Privacy Changes Create Challenges for Google Ads Advertisers

Solutions Ahead Privacy Forward Marketing

Privacy challenges and changes are causing a paradigm shift in advertising. Not only is Google Ads impacted but all online advertising platforms including Microsoft Advertising, AdRoll, and others.

This is a complex topic, but I will work to make it easy to understand. Regulations and expectations have changed. The Chrome browser will be retiring the use of third party cookies in 2022. Many browsers like Firefox and Microsoft Edge are already providing users expanded privacy protection. With Google serving nearly 80% of digital advertising, it and the Google Ad platform will be hurt the most by these new privacy initiatives.

The bottom line is that third party cookies which are being degraded drive conversions as a user travels the web. Knowing more about you and what you share with Google (via cookies) and what browsers record about your activities online – drive conversions for advertisers. Take that away and advertisers will be less relevant to your needs. When advertisers struggle to make conversions and drive sales, Google is impacted as advertising dollars are moved to other advertising products.

81% of internet users this year became more concerned about privacy and personal data. 59% of internet users feel that their privacy is not sufficiently protected by the companies that they do business with. (From the Google Partner seminar on Planning for Privacy-Safe Growth.)

The challenges are real. Google has introduced an initiative to be used in Chrome and is hoping other browsers will embrace it. It is called FLoC Federated Learning of Cohorts. This initiative plans to anonymize data and then group users into clusters which it will use as audiences for ad serving. Already, Microsoft Edge and possibly even Firefox have said they will block FLoC tracking.

The difficulties are real for businesses advertising digitally. With less direct information, that was previously delivered by third party cookie tracking, the less relevant ads will be. Remarketing lists will be smaller as many users will not be able to be tracked.  Fewer conversions will be recorded in the Google Ads control panel to be used by the bidding algorithms to adjust bids to deliver optimized results. There will be less personalization and fewer personalized ad served to you after you have done a recent search for a product.  Google will have limited ability to create audience lists that will be meaningful that can drive additional conversions and sales. The list goes on.

These privacy changes are great for consumers, but for advertisers will require a shift in approach to reach relevant audiences to promote their products and services in a new privacy-safe way.

The key to this new world is the use of first party data. Here are my recommendations.

If you are not collecting email address for interaction with clients through form fills or purchases, you should plan on implementing that right away.

If you are not collecting client emails on a spreadsheet for marketing use, start now. If you are using customer relationship management software you should be downloading and then exporting your properly formatted customer list into Google Ads every six months (Google’s recommendation).

All businesses should be using Customer Match in Google Ads and then layer this audience over all campaigns. This first party data will help the modeling that Google will be doing in your account to help your advertising be more productive.

Review your Google Ads and Google Analytics tags – Google recommends use of the global site tag and an  upgrade to Google Analytics 4. You may want to consider moving to Tag Manager as Consent Mode will be turned on in the USA in the very near future. Add the  Google Tag Assistant to Chrome as an app then visit your website to see what tracking code version you are using now. You may need an updated.

Without data, Google expects to see conversions recorded in Google Ads decline. With data the hit may only be 5% or so. Google has stated that what data it cannot get from first party information, it will model. The less modeling the better.

It is important to know that even with these changes, your website is not impacted or your sales just your advertising. You still get the conversions it is just that the data on the sale or form fill no longer flows to Google Ads as it has before. With bidding algorithms using conversion/lead data to make bidding decisions it simply means that these tools become less effective in controlling costs and bidding effectively.

Overall, I want to express that I am not worried by these changes. In many cases I feel that the increased level of data protection is a good thing for the end user. What we want to do is to help all our advertiser embrace this new privacy environment and work to use that tools that are available to control the impact on their business.

We will be reaching out to our clients with an action plan to help address a number of these changes. Many of our clients have already been approached with a request to refresh customer match lists. More will be contacted in the near future to help them create customer match lists for the first time.

Our recommendation is to simply start by reviewing are you keeping a list of email address for customers and prospects. Can you offer a special download and get an email address in return to start building your first party data list? That is a great place to start.

Our team will guide you through the process in the month ahead with suggestions on steps you can take to have a privacy forward focus for the future.

For more information about McCord Web Services, a Google Partner, please visit our website to learn more about our mission and our services.

Update: as of late 6/24/21 Google announced that is delaying the Chrome cookie update until late 2023 due to advertiser concerns in embracing the new tracking technologies.

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Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act (CDPA)

December 31, 2022 is When Virginia's Privacy Law Takes Effect.

Second in the nation behind California to enact online privacy regulation, Virginia’s new law takes effect on January 1, 2023.

Similar to the law in California that is again similar in itself to the more stringent privacy regulations in the European Union, Virginia has new privacy rules now too.

What does this mean for US and Virginia-based businesses and those selling in Virginia?

First and foremost, if you do not have cookie notifications on your website, now is the time to implement this scripting. There are many online services that provide the scripts to meet the European Unions’ strict rules and can be used to meet both California and Virginia’s regulations. We use cookie-script.com for our privacy adherence needs.

For Virginia businesses and those that do business in Virginia, here’s what you need to know about this recently passed act.

First you must be in compliance by January 1, 2023.

“Virginia’s legislation has a carve-out for information collected in the employment context, whereas California’s law applies to some employment data.” Read the full article.

The CDPA applies to the following business types:

• Those that control or process the personal data of at least 100,000 consumers.

• Those that process the personal data of at least 25,000 consumers and derive more than 50 percent of their gross revenue from selling personal data.

Make sure to check this article for a number of exemptions. Virginia has made its law less stringent than California’s privacy law, but make sure you know what is covered and not covered.

What Are Your Rights in this New Law?

“Virginia’s law was modeled after California’s laws and the European Union General Data Protection Regulation. Virginia’s law provides expansive consumer privacy rights, such as the right to access, right of rectification, right to delete, right to opt out, right of portability and right against automatic decision-making. The act includes a broad definition of “personal information,” a “sensitive data” category, and data-protection assessment requirements for businesses that control the data.”

“Consumers don’t have the right to bring a private lawsuit for violations of the act. Instead, the Virginia attorney general’s office will enforce the law. Entities will have the opportunity to cure violations or face a fine of $7,500 per violation.” Read more.

Most people expect other states to follow with restrictions similar to Virginia’s or California’s.

Our Recommendation

With privacy being in the forefront of everyone’s mind right now, it is time to look at adding a privacy statement and cookie setting acknowledgement script on your website.

When the EU rolled out it’s privacy regulation several years ago, many businesses opted to not update their site for cookie approval as they felt they were exempt (erroneously) by not selling services or products in the European Union. Now with expansion of similar regulations to California and Virginia, it is time to implement technology to be in compliance this year and at the minimum by December 31, 2022.

 

 

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Meta Title Tag Character Count Change

What to Know About the Meta Title Tag

Actually this is pretty big news! It used to be that the meta title tag needed to be crafted to be 80 characters long. Google was only showing 50 to 60 characters in the search results.

“Gary Illyes from Google said in last night’s Google Central Live event that there is a benefit, I assume an SEO benefit, to having title tags longer than what is displayed in the search. He later added that you should keep the title tag “precise” to the topic of the page and do not worry how long it is or if it is too long.” Full article.

We recommend crafting your meta title tag to be indicative of the page, precise, but no longer worry about the character count. That does not mean that you should have a paragraph of content, but can definitely go beyond 50 and even 80 characters in length.

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What to Know About Core Web Vitals

Be On Target

Be on target for the 2021 Google algorithm changes that reflect your core web vital score as found in the Google Search Console. In May 2020, Google announced that the index in 2021 would rank sites based on their approval scores of three important metrics.

The Metrics

LCP

Largest Contentful Paint – how long it takes the largest item in the viewport (screen to show). A measure of page speed. Shoot for 2.5 seconds.

FID

First Input Delay – how long it takes the site to respond to a user interaction. Shoot for less than 100 milliseconds.

CLS

Cumulative Layout Shift – visual stability. Does the page jump around when the user scrolls. Shoot for less than 0.1.

Read the full article here for a deeper understanding of these terms.

Google has also stated that the metrics should be in the “green zone” to earn special placement in the index, and that all metrics need to be green lighted for best performance.

What I have found is that although the developer’s Google pagespeed insights tool helps you to ID if you have a problem, solving where and what to update is a challenge.

It appears that developer extensions in the Chrome browser may be of help in identifying where the problems exist. As I uncover more details, I will share them here, but for now know that this algorithm update is coming and you may need assistance in fixing some site issues to see if you can “green-light” your website.

Other important updates this week:

It appears that there was a Google search algorithm update on or around February 17th.

Virginia is closer to creating privacy legislation that is similar but not exactly like the California privacy law that itself is similar to that used in the EU.

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Important News We Are Watching From This Week

Be in the Know

Be in the know! This week we have found a few nuggets that you may want to review or do a deeper dive into from our blog post.

Is It Worth Writing Website Meta Descriptions?

“Many SEOs debate the importance of creating unique meta descriptions. It can definitely help with click-through-rate from SERPs, but, for most, it’s often a low priority SEO task. Will the news that Google overwrites our work make us less likely to spend time on it?” Read the full article.

From our point of view, we do still recommend writing these to assist in click through rates from the search results. We have seen Google write there own before and then later roll back their action.  It makes sense to write them and if Google does or does not use them is a non-issue at this point.


Google is Tweaking the Layout of Google Local or Google Maps Listings

We are seeing the removal of addresses in Google Maps listing tests by Google. See pic.

Google also appears to be listing the years in business in some Google Maps listings. Read the article and see the pic.


Google Ads Does Away with Broad Match Modifiers

Google has announced that it will no longer honor broad match modifier keywords and will instead merge the broad match modifier into phrase match. For now if there are broad match modifier keywords in the account, Google will simply deliver them as phrase match.

How do we feel about this? Well, we expect to spend more time on negative keywords list creation to sculpt ad results. We are not terribly worried about this due to the extensive use of machine learning used in ad delivery. We do expect broad match modifier keywords in the account to start to receive fewer and fewer impressions over time. We will no longer add broad match modifier  to ad accounts. Read the full article for more details.

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Your Privacy – What Are You Doing About It?

Your Privacy - It is a Commodity

Read any newspaper like the Wall Street Journal and you’ll see conversations about privacy and the changes that are happening soon with Apple, Facebook, and now with Google Chrome. You have a right to be concerned about how big business is working to continue to make money off of serving you ads with persistent tracking cookies.

Apple and Facebook are in a finger pointing game with Apple rolling our new privacy updates in a new iOS roll out and Facebook putting up a wall to garner your tracking approval for ads. Add to this Google’s change to the Chrome browser which will block third party tracking cookies and now group your data in audiences for proprietary ad targeting and you will see that big business considers your online activity a goldmine for their own purposes – to make money by serving you ads.

These internet behemoths do not have your best interest at heart – protecting your privacy. Their interest is in making money off of the information you share or share unwittingly. Case in point, have you looked at something online and then in minutes seen the product appear in your Facebook feed? Of concern to me is voice conversations had near an Alexa, and then ads appearing for that item in Facebook shortly there after. Could it possibly be that Alexa is now involved in ad targeting or was this just  a fluke?

Google knows everything that I do and I am starting to get uneasy with that knowledge. As my firm work for a cancer treatment firm, for criminal lawyers, and for bed bug exterminators, and we do a wealth of research for them, Google now thinks that I have cancer, am embroiled in criminal enterprises, and have bed bugs at my home.

I personally have started to take action to minimize my online data footprint out of exhaustion with targeted advertising and the inherent loss of control and incessant “watching”.

Here’s what I am doing right now to try to get back in control of my data.

• I have minimized all activity on Facebook. I am testing out MeWe.com as they voice that they do not collect data or (at this time) use my data from the platform for advertising. But, no friends or family members are using this platform except my husband. I may simply abandon Facebook.

• I use only the Microsoft Edge browser and do not use Google Chrome except for a narrow work purpose. Edge has better privacy control and on top of that is super fast. A win-win in my eyes. Google knows too much about me and I am not willing to supply more information at this point. I may even start using secure private browsing just to stop tracking.

• DuckDuckGo – is the search engine that powers my own website searches and I have recently downloaded their mobile browsing app and am considering using the desktop version as my search engine of choice. They now show ads, but still claim to protect a user’s privacy.

I have previously felt that the more Google knew about me the better it was for me, as search results and ads were always tailored to things I thought I wanted. But now, I am more wary.

My privacy is starting to be a commodity that I am unwilling to share freely. I am now wanting more control over who knows what about me and who uses my information for ad targeting and how.

 

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