Google’s Optimized Targeting Feature: Advertiser Q&A

Google’s Optimized Targeting Feature: Advertiser Q&A

Google

Managers of Google Ads accounts were surprised recently when Google began to gradually roll out a new feature, optimized targeting, apparently with little fanfare. It’s important that Google Ads users understand what’s going on with optimized targeting. The new feature may provide benefits but also higher costs for performance marketers. Let’s take a closer look.

What Is Optimized Targeting?

According to Google, optimized targeting helps businesses using Google Ads to reach new and relevant audiences who are likely to convert. Optimized targeting looks beyond manually selected audience segments in a campaign in order to find audience segments that an advertiser might have missed. The overall goal of optimized targeting is to improve the campaign’s performance.

When Should a Business Use Optimized Targeting?

Per Google, optimized targeting works best when a business wants to expand an audience segment most likely to convert, acquire new customers (beyond existing segments), identify new audiences who will perform well for an existing campaign, and increase conversions without increasing bids or the cost per customer. A recent Search Engine Land article notes that optimized targeting is beneficial if an advertiser is not sure who their audience is.

What’s the Difference Between Optimized Targeting and Audience Expansion?

Many advertisers already use the Google Ads audience expansion feature to expand an audience segment. Audience expansion does so based on an advertiser’s manually selected audience segments. Optimized targeting uses real-time conversion data to find more users who are more likely to convert.

Google cites the hypothetical example of a business that wants to attract people to the upcoming launch of a new running shoe. The business targets people using two audience types: a custom segment based on top performing keywords from their search campaigns (e.g., “running shoe sale”), and the “athletic footwear” in-market segment. Audience expansion and optimized targeting may handle the company’s campaign as follows:

  • Audience expansion: in addition to the business’s manually selected audience segments, audience expansion includes similar segments such as the “trainers sale” custom segment and the “sporting goods” in-market segment.
  • Optimized targeting: optimized targeting expands to users who are likely to convert by creating a profile of what a converter looks like based on real-time conversion data. For example, that data could include Google searches for specific running shoe brands or clicks to a popular sportswear website. While advertisers’ manually selected audience segments provide a starting point, optimized targeting looks for conversions outside of their selected segments.

According to Google, Discovery and Video campaigns that use audience expansion will transition to optimized targeting.

How Do I Get Started Using Optimized Targeting?

If you manage a Google Ads account, Google already got the ball rolling for you by enabling optimized targeting for all campaigns automatically. And you might encounter an initial fluctuation in your Google Ads costs as a result. Per Search Engine Land, “This could potentially be an expensive option if your budget is lower as your initial conversion quality could fluctuate as the data is collected and optimized targeting figures things out.”

What if you don’t want Google to automatically enable optimized targeting? To disable it, you need to change your ad group settings. If an ad agency manages your account for you, ask them how they are managing this feature and the impact on your budget. At True Interactive, we’re keeping a close eye on this new feature and protecting our clients’ budgets.

Our advice to advertisers who use Google Ads:

  • Watch your account closely. As Search Engine Land reported, managers of Google Ads accounts began to notice the roll-out of optimized targeting through a new “Signal” indicator that appeared in their Google Ads account.
  • Watch your budget closely. As noted, the automatic roll-out of optimized targeting could create an increase in costs.
  • Work closely with your ad agency partner to understand what’s happening and why. If you work with Google directly, reach out to your Google rep and ask for clarity about any future product changes in store.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here, and learn about our services here.

Why Google Delayed Its Plan to Scrap Cookies

Why Google Delayed Its Plan to Scrap Cookies

Google

Not so fast, Google. The company has announced that its campaign to kill cookies on the Chrome browser is slowing down. This is an increasingly complicated story with a simple conclusion: no matter what Google does or does not do, ad personalization is alive and well.

What Google Announced about Blocking Third-Party Cookies

In a blog post, Google said that its plan to block web tracking on Chrome – originally planned to happen in 2022 – will be delayed until later in 2023. The company also indicated that its timeline is subject to its engagement with the United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). In other words, Google will need the cooperation of legislators who are growing very concerned about Google’s growing power. This is an important development. Previously, Google was rolling along unchecked with its anti-cookie measures despite an outcry from advertisers and ad tech firms — who are concerned that Google is amassing too much power and restricting their ability to deliver personalized ads by tracking users across the web.

A Brief Timeline of Google’s War against Third-Party Cookies

Google’s announcement is best understood in context of a series of moves that the company has made since January 2020. Let’s break it down for you:

January 14, 2020: The Bombshell

Google said it will phase out support for third-party cookies on Chrome, which is the most popular browser in the world. Advertisers rely on third-party cookies to track user behavior across the web in order to serve up personalized ads. Google said it wanted to make the web more private. Google said it would work with advertisers to create alternatives to third-party cookies through its Privacy Sandbox project.

The news created a wave of protest from advertisers and ad tech firms. They accused Google of stacking the deck against them by denying them the ability to use third-party cookies to personalized ads. Meanwhile, Google’s own powerful ad platforms, such as YouTube and Google Search, would be exempted from Google’s phasing out of cookies. That’s because those platforms use first-party data, or data collected from user behavior on those sites. They don’t rely on third-party cookies. Advertisers complained that Google was creating an unfair competitive advantage.

January 8, 2021: A Regulator Steps In

The United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced it was investigating Google’s Privacy Sandbox because the CMA was getting concerned that Google was potentially violating anti-trust laws. This was an important development leading up to Google’s June 24 announcement.

January 25, 2021: Will FLoC Float?

Google announced it was developed an open-source program that would ease the pain of businesses eventually losing access to third-party cookies. This open-source program is known as FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts). FLoC will make it possible for businesses to group people based on their common browsing behavior instead of using third-party cookies.

March 3, 2021: Google Doubles Down

Google doubled down on its campaign against cookies. Google said that once third-party cookies are phased out of Chrome browsers, Google will not build alternative identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will Google use them in its products. Examples of those alternative identifiers include Unified ID and LiveRamp IdentityLink. Instead, Google pushed advertisers to adopt FLoCs developed out Google’s own Privacy Sandbox initiative (as noted above).

Notably, Google  also said, “We will continue to support first-party relationships on our ad platforms for partners, in which they have direct connections with their own customers. And we’ll deepen our support for solutions that build on these direct relationships between consumers and the brands and publishers they engage with.”

March 11, 2021: Google Keeps Pushing First-Party Data

Google announced some product developments intended to make it easier for publishers to use their first-party data programmatically for ad buys. The announcement was seen as another sign of Google’s intention to bring about the demise of third-party cookies and push businesses toward using first-party data to personalize content.

June 11, 2021: Google Feels the Heat

Feeling the heat from the CMA investigation, Google made some public commitments to protect free competition, such as “no data advantage for Google advertising products” and that “We will play by the same rules as everybody else because we believe in competition on the merits. Our commitments make clear that, as the Privacy Sandbox proposals are developed and implemented, that work will not give preferential treatment or advantage to Google’s advertising products or to Google’s own sites.”  Google also pledged to cooperate with the CMA.

June 24, 2021: The Cookies Are Still Baking

As a byproduct of pledging to cooperate with the CMA, Google agreed to slow down its phasing out of third-party cookies. The CMA wants Google to proceed more cautiously and thoughtfully with the CMA’s oversight, especially amid the ongoing outcry from advertisers, ad tech firms, and competitors.

The New Timeline

Google shared a revised timeline. Here’s exactly how Google describes it:

“After this public development process, and subject to our engagement with the CMA, our plan for Chrome is to phase out support for third party cookies in two stages:

  • Stage 1 (Starting late-2022):Once testing is complete and APIs are launched in Chrome, we will announce the start of stage 1. During stage 1, publishers and the advertising industry will have time to migrate their services. We expect this stage to last for nine months, and we will monitor adoption and feedback carefully before moving to stage 2.
  • Stage 2 (Starting mid-2023):Chrome will phase out support for third-party cookies over a three month period finishing in late 2023.

Soon we will provide a more detailed schedule on privacysandbox.com, where it will be updated regularly to provide greater clarity and ensure that developers and publishers can plan their testing and migration schedules.”

What Does All This Mean?

  • The demise of third-party cookies is still happening – just not as quickly as Google originally planned.
  • Google now has oversight. The CMA could pull its support or impose more restrictions if it feels Google is not playing fair. And who knows what would happen to Google’s Privacy Sandbox if that were to happen?
  • Personalization is alive and well. As we noted on our blog, even if Google succeeds ultimately, businesses have access to alternatives to third-party cookies such as Unified ID 2.0 — is a next generation identity solution built on an open-source digital framework.
  • First-party data is more important than ever. That’s because Google isn’t the only Big Tech firm clamping down on web tracking. So is Apple with its Application Tracking Transparency privacy control, which requires apps to get the user’s permission before tracking their data across apps or websites owned by other companies for advertising, or sharing their data with data brokers.

What Businesses Should Do

  • Heed Google’s advice and monitor the detailed schedule for its next moves on privacysandbox.com
  • Work with your advertising agency to understand what’s happening and how you may be affected. That’s exactly what our clients are doing with True Interactive. That’s what we’re here for.
  • Don’t abandon ship with ads that rely on web tracking. As you can see with Google’s June 24 announcement, things may not proceed the way Google plans.
  • Do invest in ways to leverage your own (first-party) customer data to create personalized ads. We can help you do that.
  • Consider ad platforms such as Amazon Advertising and Walmart Connect, which give businesses entrée to a vast base of customers who search and shop on Amazon and Walmart. True Interactive offers services on both platforms in addition to our longstanding work on Google, Bing, and other platforms.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash

For Further Reading

Apple Announces New Privacy Features,” Mark Smith.

Why the Google Ad Juggernaut is Back,” Tim Colucci.

Why Amazon and Facebook Are Catching up to Google,” Kurt Anagnostopoulos.

Google Unlocks First-Party Data for Publishers,” Mark Smith.

Google Rejects Alternatives to Cookie Tracking,” Mark Smith.

Google Responds to Apple’s App Tracking Transparency,” Taylor Hart.

The Facebook Spat with Apple,” Taylor Hart.

Google to Stop Supporting Third-Party Cookies on Chrome,” Mark Smith.

Why the Google Ad Juggernaut Is Back

Why the Google Ad Juggernaut Is Back

Google

Google’s advertising business has come roaring back. In 2020, Google found itself to be in the unusual position of seeing a downturn in its advertising revenue for the first time in 29 years. That’s because a pullback in ad spending among Google’s clients, many of whom come from a travel/hospitality industry ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, hurt Google even as ad competitors Amazon and Facebook were reaping a windfall. But Google’s recent financial results show that the downturn was temporary, and Google will continue to exert an enormous influence on the advertising world.

Recently, Google’s parent firm Alphabet announced quarterly earnings that exceeded investors’ expectations. Although the growth of Google’s cloud computing business had a lot to do with Alphabet’s success, the rebound of Google advertising played a big role, too. Google’s advertising revenue rose to $44.68 billion for the first quarter of 2021, up from $33.76 billion the year before, prompting CNBC to note that the ad revenue spike was the fastest annualized growth rate in at least four years. So, what can we conclude form the turnaround?:

  • Google is benefitting from the popularity of video. YouTube earned $6 billion in revenue for the quarter, increasing 49 percent from a year earlier. Earlier in 2021, we predicted a surge in online video consumption, a reality that has been borne out during the pandemic. To be sure, online video is much bigger than YouTube, as the success of TikTok demonstrates. But as Google reported later in 2020, during the pandemic, people were turning to video more as a learning tool when in-person learning options were shut down, which benefits YouTube given the amount of instructional content that exists there. The only question that remains now is whether the popularity of online video, and, by extension, YouTube, will remain as strong in a post-pandemic world.
  • Google’s Knowledge Graph is becoming more powerful. The Google Knowledge Graph consists of all the sources of information that Google draws upon to provide search results to queries. It’s a wonky concept that people in the search engine optimization (SEO) industry follow closely. But the Knowledge Graph applies to advertising, too. When Google provides answers to searches such as “Where can I find a plumber near me?” or “Where can I find Anime T shirts?” Google draws upon sources such as Google Maps, Snippets, and a company’s Google My Business (GMB) listings (among other sources) to share information about relevant businesses. Well, guess what? Google is doing such an effective job tapping into its Knowledge Graph to serve up answers on search engine results pages (SERPs) that people are finding answers to what they need on Google without needing to click anywhere else. More eyeballs on Google SERPs means that Google can deliver a larger audience to advertisers through Google Search. As Google becomes an even stronger all-purpose search tool (hard to believe given Google’s dominance in search already), the company becomes even more valuable to advertisers.
  • Google is creating its own future. As widely reported, Google has intensified its war against third-party cookies that are essential for businesses to deliver ads based on a person’s browsing behavior across the web. As Google forces the demise of third-party cookies, advertisers will need to tap into businesses that possesses first-party data (such as Amazon) in order to continue to deliver effective personalized ads. And as it turns out, Google is sitting on a lot of first-party data through that Knowledge Graph I mentioned. When people use Google Maps, YouTube, and other Google properties, they give Google a ton of information about their search and purchase habits, which Google uses to create better ad products. According to Brendan Eich, cofounder and CEO of the privacy-focused browser company Brave, “The reality is that Google already has first-party access to nearly every site—via Google Analytics, ad words, Google Tag Manager, Google Maps, etc.—and that its users are being data mined for profit.”

All of this is not to say that businesses need to dial up their advertising on Google. We’ve always recommended that advertisers go where their audience is, period. At the same time, Google has demonstrated the wisdom of businesses taking the long view with their advertising. The Big Tech ad platforms – Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft – have carved out a powerful space in the advertising world. Those companies are all big targets for critics, which has resulted in antitrust action and negative PR. But the negative PR can lead a business around by the nose, too, resulting in short-sighted thinking. The ad giants are not going away. If they’re important to your business – and I suspect they are if you’ve read this far into my post – don’t pump on the brakes in 2021.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Two Ways the Agency Role Changes in the Era of Automated Bidding

Two Ways the Agency Role Changes in the Era of Automated Bidding

Advertising Google

When Google announced Smart Bidding Strategies in 2016, clients and agencies alike were hesitant to hand Google full control of pay-per-click (PPC) campaign management – and with good reason. Although the auto bidding strategies were supposed to yield superior results, for most of our clients, we continued to outperform the Google algorithm by using manual bidding and optimization techniques acquired through years of PPC campaign management experience.

To Google’s credit, the company has continued to heavily invest in improving the algorithms used in its Smart Bidding Strategies and has also rolled out a variety of bidding strategies with different performance goals, seasonality adjustments for smart bidding, and enhanced bid strategy reporting.

With these advances in automation, the agency role in PPC management is also shifting in a few important ways:

1 Agencies Are More Strategic

At True Interactive, we have seen the value in using smart bidding strategies for many of our clients. But it is important to note that it is not a “set-it and forget-It” approach when managing PPC campaigns using auto bidding. In fact, we need to remain very involved in managing these campaigns. Although the smart bidding strategies have removed some time-intensive tasks such as manually changing keyword bids, we are spending more time on understanding clients’ business goals and finding strategic solutions to help achieve them.

Understanding the KPIs most important to our clients helps us determine the best bidding strategies to use to reach those goals. Google offers bidding solutions focused on maximizing conversions, achieving a target cost per acquisition, maximizing clicks, or optimizing for impression share to name a few. Each of these bid strategies will yield very different results. Setting a target cost per acquisition that is too low can throttle traffic and limit search volume, while maximizing conversions may result in dramatically higher cost per clicks and more spend. We have also seen huge swings in performance when changing campaign daily budgets, hurting overall results for days (and in some cases weeks) following the changes. By playing a more strategic role in understanding our clients’ business goals, we are a more effective partner in managing bidding strategies.

2 Agencies Apply Deeper Specialty Skills and Knowledge

Understanding the nuances of the smart bidding strategies is key to achieving strong results. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to smart bidding strategies. At True Interactive, we work closely with our clients to ensure we set up their PPC campaigns for maximum success. The campaign structure plays a key role as does determining the appropriate bidding strategy. Our team is committed to closely monitoring performance so that we can be proactive in responding to changes in key metrics. And because automated bidding strategies have removed the need for manual keyword bid changes, we have more time to focus on strategic changes such as ad copy testing, campaign experiments, landing page tests, customized reporting dashboards, testing different bid strategies, or modifying existing ones based on performance and using Google Analytics to better understand full funnel results. As a result, we apply more of our deep specialty skills and knowledge. Working in tandem with clients’ marketing teams ensures we are all working towards the same business goals and using our experience to help achieve maximum results.

Contact True Interactive

If you are looking for a partner dedicated to helping you reach your business goals, we would love to work together. Contact True Interactive to get the conversation started.

Photo by Maxim Ilyahov on Unsplash

Why Amazon and Facebook Are Catching up to Google

Why Amazon and Facebook Are Catching up to Google

Advertising Amazon Facebook Google

The race to lead the online advertising market is getting tighter. According to a new report from eMarketer, Amazon Advertising and Facebook are catching up to Google’s share of the online advertising market. Let’s take a closer look.

What eMarketer Reported

eMarketer says that in 2020:

  • Amazon’s share of the online advertising market increased from 7.8 percent in 2019 to 10 percent in 2020.
  • Facebook’s share increased from 23.6 percent to 25.2 percent.
  • Google’s leading share dropped from 31.6 percent to 28.9 percent.

To put this data in perspective, eMarketer says Google’s share of online advertising was 38.6 percent in 2017.

What Does the Marketer Data Mean?

  • Amazon Advertising is only going to get bigger. That’s because Amazon delivers advertisers insight on its vast customer base – and not just casual searchers, but people searching with intent and making purchases. Per eMarketer, Amazon is enjoying growth across the board — search revenues from Sponsored Products and Sponsored Brands, and video ad revenues on properties including Amazon Fire TV, Twitch, and IMDb TV. It’s worth noting that Amazon’s growth is coming not just from ads on Amazon.com but from the Amazon network, as noted (e.g., Twitch and IMDb). That means Amazon is figuring how to use data about its customer base to expand its ad services across the web. In addition, as we noted on our blog recently, Google’s crackdown on third-party cookies is favorable to companies such as Amazon that know how to sell ads based on their massive inventories of first-party cookie data.
  • Facebook and Google are doing just fine. Despite Google’s drop in market share, the company generated a whopping $147 billion in ad revenue in 2020. Google saw a dip in its ad revenue in 2020 because its travel advertisers were hit hard by COVID-19, but the company came roaring back in the back half of the year. Google’s ad revenue actually increased by 9 percent year over year. The decrease in Google’s market share may actually help the company combat multiple anti-trust lawsuits at the state and federal level. Meanwhile, Facebook continues to reap the benefits of being the world’s largest and dominant social media network. Despite numerous controversies, Facebook enjoyed advertising growth in 2020. An increase in its user base has played an important role. That growth spiked owing to the massive uptake of social media that occurred during COVID-19, but Facebook’s user base has been climbing for years. Simply put: there is a disconnect between news media criticisms of Facebook and the behavior of its user base.

What Advertisers Should Do

  • First, follow your audience. Make your advertising investments based on the journey your own customers are making. Most customers rely on multiple digital touchpoints on their way from awareness to purchase. It’s likely that no single ad platform will (or should) dominate your spend. Incorporating Amazon, Facebook, and Google into your ad spend is probably not going to be an either/or choice (more about that on our blog).
  • Do your homework. The ad giants are going to launch more ad tools as the market place becomes more competitive. Amazon recently launched Amazon Live, which makes it possible for retailers to use livestreams to sell products – part of the live commerce trend we blogged about recently. In addition, up-and-comers such as Walmart Connect and Macy’s will launch more ad products as they capitalize on their own first-party data to generate more ad revenue.

Contact True Interactive

At True Interactive, we’ve been helping businesses succeed through online advertising for many years. Our services span Google, Facebook, Amazon Advertising, and much more. Contact us to learn how we can help you.

 

Why the Rise in Zero-Click Searches Matters – to You and Google

Why the Rise in Zero-Click Searches Matters – to You and Google

Google Search

Google has become so powerful that it’s the subject of anti-trust lawsuits at the federal and state levels. That’s probably one reason why Google is feeling a bit touchy about a recent SparkToro report that 65 percent of all Google searches don’t click through to a website. Instead, people are finding answers to what they need on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) without needing to click anywhere else. Let’s take a closer look.

What Exactly Is a Zero-Click Search, and Why Does It Matter?

A zero-click search happens when someone searches for answers to a question – say, “Where is the closest car rental?” or “When is Earth Day 2021?” – and then finds the answer to their question on a SERP without clicking on a website for further information. For example, let’s say I find an answer to “Where is the closest car rental?” with the following local pack search result:

Google Local Pack

If I don’t bother clicking through to a website in the above local pack, and instead find what I need from the local pack itself, I have performed a zero-click search. And a SERP may display answers in many other ways, such as a featured snippet, image carousel, Google Ad, Google News, featured video, and more.

The term “zero click” was coined by SparkToro’s Rand Fishkin after SparkToro reported in 2019 that half of searches on Google do not result in a click on a website. Two years later, that number has climbed to 65 percent. Here’s what SparkToro said:

From January to December, 2020, 64.82% of searches on Google (desktop and mobile combined) ended in the search results without clicking to another web property. That number is likely undercounting some mobile and nearly all voice searches, and thus it’s probable that more than 2/3rds of all Google searches are what I’ve been calling “zero-click searches.”

This chart illustrates the findings:

SparkToro Zero Click chart

Industry watchers follow the zero-click phenomenon because it underscores the importance of complementing your website content with Google Ads, featured snippets, and many other types of search results that make your brand more visible on Google Search, Google Maps, and other elements of the Google universe.

Why Do Zero-Click Searches Matter to Google?

The rise of zero-click searches is a two-edged sword for Google. On the one hand, the SparkToro report shows why businesses need to choose Google as their home base for creating paid and organic content. More eyeballs on Google SERPs means a bigger audience for advertisers.

But the downside is that Google looks too powerful. This kind of attention does not serve Google well at a time when the company is fighting anti-trust lawsuits. In fact, Google has voiced opposition to the research. In a recent blog post, Google said,

This week, we saw some discussion about a claim that the majority of searches on Google end without someone clicking off to a website — or what some have called “zero-click” searches. As practitioners across the search industry have noted, this claim relies on flawed methodology that misunderstands how people use Search. In reality, Google Search sends billions of clicks to websites every day, and we’ve sent more traffic to the open web every year since Google was first created. And beyond just traffic, we also connect people with businesses in a wide variety of ways through Search, such as enabling a phone call to a business.

Google went on to knock the research SparkToro used. Among other things, Google said that SparkToro did not properly account for people navigating directly to apps or refining their queries after what appears initially to be a zero-click search.

In addition, as we have blogged, Google is trying to encourage businesses to adopt Google’s tools (under development) to maximize the value of their first-party data on their websites. If 65 percent of searches are not resulting in clicks on websites, the value of first-party data may get called into question.

What Should Brands Do?

It’s always been a good idea to balance the content you publish on your website with content across the digital world ranging from your Google My Business (GMB) listing to social media. That principle does not change in a zero-click world. We suggest:

  • Keep close tabs on your website data. Are you satisfied with visits, views, and click-through rates on your website? Are they staying at a level you want, going up, or going down? If your site is not performing where it should, first examine what needs to be fixed using tools such as website audits. You may need a tune-up, anyway.
  • Do build up your GMB listing. Why? Because according to Moz, your GMB listing is the biggest local search ranking signal (followed by reviews and proximity). If organic queries are increasingly going to your GMB and staying there, then make sure you’ve optimized your GMB content – including images, customer ratings/reviews, and location data – to be found.
  • Link your GMB account to your Google Ads account. Linking your GMB account to your Google Ads account makes it possible for your ads to appear with location extensions, which encourage customers to visit your storefront. Through location extensions, customers can see your ads with location information such as your address. And then they can get more information about your location by clicking on location extensions.
  • Make sure you’re capitalizing on Google ad products throughout the Google ecosystem. With Google keeping more searchers on Google and its properties, it behooves advertisers to capitalize on where that search activity is occurring.

Finally, it’s always a good idea to watch how Google develops its tools for maximizing the value of paid and organic content. Don’t be surprised if Google doubles down on the importance of personalizing content with first-party data.

Contact True Interactive

At True Interactive, we know how to help businesses navigate the complex waters of online advertising, including advertising on Google. Contact us. Learn more about our work here.

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Google Unlocks First-Party Data for Publishers

Google Unlocks First-Party Data for Publishers

Google

Google continues to nudge businesses away from using third-party cookies to personalize ads and toward the management of first-party data. On March 11, Google announced some product developments intended to make it easier for publishers to use their first-party data programmatically for ad buys. Let’s take a closer look.

What Google Announced

Google is going to help publishers expand the use of Publisher Provided Identifiers (PPIDs) in Ad Manager to more programmatic campaign types, including the Open Auction. PPIDs are created from anonymized first-party data and then fed into Google Ad Manager by the publisher. PPIDs improving functions such as audience segmentation and frequency capping. Publishers will now be able to surface their first-party data programmatically for buyers — so long as they use Google as their intermediary.

As AdExchanger explains,

The PPID’s technical setup works like this: the publisher will create a unique ID for users, based on a first-party cookie or a log-in ID. Then it will put that ID into Google Ad Manager, and choose who it wants to share that data with. Google will hash that ID and pass it through to buyers.

Buyers won’t know that PPID 123 is a sports fan in an open auction. But as they observe the ID in bid requests, they may notice that the user ID goes to a sports site frequently, for example, and deduce that a buyer is a good fit for an ad campaign.

Google also said it is experimenting with functionality that will provide publishers with the option to share encrypted data directly with advertisers with whom they already have a direct relationship. Publishers will have full control over what data is collected, and who can receive the data. Google will not be able to read or decrypt the data. Ad Manager will only act as an intermediary on behalf of the publisher to pass the signals to the third-party bidders they choose.

What the News Means

The announcement is another sign of Google’s intention to bring about the demise of third-party cookies and push businesses toward using first-party data to personalize content. Over the past several months, Google has announced that it would stop supporting third-party cookies on its Chrome browser and that Google would reject alternatives to third-party cookie tracking. As an alternative, Google is developing alternatives to third-party cookie tracking in Google’s privacy sandbox. Tellingly, Google also noted in a March 3 blog post:

We will continue to support first-party relationships on our ad platforms for partners, in which they have direct connections with their own customers. And we’ll deepen our support for solutions that build on these direct relationships between consumers and the brands and publishers they engage with.

Google’s March 11 post now shows that Google is going to nudge publishers to use their first-party data more effectively.

What Advertisers Should Do

Flexibility and patience are key. Don’t assume targeting and personalization are dead. You can still use your own data to buy targeted ads on Google properties such as YouTube, Gmail, and Google Search – so long as you bring their first-party data into Google through the company’s existing Customer Match product. Customer Match takes information a consumer gave to a brand, such as an email address, and determines whether it matches data Google already has. If so, advertisers can work with Google to send an ad to that individual. Moreover, as we noted in a recent blog post, if you want to use your own data to serve up targeted ads outside Google’s walls, Google is developing its own cohort-based alternative to third-party cookies to help you do that. Stay tuned for more product developments.

Do consider tapping into your own first-party data more effectively to create ads (and True Interactive can help you do so). For example, collect more first-party data by using cookies to understand who visits your site; or run a promotion that collects email addresses. Collect purchase data if applicable to your site. Note that brands that have relationships with publishers can pass first-party data directly to those publishers, outside the Google environment, and still manage the buy inside Google’s automated ad-buying system Display & Video 360 (often called DV360). But the use of data and the ad buy will be supported by proposed methods that enhance privacy as discussed in Google’s March 11 blog post.

At True Interactive, we’re doing the heavy lifting to help our clients navigate these changes.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

For more reading:

Google Rejects Alternatives to Cookie Tracking: Advertiser Q&A.”

Google to Stop Supporting Third-Party Cookies on Chrome: Advertiser Q&A.”

Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash