Currently Viewing Posts in Digital Advertising

When is Google Removing Third-Party Cookies?

hammer crushing cookies

It’s been months since Google first announced they’d phase out third-party cookie tracking from their platform—or as one news outlet named it “the cookiepocalypse.” But since their internet-breaking announcement, we’ve yet to see it actually happen. Just what is the holdup on this plan, and what does it mean for your company, both now in 2021, and for later years?

What are Third-Party Cookies?

First, let’s set the baseline on just what third-party cookies currently do. You may have noticed the cookie disclaimer that pops up when visiting websites for the first time. In the simplest terms possible, it helps the site keep track of what you’ve been doing on the site. 

Agreeing to website cookies can be a useful thing for user experience. It’s how a website remembers your language preference, what country you’re visiting from, or how a shopping cart remembers what you put in it the day before. It also helps a company see things like user flows and popular pages. 

Third-party cookies mean someone outside of the company that owns the website might be tracking your data too. They don’t typically track things quite as refined, but they may have something on the homepage just to let them know you visited. 

The biggest way they use that data is to retarget ads based on your preferences. One of the easiest examples of this is when you visit a shoe site, and almost immediately after you see ads on Facebook for that same shoe site, or others they think you may like as well. 

Why is Google Removing Third-Party Cookies?

Some browsers, like Safari and Firefox, already limit third-party cookies. The reason Google’s announcement is so newsworthy is that they have the lion’s share of users, so their decision to cut data has larger repercussions on the advertising industry. 

But so far, no real updates have been made. The initial news said mid 2021, then there was news that they were planning to slowly fade out the options. And now it seems the plan may not be in effect until 2022. 

So, how much push is coming from Google to remove third-party cookies, and how much is coming from industry pressure regarding privacy policies? The answer can depend on who you talk to. 

How Can We Track Usage Without Third-Party Cookies? 

Although the changes haven’t happened yet, agencies around the world are already prepping for what things might look like without the ability to advertise as we’ve been doing for years. 

Google, for one, has already stated that they are coming up with their own ways to track usage. But what they’ll do exactly remains to be seen. Will their updates push more automation from their own platform? If they keep more data within their own site, it will force companies to use only their platforms, and may result in less ability to pinpoint more nuanced audiences. 

Another plan is to rely more on what Google has coined FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts). Proponents of this method say it’s a more privacy-first way to advertise, but opponents say we’ll lose a lot of structure that’s needed to keep ROIs where they are now. 

So what is FLoC? It’s a way to target based more on basic profiling; relying mostly on audience groups. It would be a more contextual way of advertising. More like how traditional ads of the past worked, like TV and magazines. You may not know your audience went to the exact shoe site, but based on demographics and other information you can make an educated assumption they’ll be interested in the shoes you want to advertise. 

Because of the way this will most likely work, retargeting will be limited, and will be limited to Google’s cookies for information and advertising. 

How much will this affect ROI? How well will FLoC work to target smaller audiences? Will creatives need to change to adapt? All of these questions are still in constant debate, and we won’t know answers for sure until we see the new plans in action. 

What we do know is that similar to all digital advertising, this can be approached with a strong strategy and a readiness to quickly adapt and change as needed to reach appropriate audiences and guarantee positive outcomes. 

Are you Getting the Most Out of Search Advertising?

One thing is certain from this last year: online spending is not going anywhere. Which is why through all the ups and downs other industries faced in 2020, search advertising has raised expectations for spending this year. 

Spending for all touch points, which combine desktop, mobile and tablets, is forecast to increase by at least 10%, and as much as 25% in some areas. That makes it the fastest growth since 2018. This is good news for anyone looking to increase conversions for your brand.

How did the pandemic affect search advertising?

When news of shutdowns first hit, uncertainty was high, and advertising responded in kind. In Q1 and Q2 many advertisers took a cautionary step and lowered ad spending. But as more people began to look around online, and order things directly to their doorstep, things changed. While advertising spending overall will likely increase from some of the flattened numbers of 2020, search advertising is forecast to do especially well. 

How can search advertising increase conversions?

Like any good marketing, the best way to reach your audience is where they’re already at. And right now everyone is online. Increasing conversions through search engine marketing works with a consistent strategy and well-researched keyword usage. 

Targeting audiences through the right keywords can be taken a step further by combining other targeted points like website visits and interests or behaviors. This use of custom audiences can make sure your ad spend is working its hardest to reach the correct users.

Various conversions can exist within the user journey, and each should have a desired CPA. Campaigns or ad groups defined by those different users should be segmented as such and can be organized by different keyword types: priority keywords, head terms (low hanging fruit), longtail, impression share, and conquesting (competition) to name a few.

How can search advertising increase sales?

Targeting your audiences for clicks or conversions can include a variety of strategies. The top way to optimize is by dividing into useful campaign/ad group segments, which are based on keyword groupings. With these divisions made, the next step is to use separate bid strategies for each grouping. These would ideally have Target CPA’s set to control costs.

These groupings allow keyword research, audience segmentation and strategy to work together. When everything is properly in place, your advertising will find ready audiences with the type of communication that will get their attention the best.

Offline Conversion Tracking – Data You May Be Missing

A couple of our favorite things about digital advertising are the ability to reach an intended audience more precisely, and to more accurately measure the Return On Investment (ROI) for each ad that is placed. Not only does this data help advertising be more impactful, it gives us data to better strategize future advertisements as well. 

Yes, tell you something you don’t know, right? Did you know that Google offers conversion tracking for offline data too? Google Offline Conversion Tracking helps track things like offline sales, phone calls, form submissions, and downloads. And although it’s there for anyone to access, we’ve found many companies underestimate the value of tracking offline conversions.

Why Offline Conversion Tracking is Important

Without tracking offline conversions it can be hard to tell the quality and value of the leads that the ads are driving. This data can also provide better insight about the Return On Advertising Spend (ROAS) of a campaign. Analyzing where and how these conversions are happening will help to get the most out of an advertising budget, and improve a bid strategy. 

For example, let’s say someone clicks on an ad that takes them to a landing page about a specific product. If they read about it, then call a sales rep and give their information, you can have the whole process tracked. It can help you know how the sales call went, and where that customer is in the funnel, and it can all lead back to data on how the original ad is working.

How to Improve Offline Conversion Tracking

 Depending on the needs and intended outcomes for Google Ads, each client can have varying strategies working into their ads at any given time. Our recommendation for companies to benefit from Google Offline Conversion Tracking would be to integrate their CRM data with Google Ads. You can find out more about how to import that data here

This process allows for data and feedback to work together, and help get the highest performance and reach out of the Google Ads that are running. But there are caveats to how this can work properly. For example, ad content from CRM data cannot imply the knowledge of personally identifiable information or sensitive information about your customers.

As with original ad strategy, knowing what to include and exclude can differ depending on your brand and targeted needs. But the more data points that can be analyzed the more improved the contact points can become, leading to increased conversions overall.

Are Animated Social Posts Worth Your Time?

On a daily basis we work with clients to support their marketing objectives through different social media platforms. While there are best practices and platform focuses, some of this can vary depending on the client. We recently did internal research for a company going through a brand refresh to determine what was working best to connect with their current followers and potential customers.

Our goal in all of this was to understand how audiences were responding to different types of ad formats across different content topics.

What we analyzed

Our first step was to gather data on three months’ worth of paid media across three different sub-brands within the same company. This resulted in data from advertising across Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn for three separate social media accounts each. We then categorized this data based on ad format and content type, specifically focusing on movement and production amount.
Static images: no movement
Standard animation: simple use of product or text, typically using still images
Advanced animation: custom animations and longer production schedule
Videos: clips of longer client assets, usually cut to an average of 15 seconds

Once categorized, we analyzed performance by the following metrics: click-through rate (CTR), thruplay rate, conversion rate and cost per click (CPC). Using multiple metrics helped pinpoint if ad format value varied by conversion type.

What we discovered

For all three brands that we tracked, standard animation posts were the top performers. It was also noted that specific content topics could sway the performance of these posts as well. On average, CTR was higher on standard animation and video posts, with CPC under one dollar.

In some cases, advance animation performed slightly better from one brand to another, again based on content topic. Although this type of finding sounds generalized, knowing which topics performed better for each brand will be helpful insight for future marketing.

From the outcomes received, we were able to evaluate holes in the data, such as content types that did not have ad formats to test. With this realization we have moved on to A/B testing certain content types as standard and advanced animation ads.

Takeaways for future strategy

With all brands, audiences can have distinct personalities and hidden motivations within their viewing and interactions. While this case study helped us find data to better serve a client in the midst of a brand pivot, data collection and analysis is something we are constantly reviewing for every client and social account we support.

Seasonality, personal preferences, outside trends…all of these things can contribute to a shift in what your audience responds to at any given time. The pro and con of social media is that it is always changing, always allowing for new ways to connect to your customers. Keeping on top of these changes with similar fluidity is necessary to keep your metrics performing at their best.