A Privacy-Conscious Audience Targeting PPC Primer

Google has extended the period until cookies expire, but advertisers must still build audience structures for the future.

PPC campaign managers have had complete control over their account administration, data insights, and optimization tactics for nearly two decades. But everything is changing.

Query data is already limited, keyword match types are blending into a broad match amalgam, and signal loss is still affecting performance data and audience management.

With campaign types like Performance Max and a lack of performance visibility, PPC managers must employ every targeting and optimization option at their disposal.

Dedicated audience techniques can provide greater control and more exact targeting that yields results. In my previous essay, I explored the benefits of developing a clear audience strategy.

Let’s look at your options for creating and managing privacy-focused PPC audiences.

A Privacy-Conscious Audience Targeting PPC Primer

The Cookie Apocalypse Schedule Has Been Revised

It’s worth noting that the cookie apocalypse has been delayed. According to the Google Chrome/Privacy Sandbox Team, third-party cookies will be phased away in the third quarter of 2023.

Google required additional time to adequately prepare for cookie retirement. They are still laying the groundwork for a post-cookie world. Also, I believe Alphabet (Google’s parent company) did not want to jeopardise the product (Google Ads), which accounts for more than 80% of their operating revenue.

Regardless of the rationale, the final result is the same: you have more time to prepare for life after cookies. This is not to say that you should stop establishing your measurement and audience frameworks; this will happen eventually.

Alternatives for PPC Audience Growth

There are various techniques to building your audience data within Google and Microsoft.

Pixels from third parties on PPC platforms

The tracking pixel on each platform is the simplest way to acquire audience data. Third-party cookies have a two-year shelf life at the moment. I strongly urge you to start working on a new privacy-focused framework. However, you can rely on monitoring pixels for the time being – but the clock is ticking.

The Google Tag has just been changed by Google. All Google marketing domains, including Google Ads, Google Analytics, and SA360, will use the new universal tag version as the primary implementation pixel. Google Ads and Google Analytics are now used to configure your Google Tag.

Universal Event Tracking is also available through Microsoft Ads (UET). This global tag provides website analytics data such as conversions, sales, and revenue. The UET tag can also be used to develop audiences through the Microsoft Ads platform.

How Audience Data Is Directly Uploaded

Direct audience data uploads into the Microsoft Ads and Google Ads platforms are also supported. Advertisers can use both ad networks to upload a CSV file containing first-party consumer data.

Many advertisers still do not use this method to build PPC audiences. They are still creating audience segments and remarketing lists with their website pixels.

This strategy, as previously said, will be successful for the following 18-24 months. In the lack of a long-term audience structure, advertisers must begin constructing one.

Identifying First-Party Audiences

Once you’ve collected audience data in ad platforms, you’ll need to create audience segments in order to target your advertising to the right people.

Customer matching between Google and Microsoft

The process of creating an audience strategy starts with providing a CSV file containing your customer data. PPC platforms leverage your customer profile data to discover user accounts created within such ecosystems.

Email addresses will be linked to Google Accounts via Google Customer Match. Microsoft Customer Match operates in the same way, connecting your customer profile qualities to Microsoft Office accounts.

Google Analytics 4 Audiences

Because Universal Analytics (UA) will be decommissioned on July 1, 2023, I’m focusing on Google Analytics 4. (GA4). UA will not import your previous GA4 account’s historical analytics data.

Even if UA is your only source of truth for the time being, you should start building performance history in GA4 straight away.

GA4 also lets you create audience segments. Advertisers can establish audiences based on website user behaviour collected by GA4. These audience segments can be transferred into Google Ads once the two platforms are integrated.

Strategies for Growing Your Audience

After importing your customer data into PPC platforms and creating audience segments based on this data, you are ready to build on this foundation.

Demographically Similar Audiences

Both major PPC platforms provide’similar audience’ categories. Using your existing customer segments, Google and Microsoft will find clients with similar habits and browsing histories to your target audience. According to Google:

Because it is based on PPC platform profile data, similar audiences are a third-party audience. These audiences, on the other hand, should stay rather constant even when cookies retire.

The profiles are built on a range of data points based on search history, account profile data, and browsing history, and they should be kept after 2024.

Affinity and in-market demographics

These two types of audiences rely on data from PPC platforms as well. These are the sections:

There is no need to rely on first-party audiences. Are generated by using Google and Bing on-platform and should last a decent amount of time.

Individuals who are currently looking for a product or service are known as in-market audiences. These are often short-term or needs-based interests that may or may not align with your brand.

Affinity audiences, on the other hand, are often formed as a result of a person’s long-standing excitement, interest, and involvement with specific issues.

Despite their similarities, these two types of audiences perform differently. If these audience segments aren’t already a part of your strategy, you should try them out to see which ones work best for your campaign.

Predictions for the GA4 Audience

GA4 contains some audience-specific capabilities. One of the noteworthy features is the ability to predict audiences. These segments combine your onsite audience data with GA4’s predictive algorithms to predict probable user actions.

APIs and the Privacy-First Future

Topics API is a whole new approach to audience curation and segmentation. This functionality is still in beta testing in the Privacy Sandbox. Google has proposed a few cookie-free approaches, but I feel this one has a good chance of catching on with the general public.

The Topics API is split into two sections:

Based on your browser history, Chrome identifies topics/interests that represent you and your interests. Topics are saved for only three weeks before being deleted. Brands can target specific issues to deliver advertisements to relevant audiences.

The Google Topics API is secure, according to Google:

The algorithms that determine a person’s interests, hopefully, have improved. Within the Display Network, Google Ads previously offered a version of topics/interest targeting, albeit performance in those campaigns was often significantly lower than performance in other audience-based targeting alternatives.

Begin Creating Your Own PPC Audience Framework

Advertisers’ pixel-based audience strategies have been expanded. This is not to mean you should take it easy when creating your first-party audience framework.

Continue to develop toward a system that does not rely solely on pixels from third parties. PPC managers are constantly seeking for methods to get more control over their campaigns, and a well-structured, well-thought-out audience framework is the bedrock of successful PPC accounts.

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