How iOS17 will impact your ad reporting

We tested iOS17's new Link Tracking Protection feature to understand how it works and how it will ultimately impact your ad reporting

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Apple recently announced that it was introducing a feature called Link Tracking Protection with iOS17, which sent marketers into a bit of a spin.

The problem was they weren’t very specific about what parameters they were going to strip, therefore making it difficult to understand what the actual impact was going to be.

So to help you better understand the impact of this change on your reporting, we installed the Beta version of iOS17 and ran a series of tests to truly understand which parameters are going to be stripped out and what the ultimate impact on your reporting will be.

What URL parameters does iOS17 remove?

We downloaded iOS17 and ran a heap of tests to understand which tracking parameters it removes and which one's it leaves intact.

The tables below shows the results of the tests:

Platform Parameter Left intact?
UTM_Medium, UTM_Source, etc

What does this ultimately mean for your ad reporting?

What it means for your ability to report on the success of your marketing efforts really comes down to how you’re actually doing it.

If you are already using UTM parameters

If you are using UTM parameters behind your ads and then using an website analytics tool (I.e. Google Analytics) to track how many visitors you are getting, or if you are using a lead tracking tool like Attributer to track how many leads and customers you are getting, then your reporting will not be impacted.

Safari will not strip the UTM parameters that people arrive at your site with, and therefore these tools will still be able to capture them and use them to power reports in your chosen analytics tools.

If you are not using UTM parameters

If you are not using UTM parameters behind your ads, and are instead relying on the built-in reporting capabilities of the ad network to measure the number of clicks, conversions, etc. then your reporting will be impacted.

This is because Safari will strip out the tracking parameters that ad networks like Google Ads and Facebook Ads place in the URL (known as the GCLID and FBCLID respectively).

This means that when someone clicks one of your ads and comes to your site in Safari (with Private Browsing mode on), those parameters will be removed from the URL and the ad network won’t be able to attribute that visit and/or conversion to the particular campaign, ad group, keyword, etc. the person came from.

And if they can’t do that, then you can’t accurately measure conversions.

That being said, the impact likely won’t be huge as it only applies to Safari and only when Private Browsing mode is being used (which is the equivalent of Chrome & Firefox’s Incognito mode if you’re not a regular Safari user). The most recent stats suggest that approximately 20% of web browsing sessions occur in Safari and a recent survey showed about 20% use private browsing mode, so the impact will likely be relatively small.

When does this come into play?

In short, sometime in September 2023.

iOS 17 was first announced on June 5 2023 and the initial beta was launched to developers at the beginning of July.

It's likely there will be several beta versions released to developers for testing ahead of an expected Mid-September launch of the public.

What should I do to ensure I get accurate reporting?

The best thing to do to ensure you get the most accurate reporting is to start using UTM parameters behind your ads.

Generally speaking, most browsers are moving towards blocking the tracking parameters these ad networks place behind their ads (For instance, Mozilla Firefox already does when in Private Browsing mode) and combined with the blocking of 3rd-party cookies by most browsers, the reports being offered in the ad networks are going to get less and less effective over time.

But by placing UTM parameters behind your ads, analytics tools will always be able to see where your visitors, leads & customers are coming from.

For instance, if you are using Google Analytics then you'll be able to see how many visitors you got from each of the UTM parameters in your User Acquisition report.

GA4 Report

Alternatively if you are using a tool like Attributer to track where your leads and customers are coming from, then you'll be able to see the UTM parameters right there on the contact record in your CRM, allowing you to see exactly where each lead came from.

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Wrap up

If you are just relying on the reporting within each ad network to understand how many clicks and conversions you are getting from your ad campaigns, then Apple's new Link Tracking Protection will, unfortunately, make those reports less accurate.

However, if you use UTM parameters behind your ads and use a tool like Attributer to capture those parameters in your CRM, then you'll be able to run accurate reports that show which campaigns are driving leads, customers and revenue.

Need to track UTM parameters in your CRM?

It's free to get started with Attributer, and paid plans start at just $49 per month