What happens if Google switches off all the lights? Back in 2013, Google analytics famously removed all (…effectively all) the keyword data from organic search. Without knowing what specific keywords drove traffic, it meant that SEOs had to change tact and focus on landing pages, thematic approaches and some pretty creative ways of reporting to understand how SEO fits into an increasingly data rich world.
It generally led to better content as there was an increased trend in looking at the bigger picture of how content influences behaviour – rather than just keywords. It also meant more conversations about keywords as a metric of success and probably led to more honest conversations with clients about the actual benefits of SEO as a marketing practice. Overall the industry got through it and out the other side relatively unscathed. Is the same experience destined for the paid media industries?
With advertisers coming under increased pressure from all sides regarding user privacy it is no wonder that Google’s other flagship products, like its internet browser Chrome, are at least paying lip service to the need to give back control to the people over their data.
But as the Chromium team start to look at ways of improving the user experience of controlling user privacy, this opting in/out of third party cookies and fingerprinting ultimately has an effect on advertiser’s tactics when it comes to running ads across various websites. Check out Patricio Robles article at econsultancy for more info on how Chrome’s approach to blocking third party cookies might affect relatively new and increasingly effective forms of retargeting / remarketing – the bedrock of the programmatic movement of digital advertising. But could this lead to a shift in our approach toward digital experiences?
Retargeting can be incredibly powerful from a funnel marketing perspective – the fact that we can re-engage with users across different related sites through personalised messaging can be an enriching experience when it is focused on helping the user achieve more of what they want to do. If it went away tomorrow then we should doubly focus on what made it great – the user. So what are some of the options?
More ethical user identification
I’ll be honest – fingerprinting does scare me. fingerprinting is being used by some advertisers to build a profile of a user based on their browser information – a configuration of screen size, browser plugins, language settings and others, to create an identifiable user fingerprint. It sounds a little invasive (and underhand) but is an alternative to a third party cookie and IP detection. But ultimately the aim is to make users identifiable. Google Chrome, understandably, is looking to kill this practice.
So what if it goes tomorrow? Can we actually encourage users to become identifiable? Really we should make sites more enticing to the users – give more meaning and encourage users to login because it gives them a richer more personalised experience.
This way we can ask if we can use user information in an ethical way – by making the benefits more apparent upfront. We can store engagement information in our analytics solutions using the client ID without storing personal identifiable information. And if we know who we are talking to we can create better experiences based on their experience.
Funnel more digital journeys
It would be great to have more control over the narrative and look at what is pushing our audiences away from desired action. By identifying specific digital journeys by digital channel we can tailor the content, and hopefully the experience, to their expectations as different audiences. B2B LinkedIn audiences might have less time than say organic search audiences – thus creating different paths and understanding drop-offs within these audiences could be important for retention. If we can get different audiences closer to action then we may reduce the need for general retargeting and give us room for much better targeting toward user need.
Focus on improving the user experience
This sounds like a no brainer and a bit of a repeat of the other two suggestions. In some ways it is. We should be looking at the user experience from a retention perspective and be more open to feedback from our core audiences. By looking at UX we can ensure our audiences are delighted by our content and are moved to carry out action. This reduces the need to rely on re-activating audiences using advertising and hopefully encourages more focus on activity we can have influence over (on site and opt-in marketing such as email/social).
Personally I think that the use case for third party cookies will remain and advertisers will adapt in extremely creative ways to ensure their own products have longevity and adapt to disruption. Google’s other arm clearly has a vested interest in keeping a rather large finger in the advertising pie. But if we can focus on the core reason of why we use these techniques in the first place, like improving, enticing and energising users, then at least we can make sure our digital experiences can also adapt.