Search Update: February 2022

Search Update: February 2022
Photo by Alessio Zaccaria / Unsplash

The Future of Google Privacy

Google plans to replace FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) by proposing Topics API, a new system for interest-based advertising. If you are wondering how Topics API works, it works by pinpointing five of your interests, such as “Music” or “Comics,” based on your web activity, as measured by participating sites, for a week. Topics are only kept for three weeks, and old topics will be deleted by your browser. According to Google, “Topics are selected entirely on your device without involving any external servers, including Google servers”, which reflects on the internet users’ concern about digital privacy.

The latest proposal of replacing FLoC with Topics API is due to the privacy concerns coming from the users. Google’s FLoC API proposal for the Privacy Sandbox has had its controversy regarding the subject of digital privacy. The Privacy Sandbox aims to improve web privacy for users, while also giving publishers, creators, and other developers the tools they need to build thriving businesses, ensuring a safe and healthy web for all. However, users are concerned that as they move from tab to tab, they are unwittingly relaying information about their web visit histories to other websites and parties for marketing and business purposes.

Now, with Topics API, users have access to the topics resulting from the sites they have viewed. Topics API enables browsers to give users meaningful transparency and control over their data, and in Chrome, Google is building user controls that let users see the topics, and the ability to remove any topics the users don’t like or disable the feature completely. It is an improvement for consumer privacy from how FLoC was designed to operate before, which is in response to an evolving shift in how the industry adapts to consumer and regulatory pressures.

Besides desktop users’ privacy, mobile users’ privacy are equally important. Therefore, Google announces its initiative to build the Privacy Sandbox on Android to improve the app ecosystem, which will benefit users, developers and businesses at the same time. With the goal to develop new technologies that improve user privacy and enable effective, personalized advertising experiences for mobile apps. As of right now, Google is at the starting stage of the Android Privacy Sandbox development. The Beta release of the SDK Runtime and privacy-preserving APIs should be expected at the end of 2022.

To conclude, the focus of the Topics API proposal is consumer privacy, which is paramount to regain trust in advertising and ensure the new targeting process is sustainable.  While there are concerns regarding the lack of nuances from Topics API to make a search campaign as effective as today’s targeting methodologies, Google believes they will grow the list over time.  With third-party cookies going away, it will require us to think outside the box on how to reach consumers through topics, client first data, and other external methodologies.

Example illustrations of what you can see about 3rd party cookies (left) vs Topics (right). In Chrome, Google plans to make Topics easier to recognize and manage for users.

Google Ads Introduces Optimization Score and Auto Apply Recommendation to Campaigns

The Optimization Score in Google Ads is an estimate of how well your Google Ads account is set to perform, which has only been scanned across Search, Display, Shopping, and Video campaigns. However, as of 2022, Google Ads is including the Discovery campaign to the scan for advertisers to optimize their advertising efforts. Additionally, auto-applied recommendation is also available to the users. As a result of this update, users’ Discovery campaigns will now show a score of 0-100%, with 100% meaning the campaigns are performing at their full potential.

The recommendations from Google Ads often have a direct impact on campaigns’ optimization score. The major updates of recommendations that users will be notified includes fixing disapproved assets, showing ads to more audiences (audience updates), optimizing targeting to get more customers, and more. It is beneficial for advertisers with strict goals of reaching the targeted audiences.

Additionally, the auto-applied recommendation made the process of campaign optimization a lot more easier and intuitive for advertisers. This feature helps shorten the time it takes to improve the optimization score. Users can now auto apply Google Ads’ recommendations at the manager-account level. Google Ads users will no longer have the need to go into individual accounts and apply recommendations manually. As of right now, there are a total of 22 recommendations that can be auto-applied from the manager-account level, with the newest update to improve responsive search ads and upgrading the conversion tracking.

Overall, the fairness of optimization score is still a debatable topic, as there can be mixed results when the recommendations are applied.  Auto applied recommendations may be intuitive and time efficient; however, 100% optimization score should not be the definition of a successful campaign.  Instead, these automatic recommendations are still best used in conjunction with manual monitoring.