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- Introduction and Challenges
- 1. Capitalizing on 1st-party data
- 1.1 [Feature] Advanced Conversion Tracking
- 1.2 [Feature] Customer List
- 1.3 Customer List Targeting
- 1.4 [Feature] - Customer Acquisition
- 2. Retrieve signals from users who have not given their consent.
- 2.1 [Feature] - Google Consent Mode
- 3. Improve the robustness of your device with server-side
- 3.1 sGTM : Google Tag Manager server side
Introduction and Challenges
Google Consent Mode, sGTM, advanced conversion tracking, customer list targeting... Google is launching and continues to launch major features, and it can sometimes be difficult to keep up. This article aims to explore the latest features related to Google Ads tracking and describe what they entail.
Recall of the issues
Data marketing is evolving rapidly: the framework of the GDPR, browser and OS restrictions (ITP for Safari and ATT for iOS), as well as user behavior (ad blocker usage), are disrupting the landscape of web marketing and the way campaigns are managed. As a culmination of these changes, the "end of cookies" (specifically third-party cookies) is expected in 2024 for Google Chrome.
However, the success of digital marketing relies heavily on tracking, and a loss of measurement results in two major consequences:
- Blind steering: advertisers do not know which actions and especially which campaigns are profitable and how to optimize their investment.
- Targeting and bidding algorithms are less effective and cannot deliver advertisements to the right people at the right time.
The main players in marketing are adapting their products to address these challenges, reduce their reliance on third-party cookies, and mitigate the impact of the GDPR on campaign performance (while trying to stay within the changing legal framework).
Advertisers must understand and integrate these new concepts, otherwise they risk missing out on growth opportunities and allowing adaptable competitors to take the lead.
1. Capitalizing on 1st-party data
This is about sharing data from your customers and prospects with Google (email address, name, first name, etc.) so that the platform can associate this data with registered users on Google platforms (such as Gmail or Chrome) without the need for cookies. This offers three major advantages:
- Improve campaign performance measurement (Google can attribute more conversions) as cookies become less effective.
- Use these audiences for remarketing campaigns.
- Send signals about your customers to Google to help target the desired profiles (Conquest campaigns with the objective of "Acquiring new customers").
It is necessary to obtain the user's consent to send personal data to Google, even if this data is hashed.
1.1 [Feature] Advanced Conversion Tracking
It is the action of enriching the conversion tag with 1st-party data, such as the email address and other personal data of your customers, in hashed form, to Google.
Modification of the dataLayer + Tag mapping + Configuration in the Google Ads interface
- This allows increasing the volume of measured conversions attributed to Google and therefore obtaining more data to optimize campaigns, improve targeting, and justify more budget.
- This also allows activating other features to capitalize on 1st-party data (see Activate conversion-based customer lists).
This is a feature that brings quick value (increased conversions between 5% and 8%) and is relatively easy to implement.
It is also a feature that allows for relatively easy creation of customer lists (1st-party).
1.2 [Feature] Customer List
This is the act of creating audiences in Google Ads based on your customer data through the interface (CSV import), using API (particularly with the use of reverse ETL), and/or with advanced conversion tracking (see Activation of conversion-based customer lists).
- Manual process if CSV (properly format the CSV file and import it into Google Ads),
- and/or activate the feature 1.1 [Feature] Advanced Conversion Tracking and 1.3.2 [Feature] - Activation of Conversion-Based Customer Lists
- and/or via API: Data Warehouse + Reverse ETL (e.g., Hightouch) or CDP (e.g., Segment / Rudderstack, etc.) or Capture (EdgeAngel solution)
- This allows you to create remarketing and reacquisition audiences based on 1st-party data (the most robust method for campaigns of this type as Google is phasing out cookie-based remarketing due to privacy, browser, and regulatory changes).
- This also allows you to use "premium" signals to optimize Conquest campaigns, as was the case with similar audiences.
Previously, it was possible to easily create and use remarketing and similar audiences through Google Analytics and/or the Google Ads tag. Now, it is necessary to create these audience lists based on first-party data.
For advertisers with significant marketing budgets, it is essential to establish a data architecture that allows for continuous sharing of Google Ads customer lists from a Data Warehouse + Reverse ETL (or a CDP) that offers more segmentation possibilities.
1.3 Customer List Targeting
Il s'agit d'une fonctionnalité permettant à Google d'utiliser des listes de clients pour le smart bidding et/ou le ciblage. En d'autres termes, on autorise Google à utiliser les informations sur nos clients pour identifier des prospects similaires (Cette fonctionnalité remplace les audiences similaires 💡). “Les stratégies d'enchères intelligentes et le ciblage optimisé apprendront automatiquement quelles listes améliorent les performances de votre campagne et optimiseront en continu l'application des listes en temps réel” (source)
L'activation de cette fonctionnalité se fait en cochant une case dans les paramètres du compte. Cela nécessite bien sûr la création et l'alimentation des listes de clients.
Cette fonctionnalité permet aux algorithmes de smart bidding de miser de manière plus efficace sur les utilisateurs qui ressemblent le plus à vos clients (et donc d’améliorer la performance en ROAS/CPA des campagnes).
Sur le papier, c'est une top fonctionnalité qui permet d'améliorer les enchères et donc la rentabilité des campagnes. Cependant, cela reste une fonctionnalité "boîte noire" où il est difficile de mesurer l'impact réel sur les performances.
Cette fonctionnalité permet de créer des listes de clients en utilisant la balise de conversion, à condition que le suivi avancé des conversions soit configuré.
Pour activer cette fonctionnalité, vous devez configurer le suivi avancé des conversions, cocher la case correspondante dans les paramètres du compte et avoir dépensé 45k€ sur le compte.
- Créer et mettre à jour facilement des audiences clients (données first-party) que vous pourrez utiliser pour des campagnes de remarketing.
- Fournir des signaux complémentaires pour le smart bidding et vos campagnes d'acquisition si vous avez activé la fonctionnalité 1.3.1 [Fonctionnalité] - Stratégies d'enchères intelligentes et ciblage optimisé.
C’est une fonctionnalité très pratique pour créer facilement des audiences “liste de clients” notamment pour les sites ecommerce. Pour les sites de génération de lead, cela restera un peu plus compliqué car on voudra davantage remonter en tant que client des leads transformés et/ou du moins des leads qualifiés (on va plutôt privilégier l’import via API pour ces clients).
1.4 [Feature] - Customer Acquisition
This is about informing Google about the audiences of your existing customers. Google already has information through the implemented tracking (based on cookies), but it offers you the opportunity to enhance this information with more precise data.
- You can add the "List of customers" audiences, as well as the Web and GA4 audiences directly in the interface (Conversion > Customer Acquisition > Define existing customer list).
- You can also enhance your conversion tag with the "Provide new customer data" parameter, which relies on a slightly more advanced tracking where you indicate if the conversion is associated with a new customer or not (this is the most reliable method).
- This is a key feature to segment the approach of your campaigns between Acquisition and Reacquisition/Remarketing.
- It allows you to know the proportion of new customers compared to those who repurchase within your campaigns (using the New/Known Customers segment) and to better balance between optimizing ROAS/profitability and seeking growth through acquiring new customers (medium/long-term vision).
- In concrete terms, this allows you to create a specific bidding strategy based on your goals and your business:
- Solution 1: assign a higher value to new customers (because we know they will have repeated purchases, for example) for campaigns that combine acquisition and loyalty/remarketing.
- Solution 2: bid only on new customers if you are running 100% acquisition campaigns.
Use this feature as soon as you have segmented your strategy between Conquest campaigns (new customers) and remarketing/reacquisition campaigns. Start by using the audiences you have, then enrich the signals by using the "Provide new customer data" parameter and create a GA4 goal "new_customer" to import into Google Ads.
2. Retrieve signals from users who have not given their consent.
Activating 1st-party data addresses technological challenges (cookies), but requires user consent. The loss of signals from users who have not given their consent depends largely on your Consent Management Platform (CMP). To address this issue, Google provides a specific functionality called Google Consent Mode (GCM) that aims to address this specific challenge while complying with the regulatory framework (to be validated with your legal department or DPO).
2.1 [Feature] - Google Consent Mode
Consent Mode is a feature of Google that allows advertisers to continue sending data to Google (to Google Ads, Floodlight, and GA4) in a "degraded" mode when there is no positive consent from the user. The data of users who have not given their consent is notably "disconnected" from the concept of the user and the session ID (no cookie is stored on the user's browser). This feature allows for limiting the collection and processing of personal data.
It is necessary to adjust the configuration of your tags related to the consent of your users. To do this, you should use a CMP preferably compatible with Consent Mode (such as Didomi) or manage the setup via Google Tag Manager. The configuration has some pitfalls to avoid and also offers sub-features such as URL Passthrough or Ads Redacted Data to go further.
- This allows for improving conversion attribution, increasing the volume of measured conversions, and therefore having more data to optimize campaigns, improve targeting, and justify more budget. An uplift of over 30% can be expected.
- GCM also allows for activating behavior modeling in GA4 if certain volume conditions are met, which allows you to model user data of those who have not consented directly in GA4 reports.
Google Consent Mode is a solution offered by Google and has not been officially validated by the CNIL. Each actor, in collaboration with their legal and analytics partners, must develop their own data collection strategy based on their risk assessment.
If your DPO or legal representative considers the functionality to be compliant with the GDPR framework, we recommend activating this feature that allows for the "recovery" of a large portion of data necessary for business management.
3. Improve the robustness of your device with server-side
An important point with iOS 17 is that Safari blocks GTM Web in private browsing mode. However, with sGTM, you will be able to keep your tracking.
From version 17 of Safari (iOS 17 and macOS 14 Sonoma), Safari blocks GTM Web in private browsing. Implementing sGTM allows you to maintain your tracking.
3.1 sGTM : Google Tag Manager server side
sGTM is the server-side Tag Management System (TMS) from Google that enhances your collection architecture. sGTM complements GTM Web. It is essentially a proxy hosted on your side (referred to as 1st-party environment) that offers numerous advantages.
- Control, Enrichment, and Security: You can better control the data sent to advertising agencies if your privacy rules or GDPR policy require it. You can also enrich the data sent to agencies with first-party data that you do not want to expose in the dataLayer.
- The sGTM architecture can be used for other media platforms (TikTok, Meta, Snap, etc.). It is particularly effective for implementing Meta Conversions API (CAPI).
The configuration of sGTM already requires having a GTM Web + advanced dataLayer tracking in place and being knowledgeable about consent management and configuring your CMP. This is the most "ambitious" topic to activate in the list, but it can be achieved very well. Here is a quick overview of the actions:
- Set up sGTM in a cloud environment on GCP / AWS / Azure either live or using a third-party service like Addingwell.
- Modify a few lines of front-end code.
- Make some changes at the hosting level (DNS records and CDN).
- Optimize and maintain the system to ensure scalability.
- Configure server-side tags from the web data stream.
- Apply GDPR rules to your system.
To learn more, please refer to our expert note Server-Side Tagging with Google Tag Manager.
It is already a "game changer" at the moment, and it will be even more so. We recommend that any advertiser for whom measuring and optimizing marketing campaigns is essential to activate this project. Attention: there are some pitfalls to avoid, particularly regarding consent management, which can be mishandled by media agencies that wrongly see it as a way to bypass GDPR and expose their clients to regulatory risks.
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