Google’s new plan to replace Cookies and how it affects Digital Marketing

Google’s new plan to replace Cookies and how it affects Digital Marketing

Google and other big-tech companies have been under intense scrutiny over the collection of customer data and privacy. France’s CNIL data protection authority had imposed a fine of 100 million euros on Google for breaches of their cookie policy. Google appealed the decision but the fine was upheld by the country’s supreme administrative court, the Conseil d’Etat1. It has become clear that governments around the world are taking a hardline against the data collection practices by big tech firms.

The business models for Google and Facebook rely heavily on advertising revenue that is generated because advertisers are able to target specific niches of people. This is possible because of the vast amounts of data that these companies collect about users. As a response to the inevitable, Google announced a few years ago that it would end support for Cookies on its Chrome browsers. Initially this support was supposed to end in 2022, the date has since been pushed forward to mid-2023.

In their announcement Google also explained what would replace cookies in the future, but recently the company announced a change in that plan. What did they change, why did they change it and what should digital marketing agencies in Trinidad know? In this article we find out more.

What are cookies?

Let’s start at the basics with understanding cookies and why they need to be replaced. Cookies are small files that are stored temporarily on your browser when you visit certain websites. These files make it possible for big-tech companies to track user behavior across the internet. If you’ve ever wondered why you keep seeing ads for a particular product after searching for it once, cookies are the answer. Cookies also make it possible for companies to learn other information about users like their location, age, gender, etc.

Advertisers can then use this type of data to run highly targeted ad campaigns for individuals that match specific criteria. Over the past few years people have become more worried with privacy and there has been a lot of concern over how much data these companies collect about their users, how long they store this information for, and who they share this information with.

What was Google’s original plan? – Understanding FLoC

Floc aimed at by bundling user data into groups

When Google first announced that they would end support for Cookies on Chrome the move was met with positive reception. The obvious question was how this would impact online advertisers and their overall digital marketing strategies? Without data how would advertisers target specific users? The ability to show ads to more relevant audiences has been one of the big advantages that online advertising has had over conventional advertising that depends on channels like television or publications.

Originally Google announced that it would replace cookies with FLoC. FLoC stands for Federated Learning of Cohorts. In this system the privacy of individuals would be protected by bundling their data into groups i.e. cohorts. Users would be grouped into cohorts based on shared characteristics and behavior. For instance, advertisers could target a group of 1000 women, in their 20s who live in Trinidad and recently shopped for shoes. Though an improvement over cookies, many privacy advocates were still critical of FLoC.

What’s the new plan? – Introducing ‘Topics’

The main criticism for FLoC was that it wasn’t enough. Privacy advocates warned that advertisers could still use different groups and still identify specific individuals by gathering various snippets of data. Taking the less than enthusiastic response to FLoC into account, Google has now introduced a new plan to replace cookies, Topics.

In this system, Chrome browsers would have a code that tracks the websites that users visit. Based on the sites visited, chrome would give users specific tags from a list of 300. These tags include interests like fashion, sports, healthy food, etc.

Topics to replace cookies in Google

This information will be stored locally for a period of three weeks. When a user visits a website, the site will be able to see three tags that have been assigned to that user (one top tag from each of the past three weeks), and can accordingly decide what ads to show.

This change will make it harder for digital marketing agencies to target specific audiences. This also means that the targeting strategies that are being used now will not work in future.

If online advertising is part of your marketing mix, you need to prepare for the changes coming to advertising on Google. As of now Google maintains that it will end support for third-party cookies by mid-2023. If you are looking for an agency that provides informed online marketing solutions in Trinidad, contact us at WebFX.

Sources:

  1. 29 Jan 22, “French court upholds 100 mln euro fine against Google for breaches linked to cookie policy”, Reuters, [available online] available from: https://www.reuters.com/technology/french-court-upholds-100-mln-euro-fine-against-google-breaches-linked-cookie-2022-01-28/ [accessed Jan 22]

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