In July, Google delayed the death of third-party cookies … again. This delay gave marketers a false sense of security, despite other browsers blocking third-party cookies, Apple letting users opt out of IDFAs, and privacy bills mandating the use of cookie consent banners. Often, marketers focus on data deprecation’s impacts on paid social and programmatic — the channels most hamstrung by operating system restrictions — but they need to prepare for data deprecation’s impact on paid search, too.

Apples’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) has caused the volume of installs from universal app campaigns to fluctuate, and it has slightly degraded targeting and measurement on search properties that have significant app-based audiences, such as YouTube. Nonetheless, Google’s deprecation of third-party cookies will significantly impact paid search. It will hamstring remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) because marketers will lose data on consumers’ behaviors across non-Google properties. This will heighten the walls of Google’s walled garden. In addition, data deprecation will cause a measurement gap by weakening the signals that Google uses to tie ad exposures to conversion events. Google’s enhanced and modeled conversions will need to fill this gap. To safeguard your paid search efforts:

  • Prioritize zero- and first-party data. We can’t overemphasize the importance of collecting and activating data that consumers proactively and intentionally share. To garner this data, invest in microexperiences that enhance product recommendations, generate loyalty points, and/or promise exclusivity. To improve first- and zero-party data quality, ask yourself: “How comprehensive is my data?” and “Are there many duplicate records, or is there a unique record for each customer?” Robust, actionable data will help you build and refresh high-intent audiences while enabling Google to build similar, performant audiences.
  • Make the most of proprietary signals. In the absence of third-party cookies, marketers will have less behavioral data, but Google will still have a wealth of data about consumers’ behaviors on Google’s owned and operated properties. Tools such as Smart Bidding take advantage of these proprietary signals to cost-effectively reach the right person at the right time. Smart Bidding draws upon a variety of audiences, including Customer Match audiences, so that smart segmentation using zero- and first-party data can improve Smart Bidding’s efficacy.
  • Lean into Google’s measurement tools. Since data deprecation limits the data access of proprietary reporting technology, lean on Google to visualize the total revenue impact of paid search. For example, Google’s enhanced conversions improve the accuracy of reporting by tying a conversion event to an ad exposure using hashed first-party data. This creates a clear, one-to-one relationship between a click (or an impression) and a purchase. But don’t stop there. Combine the precision of enhanced conversions with the scalability of modeled conversions, which report on consumers’ behaviors across devices.

Stay tuned for upcoming research about how to improve your SEO competency and how to implement holistic search marketing. If you’re interested in learning more, click here to set up a guidance session or advisory with me.