Google to End Targeting Ads with
Site Tracking - Here’s Why it Matters
Marketing Intelligence

Google to End Targeting Ads with Site Tracking. Here’s Why it Matters

by Kaitlyn Boehm , Client Services Analyst, Similarweb 4 Min.
March 17, 2021 | Updated August 24, 2022

Google shared its plans to stop selling ads based on individual users’ browsing behavior within Chrome. This big announcement, which came at the start of the month, is causing a stir in the advertising community because of how commonly marketers use this data to build their strategies.  

The first hints of such a shift came back in August when Google announced their Privacy Sandbox initiative, which led to speculation over the implications for ads tailored to specific consumers and the ad community in general. While some see this as a win for consumer privacy, many competing companies are arguing that Google is using privacy concerns as a way to cement its own dominance and audience tracking is merely transforming – not going away. Either way, no real changes are rolling out until February 2022.google security image icons

What exactly is changing?

The answer is with their third-party cookies that are used to record users who go from one website to another. Have you ever come close to purchasing a pair of shoes, and now you seem to be stalked with that specific pair of shoes in ads wherever you go? This is a great example of the robust and specific tracking methods advertisers use to try and decrease the percentage of shopping cart abandonment. But with the personalization of the ad experience comes the “Big Brother,” concept of Google continuously monitoring user behavior, which has led to data privacy concerns in the last couple of years. 

With Google announcing that by 2022 they will stop investing in this tracking technology. The real question is, “What are they going to replace it with?” The simple answer, they aren’t – or at least not in the same way marketers may be used to. There are specific parameters marketers can set within Google Ads Analytics that allows them to select individuals who show specific patterns and behaviors on a website or have certain affinities towards other websites that can help personalize the experience. Google shared its plans to invest more in user “groups,” who exhibit similar behavior that will be available but hasn’t explained the specifics of how the audiences will work. 

Recent changes in user privacy from other tech giants 

Although this change may come as a surprise outside of the marketing industry, this is an ongoing trend with other tech giants in a move that points to a more private website experience. Just last year Apple announced an end to specific tracking on the iPhone and Safari browser, which lead to Facebook launching a campaign advocating that these limitations can hurt small businesses that are already experiencing difficulties in the world of paid advertising. So although this is just another example of tech giants feeling the pressure of regulators who have scrutinized their data collection process in the past, Google fell behind the pack in launching serious initiatives to align with the trend. 

Why is Google making this change now?

Google had one clear message when they announced this change, they were looking out for consumer privacy. This is a shift away from their current available features which create hyper-segmented audiences. Historically these audiences needed only 100 individuals to fit their criteria in order to have the catered ads serve on the display network. This change paired with the recent shift to the broad match modifier match type and the migration of Target CPA and Target ROAS bidding strategies point to a less hands-on approach to your paid campaigns by stressing more automated approaches to advertising.

Google is putting more emphasis on the quality of the ads, and less on the sheer quantity that advertisers can roll out. By having to speak to groups of similar users instead of the individual, the ad copy and content game will shift as it needs to appeal to a wider audience. It will also need to be more enticing to get a user on the website. By eliminating the tracking signals advertisers use to take the guesswork out of their ad’s messaging, paid marketers will need to focus heavily on providing clear and desirable content. 

How to prepare for the change 

5 tips to prepare for the upcoming changes graphic

Before you ditch your hyper-segmented remarketing audiences or give up on Display and YouTube advertising altogether, use these tips to help prepare for the change that will be rolling out in 2022. 

  1. Add in-market audiences on your search campaigns in observation mode. This will give you greater visibility into clicks and will help you get a greater understanding of consumer behavior.
  2. Focus on content that converts. Now is the time to hone in on your content strategy. Research copy that achieved a higher click-through-rate (CTR) in the past. Examine what content appeals the most to your audience.
  3. Try creating custom audiences. This is where you build new audiences around users who search for similar search terms and browse specific types of websites.
  4. Review your current conversion tracking. Google recommends updating your Google Tag Manager or Analytics tracking instead of relying on other third-party tools 
  5. Leverage other channels. Make a plan with your SEO team and other marketing channels to help leverage other avenues for driving traffic.

Read More: 4 Tips to Conquer a Cookieless Future

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