One fundamental benefit to modern businesses is the use of online data to influence marketing and advertising strategies and decisions. This data-centric method of marketing means two things. Firstly, businesses now more than ever know more about our shopping habits and online behaviour on a very large scale, in a format typically coined big data. Secondly, our data is so readily available to companies online that it is more than just an insight, it directly affects budgets, campaigns and marketing efforts on a very regular basis.
Most tracking data from websites is collected through cookies, which are essentially small text files that are stored on a user’s browser enabling a specific website to collect data on you. Many also allow for 3rd parties serving target digital advertising campaigns too. They work in a way that all the data from each site works in conjunction with one another to build a behavioural digital insight into you so that everything from search engines & social media platforms to targeted adverts can serve you things they believe you may be interested in.
Until now Cookies have served as the main method for collecting data online. However, Google is currently determined to phase out the use of any 3rd party cookies by 2022 in Google Chrome. This, as well as other browsers already blocking them, is pushing the whole internet to go on a huge cookie-less diet! Paving the way for new data tracking technology. However, this begs the question, are these new data tracking methods currently compliant with privacy laws?
User Consent & Brand Reputation
Data privacy has been a gauge of brand reputation for a long time now and is becoming ever more prominent in web design.This means building trust with your end users now and in a cookie-less internet economy will be critical.
Consent is not only becoming a consumer demand, but it is also becoming the gold standard for most data protection laws that are emerging around the world, influenced heavily by the EU’s strict General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which requires data controllers/processors to obtain explicit consent from end users before any collection or processing of their personal data can take place.
The USA are starting to follow suit with California & Virginia having already approved comprehensive state-level data privacy legislation, giving people the authority to refuse to have their data sold to third parties or used for targeted advertising, and a dozen more states are expected to follow suit.
User Consent & SEO
One of the fundamental pillars of good SEO is building trust between your brand and users of your website. This is not only good for the reputation of your company but if users interact, purchase and convert on your website then this shows search engines that you are a trusted source of information and a legitimate business. This will in turn help to optimise your rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Google’s Move Towards A ‘Privacy- First Web’
Security is and will always be an essential part of SEO and the website design process. With the moral reasonings of good website security for users aside, having good website security in the form of SSL certificates & encrypted payment gateways is the industry standard for a trustworthy website on search engines.
Google’s recent update announcements means they really are serious about ending the existence of 3rd party cookies. This specifically refers to targeting individual users based on their browsing habits and behaviour.
There are some important factors to consider with these updates however. With more in depth digital marketing campaigns using customer segmentation and analysis to ‘design’ their ideal customer using specific data this will no longer be as easy or even possible to do. Digital marketing strategies will have to become more anonymized which may impede many Pay Per Click & paid digital ad campaigns.
Activation Will Become More Difficult
Due to 3rd party cookies being the main vehicle for audience targeting & retargeting for the past decade, PPC ad managers have relied on them to target users to the relevant demographics browsing the internet.
This will lead to using a more contextual form of targeting, for example advertising to fans of sports by displaying adverts on BTSport.com.
Measurement Analytics Won’t Be Impacted.. Too Much
Measuring the performance of PPC & Display advertising campaigns will only be affected marginally. This is because typically the metrics are measured using primarily 1st party cookies. This means the main data metrics such as click through rate won’t be affected. However, data such as audience analysis, demographics & multi- touch analysis will be impacted.
The Importance Of Fledge & Floc
No, these aren’t new cleaning products but rather Google’s answer to measuring and targeting users on their platforms. Their commitment to the Privacy Sandbox has meant that cookies are going to become a thing of the past leaving a large hole in the way data is collected online in compliance with data laws.
Floc is short for Federated Learning of Cohorts and essentially means that searches & online adverts are going to put emphasis on interest- based advertising. Essentially, Floc is the replacement for audience targeting. Chrome will build an ad interest profile for each user locally.
Users will be classified into cohorts with similar interests, which may then be targeted by advertising while maintaining user privacy, and Google will keep the data local to the browser itself. This can be broken down into 3 key categories:
- 1st party & Contextual Information
- Put this ad on web pages about travelling
- General information about user interests
- Show this advert to people who love Medittarenean food
- Specific Previous Actions
- Offer a discount on the holiday you started to book
Fledge on the other hand stands for First Locally- Executed Decision Over Groups Experiments. Without getting too bogged down in google’s naming formats, Fledge just means that interactions with brands and other websites will be stored within the browser also.
The Future Of SEO, Analytics & User Data
Both Apple & Google are releasing large data security related updates through 2021 which means there is going to be some fairly substantial waves made in the use of our data online, especially for digital marketers, advertisers & businesses.
This won’t affect the way in which we search too much yet however, in the future it will mean there may be an even bigger shift towards user intent related content on your website. Whilst that is a large focus already, personalizing ad campaigns to a user will become more difficult, making way for searches that match the users search much more specifically.
Preparing For A Cookie-Less Internet
Ultimately, as a digital marketing agency this means concentrating the adjustments that will occur over the next few years to ensure that we are able to target potential customers with both focused SEO & PPC campaigns. The main goal of Google as a search engine is for the end-user to find appropriate search results.
The main takeaways to focus on for these large data changes are:
- Expect to see 3rd party cookies take a lesser role soon & new data collection methods take over.
- Your website should be fully compliant with GDPR and user consent rules to ensure there are no penalisations to your website’s SEO.