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Google Ads in a cookie-less future – The Drum

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Like everyone else in the world of digital marketing, I’m sure you were relieved to hear about Google delaying the removal of third-party cookies until 2023. There was, and still is, so much confusion surrounding exactly what options will be available to us when it comes to targeting, tracking and measurement, and Google itself hasn’t confirmed what solutions will be put in place, so it’s understandably a pretty confusing landscape at the minute.
Well, let’s have a go at clearing up that confusion by looking at what impact removing third-party cookies will have on Google Ads, and what you can be doing to your campaigns to help future-proof your accounts.
The bad news is that pretty much everything will be disrupted in some form when it comes to the removal of third-party cookies, especially features involving marketing to a specific audience, remarketing and measuring the success of your campaigns. In short, all campaigns that rely on having audiences applied to them (which should be every single one of your campaigns) will be impacted as we’re expecting to see a loss of accuracy and drop in membership numbers when it comes to audiences.
As it stands, in-market, affinity, life event and remarketing audiences will still be available to us to use in the campaigns, but we’d expect to see a drop in how accurate they are and also their size as fewer users consent to cookies and personalized ads.
When it comes to targeting your search campaigns, it will have a relatively small impact as everything is keyword based without a cookie in sight. However, that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to search, and it’s when audiences get applied to campaigns, as extra signals of intent to help smart bidding, that we’d expect to see an impact.
Campaigns across YouTube and Display are where we’ll see the biggest impact as these rely most heavily on targeting a specific audience. One thing we’d expect to see is the rise in use of contextual targeting, like it’s 1999, and although Google haven’t confirmed anything as of yet, there will be more targeting options available to us that will help you reach and communicate with your target audience.
It’s not all doom and gloom though; the good news is that Google will provide a solution of some sort. There are also steps you can follow to help lessen the blow.
Part of what this change requires of us is a level of preparedness to embrace the change in the first place: making sure your business is taking a positive approach to consumer privacy. With 48% of people worldwide having stopped buying a product or service from a company due to privacy concerns, it’s especially important to make sure you’re transparent with the way you collect, store and use customer data.
The use of first-party data will be key in helping to future-proof your campaigns and give more fuel to any AI-based bidding strategy. As well as your own customer lists, first-party data can be gathered by ensuring your website is using Google’s global site tag. Site-wide tagging is essential because it’s going to be required for all future measurement and it also ensures accurate measurement in a way that is friendly to consumer privacy. Why should you be doing this? Because proper use of your first-party data can potentially double the incremental revenue from a single ad placement, communication or outreach.
Measuring conversions is one of the main areas where we’ll see things get a bit tricky with the removal of third-party cookies, so it’s going to be important to make sure you’re tracking conversions as accurately as possible and seeing the benefit of all channels and the role they play in the path to conversion. With the global site tag in place, we’ll be able to use enhanced conversions, making tracking conversions across search and YouTube a lot more accurate. By using enhanced conversions and Google Analytics, you can see a median increase in conversion rates of 3.5% in Search and 12% in YouTube for Action on average, so it’s pretty vital not only in measuring success, but ensuring converted users are removed from remarketing campaigns.
The next step you can take is to ensure your account is in the safe hands of an agency that proactively uses the latest AI-based features and products made available through Google Ads – an agency like us. A post-cookie world is essentially one with less consumer data available for us to use when trying to reach your target audience. AI-based products and features like smart bidding, dynamic search ads, smart display, customer match, smart shopping and performance max campaigns will make the most of first-party data and user intent signals to optimize in real-time, delivering better results and helping you to communicate with your target audience in an effective way. According to Google, using these advanced techniques in your campaigns along with skilled human implementation and oversight can improve campaign performance by up to 35%, so push your agency to ensure they’re using the latest features available to them.
If you would like to get in touch with our digital team to find out how we can help your business thrive in a cookie-less world, then simply reach out to us and we’ll be happy to help.
Steve Jones is PPC team manager at Space & Time.

Space & Time is a growth marketing agency, enabling clients to secure optimal value from every part of the customer experience and their marketing investment. We form long-term partnerships with clients through our business empathy and commercial alignment, working within fully managed, hybrid or in-house models to deliver best-in-class expertise across media, technology, performance creative and training, driving market-beating long-term growth outcomes.
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