If your business relies on digital marketing, the Apple iPhone privacy updates and Google’s new user cohorts are going to affect you. The changes mean the vast reservoirs of data about website and app users will muddle and dry up like Lake Mead in a drought.
How much you’re affected will depend on how much you rely on social media ads, search ads and display ads that are delivered either by Google or other display ad distributors. The changes will hit every ad platform that relies on targeting people with certain interests or online behaviors.
How Cookies Helped Advertisers
That data is stored in little bits of website code called cookies, which attach themselves to your computer browser. There are two types of cookies. Third-party cookies are code bits that allow ad platforms to track your movement across multiple websites. That bit of code is what allowed Facebook to show you an ad for Office Depot just minutes after you visited OfficeDepot.com.
Google has used third-party cookies to show you ads on your favorite news site for a local car dealership after you’ve searched “best new cars of 2021.”
There also are first-party cookies, which are stored on the website you are visiting. They allow the site to create personalized experiences, like remembering your log-in information or items you’ve purchased.
The emphasis on privacy is leading to the death of third-party cookies. What does that mean for the car dealer trying to reach people who are shopping for new cars? Facebook will continue to have some information about car-shoppers, but it won’t have as much. That will dilute the potential targeted audience.
Diluted and Diffused Targeting
Google’s FLoC will group people based on a variety of interests and behaviors. A Google cohort might group a car shopper who visits gardening websites with other gardeners who are not necessarily looking to buy a car. So instead of targeting with a laser beam, the car dealer’s ads will be aimed with a broad-beam flashlight. Some ad dollars will be wasted.
According to Kasim Aslam, a Google Ads expert who also is a coach for Digital Marketer, effects will include incomplete and inaccurate ad results from platforms like Facebook. And platforms will no longer be able to tell whether an ad click resulted in a conversion.
Since the release of Apple’s privacy updates for apps, 96 percent of Americans have opted out of tracking. Aslam’s firm is seeing increasing ad costs, and Facebook’s lookalike and remarketing audiences already are less effective.
How to Adjust
So how should you adjust your marketing to counteract these privacy initiatives? Here’s a quick list:
- Build and use your email list
- Start adding UTM parameters to all of your marketing links
- Collect cookie data yourself
- Refocus on creative
An email list remains the single best way to collect customer information you can use to personalize communication, offer relevant deals or content, and get “personal” with your customers. Not only that, your email list belongs to you, not a social media platform.
If you’ve not got an email list of customers, start building it. If you’ve got the list but aren’t using it, start writing emails. In addition to being your customers, folks on the list are your biggest fans.
In its next iOS update, Apple will allow users of its Mail app to hide their email addresses and it will block third-party tracking of opens.
Add Tracking Info to Links
History has buried the literal meaning of UTM. It stands for Urchin Tracking Module, and it allows you to add information to marketing links that can tell you where a click originated, whether it’s part of a specific campaign, or whether it’s from an ad. (Google eventually purchased, Urchin, a website analytics software). You can learn more about UTMs at utmbuilder.net.
A link with a UTM tracking code would look like this: https://www.markwhittaker.com/?utm_source=June22&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Practice
Up Your Creative Game
The availability of user data made it easy for marketers to overlook creating interesting and eye-catching ads. Getting a click was almost easy for our car dealer friend. All it involved was putting simple text and a routine image in front of somebody Facebook identified as an active car shopper.
The data drought is going to push more marketers to focus on the images, the messages and the calls to action in their social media posts and advertising. Creativity will again be a differentiator, as it was before the internet took its place as the dominant advertising medium.
Create Your Own Cookies
If you’re a small business, you’ll need to talk with a web developer about collecting information using data that you collect just on your website. About the best I can tell you right now is that it’s possible and that it might help you wring a little more information from your Facebook and Google metrics.
In writing articles for you, I try not to get too wrapped up in the day-to-day technical changes in online marketing. The rabbit holes can go deep., but the basics remain the same. No matter what Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon do, your marketing needs to find and attract the people who need you and your product or service.
Mark Whittaker, a Pittsburgh-based online marketer, helps small businesses and start-ups find customers with search and social media advertising, content development and digital marketing strategy. Write to him at mark (at) markwhittaker.com and subscribe to his bi-weekly email.