Welcome to February, everyone! Our biggest updates this month revolve around the ever-changing landscape of cookie-based tracking and consent. Read on for that news, as well as updates in the world of paid media and SEO.
Universal Analytics Goes Away for Good on July 1
You may have noticed a countdown clock in GA warning of deletion of UA data. Google recommends their Google Sheets Google Analytics Add-on for exporting and archiving data, and we agree that this is the fastest and easiest way to make sure you don’t lose your historical data. But we don’t agree with their recommendations for what data to export. We are putting together detailed instructions for getting the data that matters to your business and will have it ready before our next monthly update.
Here we go again …
Privacy Laws are Getting Stricter
We highly recommend that your website have cookie consent functionality enabled to comply with various state laws, and international laws if applicable. Consent requirements and software are complicated and evolving:
- 12 US states enacted or implemented digital privacy laws in 2023, and California’s privacy laws got stricter.
- Google Ads has started threatening account suspension for EU advertisers who don’t comply with GDPR. More below
- We recommend using a CMP-compliant vendor for best compatibility with Google Ads and other products.
- Never, ever track personal information such as names, phone numbers or email addresses with Google Analytics, Meta Ads pixels or other tracking tools.
- A reminder that changes to consent functionality can have significant impacts to tracking, so be sure to monitor traffic reports closely after any change, and let us know if you make consent functionality changes.
Facebook to Archive User Link History
Facebook is rolling out an update which begins archiving users’ link history for 30 days. Users can opt out of this feature, but by default it is on. They’ve indicated this will provide more cues for targeted advertising, but there is no indication yet on how these advertising options would be offered. As cookies wane as a method of collecting wider context about users for advertising, tracking and leveraging direct user-driven interactions seems smart, but privacy watchers warn that the stored information could be misused by the platform.
Ad Platforms Introduce More AI-Assisted Tools
AI-driven features are in new product announcements everywhere, including tools for businesses, brands, and advertisers. For example:
- Tiktok is testing text-to-video creation tools.
- Google Ads is rolling out conversational campaign building as part of its push towards an ad assistant chatbot.
- Meta is pushing more advertisers towards Advantage detailed targeting, which leverages AI-assisted audience expansion.
The platforms generally say that these AI-driven improvements will save time and generate better performance. We’ve seen a little of both, but as much of the world has discovered, AI isn’t always right, so we continue to carefully monitor and test against control methods when we can.
Google Warns European Advertisers With Non-Compliant GDPR Websites
Google issued email warnings to advertisers whose websites didn’t have GDPR-compliant consent policies on their websites. The warning indicates advertisers are at risk of suspension if not in compliance.
For US advertisers, this may be a highlight of what’s to come. A patchwork of US states currently requires consent policies on websites, but plenty of US websites do not yet have tracking consent functionality on their websites.
Google Chrome Has Started Phasing Out Third-Party Cookies
Google announced this month that they have started testing “Tracking Protection”, which blocks third-party cookies for about 1% of Chrome users. They plan to have it rolled out to all users by the end of 2024. Third-party cookies are used by Meta Ads, Amazon Ads, the Google Display Network and most programmatic ad networks to track users across sites. Safari started blocking 3rd-party cookies by default in 2020, and Firefox followed suit in 2021, so ad networks have been preparing, but Chrome is the most popular browser by far, so this really is the beginning of the end. The main impacts to advertisers are that:
- Targeting based on user behavior and demographics will be all but impossible. Ad networks have been shifting towards contextual targeting and other ad placement strategies for the last several years, so this won’t be a huge change.
- Tracking cross-domain conversions will become significantly less reliable. For example, if a Chrome user clicks on a Meta ad and subsequently purchases on your website, it may or may not get reported as a conversion in Meta.
Google Explores New Nearby Events and Deals Local Search Feature
Google is currently experimenting with a novel local search feature known as Nearby Events and Deals, exclusively accessible on mobile devices for local searches. The feature showcases four tiles featuring the business name, a promotional image, and a review rating. Upon selecting a tile, users are directed to a full-screen view that provides more detailed information about the offer, including the business name, location on a map, promotional image, and accompanying text.
Make sure your Google Business Profile is an accurate hub of business information, with updates showcasing events and deals to help your listing appear in this section of local search results.
Google Clarifies How It Generates Snippets on SERPs
Google clarified that it generates snippets on search results primarily through a pages’ content. Sometimes it will generate a snippet based on the meta description of a page, but only if it matches search intent and describes the page accurately. Otherwise, it will rely on snippet auto-generation based on parts of the content that serves SERPs the best.