If you’ve been following the news in the digital media industry, you’ve likely heard that advertisers have been anticipating the shift away from third-party cookies for quite some time now, coming off the mounting concerns around user privacy. With Google being an industry leader – both with the largest worldwide ads business and an owned internet browser, Chrome – we’ve all been anxiously awaiting how they will approach the shift. As PPC marketers, it’s important that we understand the changes, inform our clients and monitor our campaign data as new tracking methods come to light.
Earlier this month, Google made an announcement explaining that they would not build or use any alternate identifiers to track users for advertising, and that they would instead be testing one of their Privacy Sandbox initiatives, known as FLoC, or Federated Learning of Cohorts. Though this is only in testing, our team is doing our best to remain up to speed on FLoC and how it works.
What is FLoC?
Instead of using cookie-based technology to track users and serve them ads, FLoC is another way for browsers to support and foster interest-based advertising. FLoC works by identifying and building “clusters”. It gathers data about people’s browsing habits on a weekly basis, groups those people into clusters or cohorts, and then shares information about that cohort – rather than the individual cookie ID – for advertising purposes.
The big difference when compared to third-party cookies is that identifying and assigning of the cohort happens within the browser itself, which only keeps the user’s information locally. With cookies, a third-party stores user data on their owned and operated servers instead, so the privacy is enhanced with FLoC. Not surprisingly, the browser Google will be testing this technology in is Chrome.
Another difference, and the one that worries advertisers, is they will no longer be able to reach specific individuals, but rather groups of people (cohorts), which adds another layer of privacy. However, when Google announced they will start testing FLoC in Q2/2021, they seemed less concerned by saying, “Our tests of FLoC to reach in-market and affinity Google Audiences show that advertisers can expect to see at least 95% of the conversions per dollar spent when compared to cookie-based advertising.
What Should You DO?
While FLoC is in testing, starting in Q2 according to the latest statement, there are a few things you can do as a PPC marketer.
Our top recommendation is to ensure you have a proactive plan in place to collect your own customer and prospect data. While you may be collecting emails now via an email newsletter or similar – how is that program doing? How can your business amp it up over the coming weeks? Can you do a giveaway, with an email needed for submission? Send out a free e-book or guide with email sign up? Using this time to look for ways to increase your own first-party data, as advertisers will still be allowed to upload this data as Customer Match lists in Google Ads, and create Similar Audiences based on it.
Our next recommendation is to continue to keep up to date with the news. While questions abound – “What about Safari or Firefox browsers?”, “When will testing be done?”, “What about hackers unraveling the cohorts” …. there is currently limited verifiable information and answers. So, we’ll be blogging about anything relevant to Google Ads as it relates to FLoC. A great idea is to bookmark our blog so you can revisit often for any updates.
If you have any thoughts on FLoC, cookie-based advertising or privacy concerns, let us know in the comments below.