Close this search box.

Understanding First-Party vs. Third-Party Data Collection

For a long time, advertisers and online businesses have acquired data from third parties like Facebook, Google, and other advertising platforms.

However, third-party data has not been without its faults, ranging from being limited to inaccurate. Even worse, many users consider data tracking to be too intrusive and are choosing to opt-out, with large ad platforms now moving towards a cookieless future.

In this article, we will explore the differences between first-party data and third-party data. Plus, we’ll dive into how to use first-party data to optimize marketing efforts while maintaining data privacy.

First-Party vs. Third-Party Data: What’s the Difference?

First-party data is gathered by a company’s resources—this includes data about your customers when they visit your site, purchase, or submit their email addresses. 

First-party data is particularly noted for being highly accurate and relevant. This allows you to deliver personalized experiences and polish marketing and retargeting campaigns.

Third-party data, on the other hand, is gathered by advertising platforms that track data to your site to attribute a purchase. They use cookies and pixels to track web visits and collect user data. 

These tools track customer data across several touchpoints, aggregate it, segment it, and sell it to interested companies. However, this data can be limited, and therefore, inaccurate. 

Why Are Companies Eliminating Third-Party Data?

Data privacy is a primary reason big companies like Google and Apple are removing third-party data. People are becoming more concerned about how they are being tracked online. 81% of consumers believe data collection problems outweigh the benefits. 

First and foremost, cookies can be irritating. Having to click “Accept cookies” every time you visit a new website is not optimal. Also, cookies and pixels are not always accurate. Even though they track users across domains, inaccuracies can occur. 

Inaccurate reports can be caused by multiple attribution errors, such as double counting a purchase and attributing the sale to various ad platforms—for instance, giving credit to both Google and Facebook. This can lead to wasteful ad spending, which makes third-party data all the less appealing to business owners and marketers. 

Several companies have already taken the step to make their data platforms cookieless. For instance, Apple’s iOS 14.5 update allows users to select whether they want to be tracked by their apps. 

Google has stated that by 2024, cookies will no longer be available. Firefox and Microsoft have removed the default approval for cookies, so users must manually allow cookies in their browsers. 

This is happening as many marketers are still using third-party data and freaking out because they don’t know how to use alternatives like first-party data. 

Benefits of Collecting First-Party Data for Ad Optimization

  1. It’s the most accurate 

First-party data is more accurate than third-party data for the obvious reason—it’s yours. You no longer buy from advertising platforms with old data that may not precisely match your audience. All the first-party data you gather is directly from people who have recently shown an interest in your brand.

  1. Only your brand has access

When you advertise on a third-party platform, you receive media buying information about purchases from that platform. On the contrary, you own your first-party data. You possess exclusive insights into your leads.

  1. It increases personalization opportunities

When you collect first-party data about prospects, you can personalize marketing campaigns better. You know what they respond to firsthand and can speak directly to that.

  1. It’s gathered and evaluated in real time

First-party data is fresh because it’s gathered daily. You can see in real time the purchasing behavior of customers. You can use the new information you collect to stay one step ahead of purchasing trends in your industry.

  1. It’s cheaper

The systems you set up to collect data run for a long time. You own historical data specific to your business. Therefore, it is accurate and effective to use. 

What Are the Right First-Party Data Sources for Your Goals?

Part of generating first-party data goals is selecting suitable data sources. Define your main goals and then pick the sources that will generate the most relevant data. 


Your website allows you to gather data about traffic, user journey, clicks, engagement, and bounce rates. Heat maps indicate parts of web pages that site visitors interact with the most. Split A/B tests allow you to test elements and see what resonates with customers.

Social media channels

Social channels yield brand engagement data. You can use first-party data collection tools to gather data on third-party management platforms like Facebook and Google instead of solely relying on the feedback you get from the platform’s algorithms. First-party data collection from Facebook allows you to correct attribution reporting errors.

Email list

Your email list is another important touchpoint because of the personalization it offers. You can track metrics like open rates, reply rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates. You can test offers within the email and refine messaging strategies.

Tips for How to Leverage First-Party Data

  1. Always test and improve

Keep the data you collect relevant by analyzing the information you gather and refining your collection strategies regularly. Use first-party data as a trustworthy source for your campaigns. This means you have clear lists and data to feed back to your platforms with offline conversion tracking or even download lists for lookalike audiences.         

  1. Integrate data sources to provide an easy overview

One of the difficulties of first-party data management is being able to integrate the data you gather from multiple sources. Viewing them all at once lets you see the bigger picture and identify key bottlenecks in marketing strategies. Integrate your data into a single viewing area. 

  1. Use AdBeacon UTM parameters to monitor campaigns

First-party data collection is not limited to channels you own. You can gather them on social platforms if you include the AdBeacon UTM parameters in your ads.

What Makes AdBeacon Different as a First-Party Data Tracking Tool?

First, AdBeacon shows attribution percentage and tracks all clicks, leads, and sales. On the contrary, Facebook and other channels are limited in tracking due to the iOS 14 update and are not as accurate as AdBeacon.

Second, AdBeacon solves two major problems that companies have with first-party data—integration of multiple sources and real-time evaluation. With AdBeacon, you can view all first-party data in one dashboard and effectively optimize messaging strategies in real time.

Sign up to try AdBeacon free for 14 days.