A future without cookies? The effect of Google Topics on online marketing
The path of online advertising and marketing is full of twists, turns and bifurcation in the road. Professionals adapt as practices evolve, following new trends emerging across platforms, social networks, and apps. However, there is a major obstacle ahead that for some people will be a mountain to climb, a valley, or a pit for those who don’t prepare. We are talking about the arrival of “Topics” in Google Chrome browser, a new system that will replace the traditional cookies.
In this post we want to solve some of the main doubts that may arise around this change, starting with the basics.
First of all, do we know what cookies are?
What are cookies? The simplest definition tells us that cookies are code snippets with information that websites send to browsers so that they can store them. These snippets allow the web to know the previous activity of users, what they have searched for, where they have browsed before, how they have interacted with other sites, or what specific pages they have visited.
Sites use this information to identify the user’s profile and personalize what they show. This can be publicity, the display language, or even the weather forecast based on location. Cookies are responsible for that model of sneakers that we searched for one day in an online store and is haunting us for weeks in all the websites we visit.
Advertising is, however, only one of the many functions of cookies. These have many more utilities, allowing us to improve the user experience, save the configuration of the website we have chosen, including language or text size, or optimize the operationality of the site.
So, how have cookies worked so far?
Until a few months ago, the main relationship we had with cookies was to look for the button that allowed us to accept them quickly when accessing a website. Often this was the only option, since most pages did not even allow us to reject them. Reading the cookie’s policy, rejecting them, or selecting which ones we wanted to accept were hidden options that had to be searched for, and were often discarded due to lack of patience.
We should clarify that it has always been possible to delete cookies, both in web and mobile browsers. Thus, we could control, to some extent, the data we share with websites. Google Chrome and other browsers allow you to enable cookies or disable them, preventing them from being stored. However, few people take the time to manage such settings and, like with the cookies policy, accept everything.
So what changes brings Google Topics?
To understand the relevance of the change proposed by Google, we must first consider that Google Chrome has more than 65% of web browser users. This means that a large majority of Internet users choose it for their daily browsing, and it stores the information of millions of people.
The Topics announced by Google will change the format of cookies and prevent websites from accessing a large amount of people’s data as they do now. As soon as the update is introduced, Google will analyze users’ browsing data to assign topics of interest to them, being this information the one to be shared with websites. This means the specific model of sneakers will no longer haunt us. Now, after visiting the website, Google will learn we are interested in shoes, information that will be shared with the websites, which will then show us more generic and less personalized ads.
This is where the challenge for digital marketers comes in. Until now it has been possible to select very specific details about our audience, focusing on tastes, interests or preferences. Most campaigns also use customer retargeting, showing them again the products they have already viewed to convince them to buy.
With Topics, this should change. Only generic features can now be used, and Google is threatening to limit the number of concepts that can be added per campaign. Thus, marketers will have to fine-tune their campaigns much more to deliver the desired results and reach target audiences.
What is the reason for this change?
Google justifies the change by referring to the protection of users’ data, although many experts are skeptical. Google will continue saving browsing data so privacy will increase only relatively. In addition, this change could pose a threat to Google, as other platforms could gain ground in terms of online advertising. The main social networks will continue to register and store information, allowing campaigns to be created as before.
What is clear is that those of us in marketing have a big challenge ahead of us… if Google’s plans come to fruition. We will have to wait until 2023 to see if Topics really becomes an alternative and to see how platforms adapt. So far, all we can do is accept cookies.
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