PPC

Google Changes Policy On Audience Targeting Segmentation

On March 28th 2018, Google quietly announced a change to the audience targeting capabilities of their ad products. This change will unlock exciting new personalization and segmentation opportunities—but only for advertisers who have a robust enough data strategy to take advantage of it.

The change affects Google’s Customer Match targeting feature.  Customer Match is a powerful Google AdWords tool that allows advertisers to use their brand’s email and CRM lists for customized bidding and targeting strategies in Google Search, YouTube, and Gmail Sponsored Promotions campaigns.  Since launching in 2015, iProspect has utilized Customer Match and other Google audience targeting features to deliver increased performance and improved efficiencies across all of our paid search accounts.

Yesterday Google changed their ad policy with regard to the use of third-party data.  Until now, advertisers could only utilize first-party data to fuel Customer Match audience lists. The change, found tucked away on their Help Center page, now allows advertisers to segment first-party audiences by leveraging third-party data.

The Bottom Line:

Overall, this change in policy does not represent a fundamental transformation in the way advertisers may target new audiences on Google platforms. Instead, it allows for smarter segmentation of advertisers’ existing audience lists and will help drive business results, engagement and efficiencies.

What does this mean?

This policy change allows advertisers to use additional third-party sources to segment their current first-party audience data, creating new opportunities for additional personalization with different campaign tactics, creative messaging, landing pages and investment levels based on these new custom audiences.

We expect that these enhanced targeting opportunities will lead to more qualified, engaged users and drive a higher volume of sales and revenue.

For example, a retail clothing brand has a list of users who have previously visited their site. They can now use a third-party platform like M1 to ingest this list and segment it into several more detailed lists (like: male vs female users, users with children, users interested in sports, high household income vs low, etc) and then load each of these segments as a unique first-party audience targeting list via Customer Match. By splitting up the list of users into more detailed audience segments, the advertiser is able to tailor the user experience (such as creative and landing page) towards that user’s demographic and interests. These segments can also be used to more effectively allocate budget, prioritizing one segment over another or excluding segments that aren’t relevant to specific paid search campaigns.  These enhanced targeting opportunities will lead to more qualified, engaged users and drive a higher volume of sales and revenue.

These expected performance improvements are applicable for almost all brands across all verticals including retail, CPG, B2B, Finance, Automotive and Travel. Whether it’s splitting existing email lists into more detailed demographics, or analyzing the performance of customer match (CRM) lists based on audience attributes, this new change brings confirmation from Google that investing in audience platforms will improve existing targeting capabilities and performance.

What does this not mean?

While Google now allows the use of third-party data to segment existing audiences, it does not allow the use of pure third-party audience targeting. This is a key distinction meaning that all audience targeting on Google (Search, Gmail & YouTube) must be initially based on first-party data which is owned by each advertiser. Brands may therefore not import audience lists from external sources and simply apply them to campaigns. Similarly, any sort of third-party audience sharing remains forbidden. Google has been clear that this practice is prohibited, and goes against their data use policies.

What is the impact?

We see this shift in Google’s policy as key for driving brand businesses forward with stronger performance enabled by greater personalization and targeting options across multiple channels. Existing display, programmatic and paid social tactics may now be tested in paid search, YouTube and Gmail marketing to improve advertiser KPIs.

However, while multi-channel audience strategies benefit from the policy change, it is the performance improvements that will really help highlight the importance of this change. Firstly, segmentation to enhance the user journey will boost click-through-rates, conversion rates and overall conversion metrics like revenue, sales and leads. Similarly, streamlining the right investment towards high performing audiences and negating out users as appropriate, will help increase efficiencies like cost-per-conversion, ROI, and allow for budget to be re-invested into top performing segments.

On top of this performance lift, since iProspect already works with a number of key audience segmentation platforms, including Dentsu Aegis Network-owned M1, this shift allows iProspect clients to quickly gain an advantage. M1 is Dentsu Aegis Network’s 100% people-based insights, planning, activation, and measurement platform. M1 drives transformational value for clients, helping understand their customers better and reach them more quickly and effectively through the industry’s only true people-based ID.  Now that we can use the incredibly robust data in M1 to segment our clients’ CRM list via hundreds of third party data points thanks to this policy change, iProspect will be able to unlock even more performance and efficiency from our already incredibly effective Customer Match strategies.

Overall, this change in policy does not represent a fundamental transformation in the way advertisers may target new audiences on Google platforms. Instead, it allows for smarter segmentation of advertisers’ existing audience lists and will help drive business results, engagement and efficiencies.