Google has granted advertisers more time before cookies expire, but advertisers must still build audience frameworks for the future.
For nearly two decades, PPC campaign managers have had complete control over their account management, data insights, and optimization tactics. However, everything is changing.
Query data is already scarce, keyword match types are blending into a broad match amalgam, and signal loss continues to have an impact on performance data and audience management.
With campaign types like Performance Max and a lack of visibility into performance, PPC managers must use every targeting and optimization tool at their disposal.
Dedicated audience strategies can offer more control and precise targeting that produces results. In my previous article, I discussed the advantages of having a well-defined audience strategy.
Let’s take a look at your options for creating and managing privacy-focused PPC audiences.
The Cookie Apocalypse Timeline Has Been Adjusted
It’s worth noting that the cookie apocalypse has been pushed back. Third-party cookies will be phased out in the third quarter of 2023, according to the Google Chrome/Privacy Sandbox Team. They have now extended the deadline to 2024. According to Chrome’s announcement:
“By Quarter three 2023, we forestall that the Secrecy Sandbox APIs will be propelled and extensively available in Chrome.” We now mean to begin phasing out third-party cookies in Chrome in the second half of the ear 2024 as creators adopt these APIs.”
Google needed more time to properly prepare for cookie retirement. They are still developing a framework for a post-cookie world. Also, I believe Alphabet (Google’s parent company) did not want to negatively impact the product (Google Ads), which accounts for nearly 80% of their operating revenue.
Whatever the reason, the end result is the same: you have more time to prepare for life after cookies. This does not, however, mean that you should stop developing your measurement and audience frameworks, as this will happen eventually.
PPC Audience-Building Alternatives
Within Google and Microsoft, there are several ways to build your audience data.
Third-Party Pixels On PPC Platforms
The tracking pixel on each platform is the most direct way to collect audience data. Third-party cookies currently have a two-year shelf life. I urge you to begin developing a new privacy-focused framework. But, for the time being, you can rely on tracking pixels – but the clock is ticking.
Google recently released an updated version of the Google Tag. The new universal tag version will be the primary implementation pixel for all Google marketing properties, including Google Ads, Google Analytics, and SA360. You can currently configure your Google Tag using Google Ads and Google Analytics.
Microsoft Ads also offers Universal Event Tracking (UET). This universal tag provides website analytics data such as conversions, sales, and revenue. You can also use the UET tag to create audiences within the Microsoft Ads platform.
Data From The Audience Is Directly Uploaded
Direct uploads of audience data into Microsoft Ads and Google Ads platforms are both supported. Advertisers can upload a CSV file containing first-party customer data to both ad platforms.
Many advertisers are still not using this method to create PPC audiences. They are still using their website pixels to create audience segments and remarketing lists.
As previously stated, this strategy will be effective for the next 18-24 months. However, advertisers must begin developing a long-term audience framework in the absence of cookies.
Targeting First-Party Audiences
Once you have audience data in the ad platforms, you must create audience segments in order to target your ads to the right people.
Google and Microsoft customer match
Creating an audience strategy begins with uploading a CSV with your customer data.
Your customer profile data is used by PPC platforms to discover user accounts created within those ecosystems.
Google Customer Match will connect email addresses to Google Accounts.
Microsoft Customer Match works in a similar manner, matching your customer profile attributes to accounts created in their system.
Audiences In Google Analytics 4
Because Universal Analytics (UA) will be phased out on July 1, 2023, I’m concentrating on Google Analytics 4 (GA4). UA will not transfer historical analytics data into your new GA4 account.
Even if UA remains your source of truth for the foreseeable future, you should begin building performance history in GA4 right away.
GA4 also allows you to create audience segments. Advertisers can create audiences based on GA4-tracked website user behaviour. When the two platforms are linked, these audience segments can be imported into Google Ads.
Strategies For Increasing Audience Size
Once your customer data has been imported into the PPC platforms and audience segments have been created based on this data, you are ready to build on this foundation.
Audiences With Similar Demographics
Both of the major PPC platforms offer’similar audience’ segments. Google and Microsoft will find users with similar habits and browsing histories to your target audience using your existing customer segments. Google claims that:
“Google Ads inspects the recent search action of guests in your remarketing list to assist in cumulative search behavior of visitors in your primary list.” Based on the particular data, the system finds new latent customers whose search behavior is similar to that of people on your remarketing list.”
Similar audiences are a third-party audience because it is based on PPC platform profile data. These audiences, however, should be relatively stable even after cookies retire.
The profiles are built on a variety of data points based on search history, account profile data, and browsing history, which should be preserved after 2024.
Affinity And In-Market Demographics
These two types of audiences also rely on data from PPC platforms. These are the segments:
It is not necessary to rely on first-party audiences.
Are created through Google and Bing on-platform usage and should last for a reasonable amount of time.
Individuals who are currently in the market for a product or service are referred to as in-market audiences. These are typically needs-based or short-term interests that may or may not align with your brand. Often, these people are actively looking for your product or service but haven’t yet discovered your brand.
Affinity audiences, on the other hand, are typically based on a person’s long-standing passion, interest, and engagement with specific topics.
Although these two types of audiences are similar, they perform differently. If these audience types are not already part of your strategy, you should experiment with them to see which works best for your campaign.
Ga4 Audience Predictions
GA4 has some unique audience-related capabilities. Predictive audiences is one of the intriguing features. These segments combine your onsite audience data with GA4’s predictive algorithms to determine potential actions that users may take.
- Here is the most recent list of predictive audiences in GA4.
- Purchasers with a 7-day churn rate.
- 7-day churning users are most likely.
- 7-day buyers are most likely.
- Probably first-time 7-day buyers.
- Top spenders predicted for the next 28 days.
- API and the future of privacy-first
Topics API is a completely new way of curating and segmenting audiences. The Privacy Sandbox is still beta testing this feature. Google has proposed a few cookieless tactics, but I believe this one has a good chance of being adopted by the general public.
The Topics API Is Divided Into Two Parts:
Chrome determines topics/interests that represent you and your interests based on your browsing history. Topics are only kept for three weeks before being deleted.
Brands can deliver advertisements to relevant audiences by targeting specific topics.
According to Google, the Topics API is secure:
“In addition, by providing websites with your topics of interest, online businesses have an option that does not rely on covert tracking techniques, such as browser fingerprinting, to continue serving relevant ads.”
Hopefully, the algorithms that determine a person’s interests have improved. Google Ads previously offered a version of topics/interest targeting within the Display Network, and performance in those campaigns was typically much lower than performance in other audience-based targeting options.
Begin developing your first-party PPC audience framework.
Advertisers have had their pixel-based audience strategies extended. This is not to say that you should relax when developing your first-party audience framework.
Continue to work toward a framework that does not rely solely on third-party pixels. PPC managers are always looking for more control over their campaigns, and a well-structured, well-thought-out audience framework is the foundation of successful PPC accounts.