Published on
October 19, 2023

Apple’s iOS 17 privacy shift: what it means for recruitment marketing

Let’s take a closer look at Apple’s iOS 17 update, which happened last month (the time of writing: October 2023) and how this update affected tracking links.

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Have you ever heard the term cookie apocalypse being used in the context of digital privacy? It’s a great way to understand what’s going on in the world of privacy right now, and extremely relevant if you work in recruitment marketing or advertising.

So what’s going on, exactly? 

Let’s kick that discussion off by taking a closer look at Apple’s iOS 17 update, which happened last month (the time of writing: October 2023) and how this update affected tracking links.

Apple iOS 17 update and tracking links

First of all, back to the cookie apocalypse. Remember the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal back in 2018? The one that involved the unauthorised acquisition and use of personal data from millions of Facebook users to influence political campaigns? We reckon you probably do.

The fallout of that scandal heightened concerns over online privacy. Concerns that drove efforts against intrusive tracking cookies, resulting in tighter regulations, shifts in industry behaviour, and what's now called the "cookie apocalypse."

Fast forward to September 2023 and the launch of iOS 17. Here’s a quick summary of the update as it relates to privacy: 

Quick summary of the iOS 17 changes

In a nutshell: advertisers who promote through search engines or social media should start closely monitoring the performance of their marketing activities. 

Apple's iOS 17 update makes it difficult for advertisers to measure a portion of their website traffic originating from ads. This is because Apple will block tracking links in privacy mode.

Short recap on tracking links

Tracking links are unique URLs used to monitor the behaviour and interactions of users online. 

Advertising platforms like Google and Meta use these links to measure and optimise ad performance. When someone clicks on an ad, these platforms append a unique number to the URL leading to the advertiser's website. 

This allows the platforms to associate a website visitor's behaviour with a specific ad click. These tracking links are fundamental for data-driven ad optimization.

iOS 17 privacy mode changes 

Apple’s iOS 17 brings a significant update to the privacy mode. When this mode is active on an Apple device, it affects data processed via Safari, messages, and Apple Mail. 

In this mode, Apple detects traceable parameters in link URLs that can identify users and automatically removes them. This prevents sharing information about interactions with ads with other companies.

Based on beta tests, the following data will be removed in privacy mode:

  • gclid – Google AdWords / Google Analytics
  • dclid – Google Display Network
  • fbclid – Facebook Advertising
  • twclkd – Twitter Advertising
  • msclkid – Microsoft Advertising
  • mc_eid – Mailchimp
  • igshid – Instagram

Are you advertising on any of the platforms listed above? Make sure to keep reading.

Apple isn’t the only company cracking down on ad tracking and privacy. Before we dive into the impact all this has on you as a recruitment marketer, let’s take a look at how that other advertising giant is doing.

Broader trend towards better privacy

Like we mentioned already, Cambridge Analytica kind of shook up the world in a very extreme way - apocalypse isn’t a term you throw around lightly, really.

Since 2018, the world has seen a significant shift towards better handling of digital privacy. It’s a real trend, whether efforts are sincere or simply cases of what’s also referred to as ‘privacywashing’. So how’s Google responding to all this? 

Google’s privacy changes

In short, Google is also making quite some privacy adjustments, such as phasing out third-party cookies in Chrome by the beginning of 2024. They’re also exploring alternatives like the Privacy Sandbox API.

And, of course, Universal Analytics was sunsetted earlier this year, with Google introducing the more privacy-focussed Google Analytics 4 (GA4).

But we’re not here to ramble on about tech giants and privacy in general. It’s the impact on recruitment marketing we’re worried about.

Impact of Apple’s iOS 17 update on recruitment marketing

Recruitment marketers spend a lot of time on advertising platforms, trying to get the right job in front of the right person. And if they’re clever about it, they use Wonderkind’s Talent Attraction Tech to scale that process.

But the iOS 17 privacy changes definitely throw a bit of a spanner in the works for recruitment advertising. Here’s an overview of the consequences:

  • Reduced candidate tracking
  • Limited retargeting options
  • Challenges in measuring campaign effectiveness
  • Shift towards first-party data
  • Increased emphasis on content quality
  • Importance of employer branding
  • Consequences for budget allocation

Let’s look closer at each one of the above and give a quick teardown.

Reduced candidate tracking

Recruitment marketing often involves tracking potential candidates' interactions with job ads, career sites, and other recruitment-related content.

With the removal of URL tracking parameters in iOS 17, it’ll be more challenging to track a candidate's journey and interactions, especially if they access content via Apple's Mail, Messages, or Safari private browsing.

Limited retargeting options

Retargeting is a common strategy in recruitment marketing where potential candidates are shown ads based on their previous interactions.

The new privacy features make it more difficult to retarget potential candidates effectively, as the necessary data for these strategies might be stripped away. 

Challenges in measuring campaign effectiveness

Recruitment marketing campaigns are often assessed based on metrics like click-through rates, conversion rates, and other interaction data.

Without the ability to track URL parameters, it’ll be difficult to gauge the effectiveness of specific recruitment campaigns, especially in understanding which platforms or channels are most effective.

Shift towards first-party data

First-party data is information collected directly from candidates without intermediaries.

Given the limitations on third-party tracking, we will probably see a strong shift towards collecting and relying more on first-party data. This could involve more direct interactions, like surveys or direct communications, to gather insights from potential candidates.

Increased emphasis on content quality

Without the detailed tracking we used before, the quality of recruitment advertising content becomes even more important. Have you considered spicing up your job ads with relevant and topical memes? Believe us, they work.

Recruitment marketers should focus more on creating high-quality, engaging content that resonates with potential candidates, rather than relying heavily on quantitative, data-driven retargeting.

Importance of employer branding

With reduced tracking capabilities, direct response campaigns (like "Apply Now" ads) might see reduced effectiveness.

Recruitment marketers should also start working on employer branding content that builds a long-term positive image of the company as a workplace.

This can include content like employee testimonials, behind-the-scenes looks at company culture, and other engaging content that doesn't rely on immediate clicks and conversions.

Consequences for budget allocation

Some advertising platforms or strategies might see reduced ROI due to Apple iOS 17’s update and its tracking limitations.

Recruitment marketers will probably need to reassess their budget allocations, investing more in platforms and strategies that provide clear value and less in those hampered by privacy restrictions.

At the same time, some programmatic job advertising tech - like Wonderkind - can help automate job ads and budget allocation.  

Recruitment marketing experts on iOS 17

Instead of just sharing our opinion on the matter, we decided to ask some recruitment marketing experts what their point of view on the topic is.

Laurent Scholten - Founder & CSO, Wonderkind on the evolution of tracking and its impact on authenticity

We asked Wonderkind founder and CSO, Laurent Scholten to give his unvarnished opinion on these privacy updates. Here's what he had to say:

In the halcyon days of the past, I often found myself discussing the capabilities of tracking systems with friends and acquaintances.

Almost every time, I was met with wide-eyed astonishment and a singular, pressing question: "is that even legal?" It's a testament to the rapid pace of technological advancements that such capabilities, once considered the domain of science fiction, became a reality.

And yet, as the tools grew, so did the responsibility to use them wisely.

But with every twist and turn of this digital tapestry, there comes an undeniable silver lining. As Apple's iOS 17 update, among other technological shifts, modifies the landscape of tracking possibilities, it prompts companies to introspect.

No longer can they rely solely on sophisticated algorithms and tracking metrics to understand potential candidates. Now, authenticity is the order of the day.

To genuinely connect with potential candidates, companies are impelled to ensure their messaging rings true.

The words they use to describe their job roles, the essence of their culture, and the very fabric of their employer brand cannot be mere embellishments – they must be a mirror reflecting the company's soul.

This evolution in tracking is not a challenge; it's an opportunity. It encourages businesses to delve deeper into the psyche of their prospective employees, urging them to ask: What truly resonates with this generation of workers?

How can we, as a company, differentiate ourselves not just in terms of perks and pay, but in ethos, values, and vision?

There is an unspoken beauty in this shift. In the age of superficial connections and fleeting digital interactions, the new tracking paradigm champions depth and understanding. Companies are no longer just looking for a match in skills, but a connection in values, aspirations, and dreams.

In conclusion, as the tendrils of technology continue to weave their intricate patterns, let us remember that it is not just about monitoring clicks and tracking interests. It’s about understanding hearts and inspiring minds.

It's about discovering not just what a candidate can do, but who they truly are and what they hope to become. This, perhaps, is the most profound tracking of all.

Programmatic recruitment marketing with Wonderkind

At Wonderkind, we firmly believe in a new way of practicing recruitment marketing. We call it: the Wonderkind Recruitment Marketing Loop. This is a dynamic, candidate-centric model that replaces the traditional recruitment funnel.

Inspired by ecommerce strategies, this loop focusses on continuous engagement rather than a linear path, allowing candidates to enter, exit, and re-enter at various stages.

The Wonderkind Recruitment Marketing Loop consist of:

  • Omnipresent awareness
  • Consideration & re-consideration
  • Action, interaction, & reaction

If you want to find out more about what that means, go check out our ultimate guide on recruitment marketing.

What's important to note is that there are a few tools you need to keep this loop spinning:

If you want to start practicing recruitment marketing that's more talent-centric; if you want to move away from superficial connections and fleeting digital interactions, we can help. Get in touch and book a demo to meet Wonderkind, below.

Want to learn more about our Talent Attraction Technology?

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