Just a year ago, activists and regular users banded together to support tech regulation due to concerns about privacy and the use of data to impinge on human rights. According to a 2021 Freedom House report, more than 40 countries took legislative or administrative action toward regulating technology companies.
In 2018, Cambridge Analytica’s abuse of Facebook data resulted in a backlash against not only Facebook but also other Big Tech companies. People demanded more accountability from tech firms and more regulation from the government to prevent future misuse of sensitive user information.
However, just four years later, the general public seems to have reversed its course. According to a 2022 study by Pew Research Center, roughly one in five Americans want less government regulation of major technology companies, nearly double the number in previous years. Why this sudden about-face, and what does less tech regulation mean for your pay-per-click (PPC) strategies?
Less Tech Regulation Support, More Freedom of Expression?
It appears that free speech on the Internet is once again a priority for many Americans. A possible reason given by the Pew study is the widespread belief that social networks are censoring certain political viewpoints. Certain occurrences have led some credence to this belief, at least to the Americans who share it. These include:
The Banning of Certain High-Profile Individuals From Social Media Platforms
Some examples are Alex Jones, a conservative far-right radio show host, Steve Bannon, former White House chief strategist and former President Donald Trump.
Tech Giants Purchasing Traditional Media Companies
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos purchased The Washington Post in 2013. In 2018, biotech billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong bought The Los Angeles Times and in that same year, Steve Jobs’s widow Laurene Powell Jobs purchased The Atlantic.
“Outbreaks” of Fake News
Misinformation had a banner year in 2021. Fake news about COVID-19 vaccines, conspiracy theories about the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and other false claims on a wide range of topics have spread throughout the Internet. Unfortunately, social media has made sharing fake news and misinformation easy, and the originators of such claims are difficult to track and identify.
The Potential Effects on PPC Strategies
With less regulation on the horizon, advertisers are likely wondering how it will affect their PPC tactics. Generally, reduced government oversight puts the onus on media and advertising entities, including PPC platforms, to regulate themselves. This gives them greater control over their offerings and allows them to create and implement their own standards.
Take, for example, Google and Meta. These Big Tech firms possess an immeasurable amount of consumer data, and have implemented changes to protect that data while improving user experience.
The following are some ways that the emphasis on privacy and user experience has led to significant and widespread changes in the digital marketing space.
The Way the Cookies Will Crumble
In 2020, Google announced that they were removing third-party cookies from Chrome within two years. However, the original deadline was not met. The tech giant has since stated that they needed more time and mapped out a schedule to phase out support for third-party cookies.
Stage 1, during which advertisers and publishers are expected to migrate their services, will begin in late 2022. Meanwhile, Stage 2 involves Google completely phasing out support for third-party cookies over a three-month period.
So how will brands and advertisers gather user data and target specific audiences to ensure the performance of their PPC tactics?
Google has scrapped its previously proposed alternative to third-party cookies, Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), in 2022, due to concerns about the ease of fingerprinting. In its place is Topics, which uses your Chrome browsing history over three weeks to collect information about your interests and categorizes it into one of 300 general topics.
If you visit a site that supports Topics API, Chrome will send the website three of your Topics. The website then has the option to send that information to advertising partners, who in turn will decide the types of ads to show you.
However, Google hasn’t yet rolled out Topics. Judging by their hasty pulling of FLoC, there is no guarantee they will. In the meantime, advertisers will need to wait until another update from Google’s Privacy Sandbox project to learn how the search engine giant aims to protect user data and remove third-party cookies without throwing the digital marketing space into chaos.
To prepare, some brands and advertisers currently managing PPC campaigns or planning to optimize PPC campaigns for these changes are building their first-party audience lists. But, according to Jacob Wulff, Thrive’s Senior Manager of Paid Search, there is still no definite answer as to whether utilizing first-party cookies is a viable alternative in case Google proceeds with phasing out third-party cookies. “However, we believe that this could be a possible solution, as first-party cookies are more trusted by users and are less likely to be blocked by browsers,” Wulff said.
An expert on pay per click management services will be able to help you refocus your campaigns and determine the best ways to improve PPC tactics. Equally important, they’ll be able to measure PPC performance when and if the day comes when third-party cookies are completely phased out.
Reduced Ad Targeting Capabilities on Some PPC Platforms
If you advertise on Meta, you’ll need to brace for further reduced targeting capabilities that will make it difficult for you to optimize PPC campaigns. In January 2022, Meta announced that they were removing options relating to topics that people may consider “sensitive,” such as:
• Political affiliation
• Race or ethnicity
• Sexual orientation
In its announcement, Meta explained that they were removing these targeting options as they could potentially be misused, leading to negative experiences for individuals in underrepresented groups. While the intent is positive, this change can make targeting more difficult for those using Meta for their PPC campaigns.
For example, a university is looking for subjects for a health-related study. The ideal subjects are female, in their 20s and in good health. Posting a PPC ad on Meta that specifically targets individuals with these characteristics will likely lead to the platform rejecting the said ad.
To serve the ad, the company will need to broaden its targeting when managing PPC campaigns. This may, however, make their efforts less effective and cost-efficient.
As a workaround, those who utilize Meta as one of their PPC platforms were given some alternatives to continue reaching their target audiences, including using:
• Engagement Custom Audiences to target users who have liked a company’s page, engaged with the advertiser’s brand or watched their videos.
• Lookalike Audiences, a method for reaching users who share characteristics with an existing Custom Audience.
• Location Targeting to reach potential customers who are within the vicinity of a brick-and-mortar store or the shipping area of an online business.
These alternatives do not provide the same results as the hyper-targeted options before the change. Brands keen on making the most of their marketing spend should consult a trusted PPC marketing agency on the best way to move forward.
The removal of certain ad targeting capabilities on Meta and the future removal of third-party cookies from Chrome may require changing how you use PPC. The PPC strategies you use might no longer work as well to attract leads and may instead be used for another purpose: brand exposure.
“At some point, it could mean paid ads will be used more for brand awareness and less for generating leads,” Wulff explained. “Ad targeting capabilities can still be used to target specific demographics and interests, so you can still get leads through paid search and ads. It will just take a bit more work to fine-tune your campaigns and landing pages.”
For this reason, it’s critical to have a pay per click consultant and Google ads specialists on board. Hiring a PPC ads agency to strategize, launch and optimize PPC campaigns for your brand will ensure you get as much value, and results, as you can from your ad spend.
Reduced Visibility of Certain Search Terms
Google Ads management has gotten trickier now that there is evidence that Google is hiding some search terms. According to Google, search term reports on the Google Ads management tool will only contain search terms of a “significant volume.”
What is not mentioned by Google is that advertisers can only rely on Google’s word that the hidden search terms are low-value and non-converting. However, there is evidence that some of these terms may actually be converting.
This means that advertisers are getting more unseeable and, therefore, unusable search term data for their ad spend. As a result, they cannot see which terms are triggering clicks, and they have lost visibility on hidden search terms that are irrelevant and need to be removed from their PPC campaigns. This presents a problem. Measuring PPC performance accurately and adjusting PPC strategies requires accurate information regarding which search terms are performing best for each ad.
Working with a PPC marketing agency or hiring a pay per click consultant to boost PPC performance can help. Their Google ads specialists have techniques and tools at their disposal to help brands work around this challenge.
The Way Forward
Less support for tech regulation may require significant changes to your PPC management approach. The more control PPC platforms have on how businesses and advertisers can target users, the more you need to be creative to continue getting results from your PPC strategies.
However, staying abreast of these and future changes means constantly monitoring Google ads management updates, regularly checking and fine-tuning your PPC campaigns and rigorous performance monitoring. Instead of heading into the unknown alone, brands can turn to a trusted and award-winning provider of pay per click management services for support.
Having been in business since 2005, Thrive has seen countless changes to the digital marketing landscape over the years. Our agile, versatile team of PPC management experts has the experience and expertise needed to help your business navigate whatever Google, Meta and other PPC platforms throw at you. Whether it’s reduced ad targeting capabilities, the removal of third-party cookies or hidden search terms on reports that make it hard for you to gauge your campaign’s performance; we’ve got you covered.
Wulff says it best: “There are a few things that Thrive can help brands do in order to prepare for the removal of certain ad targeting capabilities on platforms like Meta and Chrome. First, brands can make sure that they are using all of the available targeting capabilities that are offered, such as demographics and location targeting. Second, brands can increase their investment in other digital marketing channels, such as search engine optimization and paid search. Finally, they can work to create compelling and engaging content that will appeal to a wide range of people.”
Thrive: A Trusted PPC Ads Agency With a Proven Track Record
With us at the helm of your PPC management project and other digital marketing efforts, you can be confident you’ll get the results you need. We don’t just offer PPC marketing services: we provide a full suite of solutions, from managing PPC campaigns to designing landing pages that convert. You won’t have to worry about miscommunication, delays and other challenges that arise from too many hands in the pot.
Read some of our case studies to get a better idea of what Thrive’s PPC marketing services can do for your brand, or reach out to our team directly to learn more about our pay per click management services.