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Google Privacy Sandbox, what is it and how can it help your business?

Google, as we all know, holds the keys to search marketing success for many businesses. Brands across the globe must adhere to a strict set of rules and must accept a set of best practices in order to ensure that their websites are displayed for their target keywords


Failing to understand the importance of the Google algorithm and the way the business operates in terms of ranking sights can be a fatal mistake and ultimately can have a detrimental effect on a businesses search performance. It is for this reason that when the company makes an update, the industry, and those operating in it must sit up and take note. 

With the way data is collected and managed is changing drastically over the last few years it is perhaps no surprise that the search engine decided to make changes to the way they process, hold and manage data. 

Google recently announced that they were moving away from third-party cookies and that they would introduce a ‘new look’ Privacy Sandbox in order to maintain fairness and continuity. For all of the pressure that businesses faces whilst thinking that they have to obey the ‘Google’ machine it is fair to say that Google is going through great lengths to include the industry in the Privacy Sandbox, in terms of getting everyone’s input and feedback. There can’t be many businesses that would/could employ 6000+ engineers for 2-3 years and foot the bill for this kind of development – and for the industry that’s a huge win-win.

Google initially said that: “Third-party cookies would be killed off in Chrome by 2022 and that it was only a matter of time until they were purged from advertising.” This led to the aforementioned Privacy Sandbox – a fancy name for the framework that the company wants all advertisers to adopt in order to let advertisers run targeted ads without having direct access to users’ personal details. It will become a place for tips and advice and home to guides and information shared not only by Google but industry experts and developers.

Commenting on this Digiday said: “Unsurprisingly, Google stands to profit the most from the death of the third-party cookie. In the absence of third-party cookies’ use with Chrome, the alternative for advertisers is to use Google’s first-party data within its own tools.

“This cements Google’s dominant position in digital advertising. Google already tested a similar theory last year when it launched the Ads Data Hub; that interface now represents the only way advertisers can understand user-level information about programmatic campaigns.”

So what is the Privacy Sandbox and why does it matter?

In the cookieless future, Google wants ad targeting, measurement and fraud prevention to happen according to the standards set by its Privacy Sandbox, whereby cookies are replaced by five application programming interfaces.

Google announced the changes in January 2021 and set out the amendments to working process in the following statement:

“The Privacy Sandbox introduces a set of privacy-preserving APIs to support business models that fund the open web in the absence of tracking mechanisms like third-party cookies.

“The Privacy Sandbox APIs require web browsers to take on a new role. Rather than working with limited tools and protections, the APIs enable the user’s browser to act on the user’s behalf—locally, on their device—to protect the user’s identifying information as they navigate the web. The APIs enable use cases such as ad selection and conversion measurement, without revealing individual private and personal information. In engineering terms a sandbox is a protected environment; a key principle of the Privacy Sandbox is that a user’s personal information should be protected and not shared in a way that lets the user be identified across sites.”

This is a shift in direction for browsers. The Privacy Sandbox’s vision of the future has browsers providing specific tools to satisfy specific use cases, while preserving user privacy. A Potential Privacy Model for the Web sets out core principles behind the APIs:

  • To establish the range of web activity across which the user’s browser can let websites treat a person as having a single identity.
  • To identify the ways in which information can move across identity boundaries without compromising that separation.

Why have Google done this?

Well, the short answer to this question is that this year has been like no other and they want to help businesses accelerate their recovery by getting privacy right. Indeed this was the topic of discussion in the latest vlog by Matt Brittin, President of Google EMEA (Europe, Middle East & Africa).

Publishers and advertisers want to provide content, including ads, that is relevant and interesting to the user. On today’s web, people’s interests are often gauged by observing what sites or pages they visit, relying on third-party cookies or less-transparent and undesirable mechanisms like device fingerprinting.

As a result Chrome will launch an origin trial for the Federated Learning of Cohorts API (FLoC). FLoC proposes a new way to reach people with relevant content and ads by clustering large groups of people with similar browsing patterns, hiding individuals “in the crowd” and keeping their web history on their browser. 

Initial tests of the FLoC algorithm, show that the proposed API could be similarly effective as third-party cookies in serving relevant interest-based ads.

Indeed federated learning is fast becoming ‘a thing’ and has been covered in more depth by our very own John Warner in the following blog.

Our key takeaways

Click Consult’s Director of Search, Alan Reeves highlighted some areas that he thought would affect the market in the coming months. 

First he mentioned that there seems to be a lot of talk around value based bidding, specifically when it comes to third party data and secondly the considerations that we have to make regarding predictive modeling for non-click consent.

Value based bidding

The changes to GDPR two years ago means that there is a need for consent for a user to be targeted on their previous searches and queries.There is also a subset of data on this based on the preferences of the user and other information they have shared with partner sites.

Companies want to get the highest return on their investments and as such PPC is an attractive proposition. Of course, this process is often reliant on advertisers connecting their first party data to their accounts in order to allow optimisation towards improved conversion value. /if businesses are targeting the right people at the right time then they have a far greater chance of success.

The data and analytics that are available means that it is far easier to measure performance in 2021 and as a result there are more touchpoints for businesses to use to optimise their efforts. 

Google says that users can maximise the total conversion value of their campaign within a specified budget with a maximise conversion value bidding strategy. 

This type of bidding strategy uses advanced machine learning to automatically optimise and set bids. It also offers auction-time bidding capabilities that tailor bids for each auction. Users are able to define the value that they want to maximise, such as sales revenue or profit margins, when they set up conversion tracking on their account.

Through the process of machine learning we once again touch on the importance of utilising responsive search ads as part of your strategy.

Responsive search ads are the most flexible ad format to date, allowing advertisers to add up to 15 different headlines and up to four descriptions. Google will then start testing different headline and description combinations and automatically adapt in order to provide the most relevant ad combination to customers, taking into account elements such as the keywords audiences look for, the devices they use, their location and online behaviour.

We’ve previously covered the advantages of using responsive search ads, highlighting that increased length means that you will be able to show more text to potential customers, while the ads’ flexibility will allow you to specify elements such as width, helping you to improve the visibility of your ads on all devices, including mobile and tablet. Another flexible characteristic is the option to ‘pin’ headlines and descriptions to certain positions, ensuring that essential information will always show.

Secondly, the way responsive search ads work ensures that your ads will show up in more relevant searches. By having multiple headline and description combinations, your ads will have more opportunities to compete in auctions. The result? More chances for your ads to be seen by your target audience and for you to increase your click-through rate, lower cost per click and achieve your advertising goals.

While responsive search ads are an important step in Google’s mission to help users optimise their ad performance and save time through machine learning models, it is important to understand that automation needs to be combined with your own creative approach to ad group management in order to maximise your results. It is also worth keeping in mind that responsive search ads are only available in beta at the moment and they will improve over time, therefore make sure you regularly monitor their performance and status so you get the most out of this new ad format.

Predictive modelling for non-click consent

Predictive modelling is always tricky as you are effectively going to the market blind. Google have created some nice additions to their offering that will change this and will at worst make your efforts blinkered. Recently they announced they would be launching consent mode in  beta to assist with conversion tracking and remarketing efforts.It is important therefore that businesses running PPC campaigns through GA consider the tracking tags placed on ads (more on this later).

Consent mode allows you to adjust how your Google tags behave based on the consent status of your users. You can indicate whether consent has been granted for analytics and ads cookies. Google’s tags will dynamically adapt, only utilising cookies for the specified purposes when consent has been given by the user.

Once consent mode is deployed, it will adjust the behaviour of these types of pings:

Consent status pings (Google Ads and Floodlight tags): 

  • Consent status pings are sent from each page the user visits where consent mode is implemented, and are also triggered for some tags if the consent state changes from denied to granted. (e.g. if the user opts in to a consent dialog). These pings communicate the default consent state configured by the site owner and/or the updated consent state  (i.e. granted or denied) for each consent type (e.g. ad storage, analytics storage). 
  • Conversion pings: Conversion pings are sent to indicate that a conversion has occurred.
  • Google Analytics pings: Google Analytics pings are sent on each page of a website where Google Analytics is implemented and upon events being logged.

When consent is granted, the associated tags will function normally.  

So, what about those that don’t consent? When consent for ad storage or analytics storage is denied, the associated Google tags deployed via the global site tag or Google Tag Manager will adjust their behaviour accordingly.

Tracking tags

According to Google consent and conversion pings may include the following behaviours depending on the state of the consent settings and the configuration of your tags:

ad_storage=’granted’ and analytics_storage=’granted’ (Default):

  • Cookies pertaining to advertising may be read and written.
  • IP addresses are collected.
  • The full page URL, including ad-click information in URL parameters (e.g. GCLID/DCLID) is collected.
  • Third-party cookies previously set on google.com and doubleclick.net, and first-party conversion cookies (e.g. _gcl_*) are accessible.

ad_storage=’denied’:

  • Cookies aren’t used for advertising purposes.
  • Existing first-party advertising cookies won’t be read.
  • Third-party cookies previously set on google.com and doubleclick.net may be sent in request headers (but limited to use for spam and fraud purposes).
  • Google Analytics will not read or write Google Ads cookies, and Google signals features will not accumulate data for this traffic.
  • IP addresses used to derive IP country, but are never logged by our Google Ads and Floodlight systems and are immediately deleted upon collection. Note: Google Analytics collects IP addresses as part of normal Internet communications. Learn more about IP anonymisation in Google Analytics.
  • Other fields normally collected by advertisers’ tags (e.g. order id, value) are still sent.
  • Full page URL is collected, may include ad-click information in URL parameters (e.g., GCLID / DCLID). Ad-click information will only be used to approximate accurate traffic measurement. 

ad_storage=’denied’ + ads_data_redaction=true:

  • Cookies aren’t used for advertising purposes.
  • Existing first-party advertising cookies won’t be read.
  • Requests are sent through a different domain to avoid previously set third-party cookies from being sent in request headers.
  • Google Analytics will not read or write Google Ads cookies, and Google signals features will not accumulate data for this traffic.
  • Full page URL is collected, may include ad-click information in URL parameters (e.g., GCLID / DCLID). Ad-click information will only be used to approximate accurate traffic measurement.
  • IP addresses used to derive IP country, but are never logged by our Google Ads and Floodlight systems and are immediately deleted upon collection. Note: Google Analytics collects IP addresses as part of normal Internet communications. Learn more about IP anonymisation in Google Analytics.
  • Other fields normally collected by advertisers’ tags (e.g. order id, value) are still sent.
  • Page URLs with ad-click identifiers are redacted.

analytics_storage=’denied’:

  • Will not read or write first-party analytics cookies.
  • Cookieless pings will be sent to Google Analytics for basic measurement and modelling purposes.

Final thoughts

As with death and taxes, the only other thing you can be certain of is that Google will move the goalposts and will evolve their offering in order to remain the go-to search engine and ads platform for web users. Whilst this is great for advertisers in practice, in theory it means more work and more learning. We’ll keep and eye out for future updates and share them on the blogs as well as in our downloadable resources. But don’t let change put you off…

There are many benefits to running digital ads as part of a search marketing strategy. Well-crafted and highly optimised ads can raise brand awareness and exposure, putting your immediate details into the public domain at the time they are searching for products in your sector. Your ads get your message out to a highly relevant audience which ultimately increases the potential of extra traffic and, ultimately, conversions.

If your ads are correctly placed and optimised to appear next to certain searches then they can improve your unique visits. If the content on the landing page is specific to the user search and includes a clear call-to-action (CTA) such as a downloadable brochure, an email subscription or a call back request, you are another step along the marketing path. These leads direct customers to your online store where they can convert from browsing to purchasing.

Need more information?

Why not contact us today and request a no-obligation paid search analysis and review.  You’ll receive a comprehensive summary together with a bespoke set of strategy recommendations for your future online success.

You can also access a selection of our most popular PPC resources all in one place – perfect material whether you’re starting out or looking to improve your skills…

 



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