Last year, Google announced that it would block third-party cookies from its popular Chrome browser by 2022. That left marketers wondering what it would replace them with.
Earlier this year, Google announced that it would replace third-party cookies with… nothing.
The Big G will release no new identifiers that advertisers can use to track conversions.
Instead, the company opted for something called Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC).
FLoC will get rolled out on an up-and-coming system, called the Google Privacy Sandbox, that follows the philosophy that the best place to hide a tree is in a forest. Instead of tracking info about individuals, it puts individuals in groups that share common interests.
That way, advertisers might know something about the group, but not much about each of the people in that group.
However, even with the FLoC announcement, Google left advertisers with a lot of questions.
Earlier this week, the company answered some of those questions.
Third-Party Cookies: The End of the Road
Now that third-party cookies are going the way of the dinosaur, Google will offer an application programming interface (API) so that you can still optimize your online ad campaigns.
The new API can be used to harvest event-level and aggregated info.
Event-level info is useful for granular detail. It’s great for conversion analytics and helps you determine how much to bid on impressions.
Aggregated info will help you when it comes time to summarize campaign performance. It will give you important stats like the total conversion value or return on investment (ROI).
The API uses the following techniques to gather data:
- Aggregate reported data so each person remains anonymous.
- Limit the amount of data reported on a per-conversion basis.
- Add “noise” to the data reported as an added layer of privacy protection.
As of now, Google is sharing two ways you can use the API to assist with reporting: view-through conversion measurement and cross-device conversion measurement.
View-Through Conversion Measurement
Chrome says that you should use the event-level feature of the API to get a report on conversions that happen on your website and are attributed to ad views across cyberspace.
The browser will handle the heavy lifting here by registering all ad impressions on visited websites and then matching any conversions on an advertiser’s website back to the views.
But Chrome will limit the amount of info it shares about each conversion. It will also add noise to the data.
If you’re interested in getting a number of view-through conversions (like with video ads), you can use the API’s aggregate reporting capability.
That will give you key analytics on the campaign without revealing personal details about individuals. The aggregate reporting only shares the insights on a per-group basis. And that group has to be large.
Note: Google is currently vague on what “large” means here.
Cross-Device Conversion Measurement
For cross-device conversion measurement, Google says that you should once again use the event-level feature of the API.
This time, though, you’ll use the API to report on conversions that happen on your website but get attributed to ad views or clicks that happen on another device.
A caveat, though: you can only do that if converting visitors are signed in to their browsers across devices. In other words, if they’re signed in on a desktop but browsing anonymously on their smartphones, you won’t be able to gather the data for those folks.
Wrapping It Up
Google’s new Privacy Sandbox is designed to strike the right balance: it will give marketers the data they need to target ads to the right audiences while still giving Internauts the privacy they’ve been requesting for quite some time now.
But that doesn’t mean that it won’t be a challenging transition. It already looks as if you’re going to need to hire some professional software developers to handle the analytics component of your digital marketing strategy. That’s going to cost you bucks.
And, even then, I don’t think you’re going to get nearly the level of detail and the same accuracy in measurements that you get today. So be ready for disappointment.
On the plus side: all your competitors are facing the same dilemma. Nobody has an advantage here.