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Apple’s iOS 17 Challenges Marketers With URL Tracking Changes

Evan Fung & Jenna Weinholtz - Director, Marketing Analytics & CRM Manager


Launching in September, the iOS 17 update allows users to select Apple’s new Link Tracking Protection feature. This setting automatically detects and removes user-identifiable tracking parameters from URLs, making it increasingly more difficult for marketers to track the user’s online journey across a multi-touch experience.

These parameters are automatically placed into links by Google, Facebook, and some alternate platforms, such as ESPs, to track users’ activity across their shopping journey. Without these parameters, it is more difficult for these companies to track users’ online behavior and identify which URLs are leading to conversions or which channels are contributing to sales.

This update will be enabled by default for users in Apple Mail, Apple iMessages, and Safari Private Browsing mode.


  • Scope
    • Link Tracking Protection will affect those who use Apple Mail, Apple iMessages and Safari–specifically in Private Browsing mode.
      • Apple Mail holds a 58% market share of email clients (Litmus)
      • iMessage holds a 17% market share of messaging platforms (Statista)
      • Safari holds a 24% share of the browser market (BrowserStack), and Private Browsing mode is a smaller subset of that share.
      • While these are not insignificant figures, it also is important to remember there is a wider email, SMS, and browser market that is not affected by this update.
  • Impact on Attribution
    • Click IDs Removed: Email marketers and advertisers will lose the ability to rely on certain tracking methods, like Google Click Identifiers (GCLID) and Facebook Click Identifiers (FBCLID), which traditionally have provided valuable data for understanding user behavior and optimizing campaigns.
  • UTMs Unaffected: UTMs such as source, medium, and campaign that marketers append to URLs will not be affected by this update and thus will be crucial to have in place in order to understand campaign performance and user behavior.
    • UTMs are not unique personal identifiers but instead aggregate directional information about where the user was before landing on a website.
  • Private Click Measurement (PCM): Apple will enable Private Click Measurement, an alternative attribution feature that allows for privacy-friendly tracking of conversion events.

Marketers will need to adapt their strategies to navigate the limitations imposed by iOS 17 and utilize alternative methods to measure campaign success and gather insights.


  1. Focus on First-Party Data: With the removal of certain tracking parameters, marketers should prioritize collecting and utilizing first-party data directly from their audience. This includes obtaining explicit consent for data collection and personalization, which will become increasingly important for accurate targeting and campaign optimization.
  2. Review Tracking Strategies: Assess your current tracking methods that rely on ad tracking parameters. Understand which specific tracking parameters will be removed and their implications.
  3. Embrace UTM Parameters: iOS 17 will leave UTMs untouched, making them a valuable tool for understanding user actions. Embed UTMs in landing pages and links to retain insights into user interactions.
  4. Utilize Private Click Measurement (PCM): While it may not provide as detailed insights as previous tracking methods, it offers a way to measure ad performance in a privacy-focused manner. Marketers should explore PCM and integrate it into their tracking and attribution processes.
  5. Test and Learn: Given the dynamic landscape of privacy changes, approach these shifts with a flexible and agile mindset. Implement a test-and-learn approach to adapt to the evolving tracking and attribution methods and refine strategies over time.
  6. Prepare for Privacy-Focused Future: Recognize that privacy-focused changes are an ongoing trend. Stay informed about updates in the digital marketing and privacy landscape to anticipate further shifts and adjust strategies accordingly.
  7. Invest in Personalization and Consent: As tracking becomes more challenging, focus on delivering personalized experiences to users based on the data you can gather with their consent. Building trust and providing value will be essential to maintaining customer engagement.

iOS 17 introduces new challenges and opportunities to the world of marketing measurement, and marketers will need to learn to adapt & innovate.

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