Google & Apple Updates: Advice from a small business marketing agency

Many marketing agencies have written about the latest Google announcements regarding the upcoming cookieless future. Other headlines talk about Apple fighting with Facebook. Still more articles talk about consumer privacy efforts in Europe and California, and how companies like Apple and Google are working to bring their privacy efforts more in line with those restrictions. For a small business owner trying to market to their customers, it’s a lot to keep track of. That’s why, as a small business marketing agency, EAG understands the importance of making this simple for our clients. These topics can get very technical very quickly, so we’ll start with a quick rundown on data privacy and what people mean by a cookieless future.

The concerns for small business marketing are significant: Can we still track campaign effectiveness and target our audience effectively?

Digital marketing isn’t going to die when cookies go away. First, let’s define what’s happening here. Cookies track individual users. Third-party cookies are the issue here, and third-party cookies are bits of code that identify an individual based on the user’s web browser. It’s “third-party” because it can be placed on a user by a website domain that is different than the domain that user is on. The cookie tracks you throughout your internet journey to build a profile of your online behavior. Advertisers and marketers can then use the tracking code to build a profile of you – and users who fit the same profile – to deliver targeted ads.

The other cookie type is a first-party cookie. That’s a cookie placed on users by the site they’re on. Those don’t go away in the cookieless future. They can still be used to build profiles, target an audience, and track campaign effectiveness.

The biggest shift that comes from a cookieless future is switching from a reliance on third-party data to first-party data. The future in this new world looks much like the past. Instead of being able to leverage third-party data to target someone specifically, as an outsourced marketing agency, EAG  is going to turn more toward programmatic advertising – showing your ads to your target audience based on the topic of the content they are currently viewing, without relying on an individual’s past behavior to target that person. That means targeting groups of slightly broader cohorts rather than individuals. Will it be as effective? During Google’s trial of this new initiative, it has achieved 95% as many conversions with ads targeted at cohorts compared to ads targeted using cookies, depending on the strength of the cohort.

Targeting cohorts of people instead of individuals isn’t going to destroy the ability to market to your audience. Your target audience consumes the same kind of content across all media formats (blogs, videos, radio, etc.) related to their industry or common likes, and they will still be able to be targeted as a result. Google Analytics 4 was released earlier this year and, while it still leaves much to be desired in its current phase, it is privacy-centric by design. In other words, Google saw this coming and is preparing for it so small business marketers can still get the data they need to make decisions and properly credit marketing tactics for getting the job done.

And then, there’s Apple. In Apple’s Mail app, Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. The new feature helps users prevent senders from knowing when they open an email and masks their IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.

For several years, Intelligent Tracking Prevention has helped protect Safari browser users from unwanted tracking by using on-device machine learning to stop trackers while allowing websites to function normally. This year, Intelligent Tracking Prevention is getting even stronger by also hiding the user’s IP address from trackers. This means these trackers can’t use the user’s IP address as a unique identifier to connect their activity across websites and build a profile about them.

What’s all this mean? There’s plenty more to come for small business marketing.

The upshot is that marketing to your audience isn’t going to get easier, despite the technological advances. That’s why we go back to best practices to make the most of our connection with current and potential clients.

For email, finding ways to get your target to opt-in is still going to be the best way to collect and use your email list. Tracking success will be even more of a challenge as Apple’s iOS won’t record when an individual opens your email. So, tracking those clickthrough links and any calls to action once a recipient clicks from an email to your website could become difficult. However, loyalty programs that incentivize users to log in to identify themselves on the website are an excellent way to ensure individual user activity can be tracked. Even using this tactic, the reason to log in must be compelling enough to make the user feel like submitting their information is worth the effort. Relying on your marketing agency partner to help develop new email engagement strategies is your best bet.

Google recently updated the timeline for a cookieless future to launch in late 2022, allowing additional time for advertisers to review the policy changes and shift strategies as needed. This phase will last for 9 months and the full transition will launch in late 2023. Apple is also consistently reviewing its policies and making updates as needed. Changes like these from giant digital companies can be a lot to keep up with. EAG Advertising & Marketing understands small businesses and we know our outsourced marketing clients would rather focus on growing their businesses than having to wade through the ever-changing digital landscape.