With concerns about privacy all the rage these days, Google is looking for a solution to cookies. It may have found that solution in FLoC.
FLoC stands for “Federated Learning of Cohorts.” It’s a ridiculously academic term that basically means “putting people in a group.”
Why is that important? Because when people are part of a larger audience, their individual details are lost in the crowd.
The solution also keeps people’s web history private on a browser.
In this article, I’ll go over what we know about FLoC so you can be ready for that ultimately cookieless world.
What Are Cookies?
If you’re brand new to this digital marketing thing you might not even know about cookies. So what are they?
They’re little text files stored in your browser. Websites put them there so that they can identify you the next time you arrive.
Sometimes cookies will store important data like a username and password. Other times, they store less important info like your preferences on a website.
So why is there any controversy about them? Because of privacy issues.
You see, it’s not just websites you visit that put cookies in your browser. The advertisers on those sites do so as well.
Those are called third-party cookies. And they effectively tell advertisers about all the websites you’ve visited.
And you might not want some of those people to know about your browsing history.
That’s why companies like Google are moving to a solution that doesn’t involve cookies.
FLoC is an API that will ultimately exist as an extension in Google Chrome. It will create groups of users who share common interests.
Then, advertisers can target those groups as opposed to targeting individuals within groups.
But does it work?
Yep. At least according to Google.
The company says that it’s already run some tests showing “at least 95% of the conversions per dollar spent when compared to cookie-based advertising.”
And check this out: Google says you can run your own simulations right now. Just follow the principles in its FLoC whitepaper.
Google also says that results vary based on audience.
That makes sense. Some audiences have more data available than others. And that additional data gives marketers more opportunities for accurate targeting.
When Is All This Happening?
So when is FLoC getting released? The target date is sometime in March.
By the way, that means it’s getting released with the next version of Chrome.
Google hopes to get advertiser tests running in Q2.
But that still puts it in testing mode. When does the production release rollout?
That depends. If testing goes well and advertisers give promising feedback, you might see something by the end of the year.
But if Google gets complaints and strategists say that they’re wasting advertising dollars on audiences that don’t fit into their target markets, then Google will have to go back to the drawing board.
Nobody can say how long it will take the Big G to iron out those wrinkles.
What About First-Party Cookies?
I mentioned above that the real threat to privacy from cookies comes from third-party cookies (usually cookies placed in browsers by advertisers).
But what about first-party cookies? Don’t marketers have a right to target people who’ve visited their own sites?
Google admits that there’s a business need to target people based on first-party cookies. That’s why the company proposed something called “FLEDGE.”
That’s not an acronym. It’s the name of a young bird.
It’s based on TURTLEDOVE, a proposal that outlines how marketers can handle retargeting while still respecting the privacy of website visitors.
Google will make that solution available for testing later this year as well.
And, once again, the date of the final release depends on the results of those tests.
Wrapping It Up
Google wants you, the marketer, to get the most out of your ad spend by targeting people who will likely become customers.
However, the company still wants to respect the privacy rights of people who browse the web.
FLoC is a solution that represents the best of both worlds. It gives you the opportunity to reach people in your target market without spilling the beans about the browsing histories of individuals within that market.
It’s a welcome development.