. However, a number of tracking parameters associated with email service providers were also listed, including ones used by Drip, HubSpot, Mailchimp, MailerLite, Marketo, Omeda, and Vero.
We believe those ESPs’ tracking parameters are being removed because they’re used as identifier tokens across sites, similar to a personal ID cookie.
Anything Special We Should Know about Email Links?
Many email marketers will rejoice to learn that redirected email links are unaffected by LTP, except when the subscriber is using Safari Safe Browsing, which is rare. That means, even when an email includes parameters that would normally be removed by Safari, they won’t be removed when they’re included in a redirected email link.
Not all email service providers redirect their links, so check with your provider. Both Oracle Responsys and Eloqua redirect all links in the emails sent by these platforms when link tracking is enabled.
A word of warning: If your email service provider doesn’t redirect email links, don’t try to use URL shorteners as redirects. URL shorteners are a favorite tool of spammers to conceal the URLs of malicious websites. For that reason, using URL shorteners in your campaigns can lead to junking and blocking, and will negatively impact your sender reputation.
Is Anything Other Than Tracking and Attribution Affected?
When LTP was first announced, some marketers were concerned that it would break unsubscribe links, password reset links, and other critical links that are tied back to individuals. Our testing doesn’t show any of this kind of functionality being affected.
What’s the Overall Likely Impact of LTP?
As intended, Link Tracking Protection will mostly affect ad platforms and their users, as well as conversion tracking and source attribution. However, it will affect some email marketers as well, particularly those using ESPs that don’t redirect email links and whose tracking parameters are being removed by LTP.
That said, a big factor blunting the overall impact is that Safari has only about 26% market share, according to Similarweb. Apple Mail has more than twice that market share among email clients, according to Litmus, which is why Mail Privacy Protection has been so devastating to email marketers.
The version of MPP that was released was different from the beta in a few significant ways, so we’ll be keeping an eye on whether that’s the case with LTP, too.
For contributing their insights to this post, special thanks to Albert Lee, Principal Product Manager for Oracle Responsys, and the Oracle Eloqua team.
Need help adapting to platform privacy changes? Oracle Digital Experience Agency has hundreds of marketing and communication experts ready to help Oracle customers create stronger connections with their customers and employees, even if they’re not using an Oracle platform as the foundation of that experience. Our award-winning specialists can handle everything from compliance and strategy to creative and content planning. For example, our full-service email marketing clients generate 24% higher open rates, 30% higher click rates, and 9% lower unsubscribe rates than Oracle Responsys customers who aren’t.
Want to better understand your email marketing risks and opportunities, take advantage of our free Email Marketing Assessment. Our experts will check your deliverability, review your email creative, audit your signup process, do a partial competitive analysis, and more. If interested in this free assessment, reach out to us at OracleAgency_US@Oracle.com.
Sterling Shew is Senior Principal Product Manager for Oracle Responsys.
Chad S. White is the Head of Research at Oracle Digital Experience Agency and the author of four editions of Email Marketing Rules and nearly 4,000 posts about digital and email marketing. A former journalist, he’s been featured in more than 100 publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Advertising Age. Chad was named the ANA's 2018 Email Marketer Thought Leader of the Year. Follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Mastodon.