February 2, 2022
In a blog post last year, we discussed how Google was replacing support for third-party cookies with a new first-party methodology: Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC). Fast forward to January 2022, and the search engine giant has replaced FLoC with the Google Topics API.
Whenever a major industry platform announces a paradigm shift that can affect your client’s campaigns, it could be an understandable reaction to hit the panic button.
However, when these changes happen, it’s better to get ahead of them than play catch-up weeks or months after the fact. Today, we are going to cover everything we know so far about the new Google Topics to help you prepare your agency for this new digital frontier.
When FLoC Was introduced, it was touted as a promising alternative to third-party cookies.
Instead of relying on external tracking systems, FLoC aimed to provide targeting data through lookalike audiences created by Google’s own machine learning capabilities. These lookalike audiences were compiled based on users’ similar search behaviors and grouped together (“cohorts”).
Topics introduced a new paradigm shift that no longer relies on lookalike audiences as its primary tracking method.
Rather, Topics prioritizes protecting the privacy of Google users while continuing to serve relevant ads. Targeting while now be based primarily on personal interests by separating personal information from personal interests without sharing specific sites you visit across the entirety of the web.
With this new approach, Google categorizes your browsing history into one of its 300 initial topics for three weeks at a time (though this number is expected to grow in the future). Users will be able to edit their topics, remove certain ones, or opt-out altogether.
Google will not be categorizing search behavior into topics like one’s race, gender, or any sensitive medical condition. Instead, they emphasize user interests like music, sports, and automobiles.
For example, if you are visiting a participating website that features information about your favorite NBA team, Google will categorize you under the “Sports” topic. This will then influence the ads that you receive in the future while maintaining privacy over your personal data. After three weeks have passed, if you have not further consumed this type of content, you will be removed from that Topic category.
Digital marketing products like Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), YouTube, and Display Advertising are projected to be most impacted by this new development, as they are directly within Google’s sphere of influence.
However, just because these products involve heavy interaction with Google, that does not mean that agencies should hit the panic button.
In anticipation of Google Topics’ rollout, we spoke to some of our certified product analysts at Conduit to get their opinions on these changes.
Though Topics will primarily impact paid advertising campaigns, we can also assume that this new development will affect organic search efforts to an extent. Categories will provide Google’s algorithm with a high-level generalization of what the content on a website is about.
For SEO campaigns, identifying highly relevant keywords with strong search volume and low-to-intermediate difficulty scores will remain a priority. Beyond this, these keywords should be integrated into clear, well-written, and easily understood content that can aid Google in providing better organic search results to users and ensure a more accurate topic categorization.
It will be tough to predict how Topics will affect long-term SEO relevancy until the changes are implemented and the data has enough time to populate. Google often refrains from releasing specific details surrounding the changes to protect its IP, but the actual data will tell a more complete story when it has a chance to generate in real-time.
The Topics API is expected to generalize users into less-granular audiences than advertisers were previously able to target. As a result, competition will increase for broader pools of users that could vary in relevance.
Additionally, depending on the path to conversion for the product or service your client is promoting, audience sizes could fluctuate due to the 3-week time frame as users enter and leave topics via search behavior.
However, this shouldn’t be seen as a red alert in all cases. The new time frame may lead to the ability to target users who have intent at that moment, which could prove useful for commercially and transactionally focused campaigns.
As a result, timely campaigns will become more important than ever. Strategies should continue to be refined and updated to maintain as much relevancy to the customer moment as possible.
While Google Topics may improve on the concepts introduced with FLoC, this recent change will require some time to measure its full impact on programmatic campaigns.
Predictably, remarketing efforts and third-party audience targeting in terms of reach and measurement will be affected by Topics. This change will continue to emphasize the importance of leveraging first-party platform data for advertising campaigns, as we saw with the introduction of FLoC.
Like we discussed with Paid Search above, programmatic campaigns will also experience a significant emphasis on timeliness. Audience sizes will fluctuate in a similar fashion, so having a strategy in place to meet the context of the moment will be essential for maintaining relevance.
Since Google’s earliest days as a simple search engine, keywords have played an instrumental role in briefing algorithms on the subject matter of a page on your client’s website. Though best practices for keywords have evolved over the decades, they remain as relevant as ever.
This applies to both paid and organic search campaigns. Identifying high-opportunity keywords with desirable search volume and low competition will give clients a unique edge to reach their desired users.
As online privacy trends continue toward first-party data, holistic campaigns will also become an absolute requirement for driving elite performance for clients. To ensure you are reaching the right audience across the full digital marketing spectrum, a strategy that combines organic and paid media, as well as implementation across all platforms, will become essential.
Connected, contextual, and strategic content will continue to play an instrumental role in your client’s strategy.
From landing pages to informational pages on their website, blog posts, and digital media, messaging will supercharge the engine that drives the campaign. Build a content strategy that integrates the following elements:
With more diverse audiences resulting from Topics, creating ad experiences that speak to moe individuals will be an essential component of an elite campaign. Simply put: You’re going to be reaching more types of people more often!
Leaning on traditional marketing wisdom, maintaining a focus on the customer’s need, the features of your product/service, and the benefit it provides them will continue to prove highly effective for client campaigns. Use clear, easily understandable language that will allow your client’s unique value to shine through.
With Topics’ timely nature, campaign strategies should be updated regularly to capitalize on trends and events that are relevant to your client’s business. For example, if your client is an HVAC service provider, you may want to update your messaging every three weeks to change with their target audience’s seasonal needs or with evolving weather activity in their local area.
Demonstrate your agency’s authority in the industry and reach out to your clients to offer a briefing on Google Topics. Address anticipated questions like:
Taking a proactive and transparent approach by offering these kinds of insights to the client will help establish greater trust in the account relationship. Additionally, this will increase your credibility to the businesses that you work with and position your agency as a true expert they can rely on.
Take the time to research Google Topics and provide these resources to your in-house team. Even if they are not hands-on with your ad operations processes, having this knowledge will increase the quality of client communication and equip everyone with the means to answer their questions effectively.
The number-one concern for many agencies in light of Google Topics: How will I continue to drive elite campaigns for my clients with another new targeting framework?
By combining efforts with a white label digital marketing partner, you can access an entire team of certified ad operations experts with the necessary tools and expertise to provide that elite performance.
Without the additional overhead of hiring and/or training an in-house team for a Google Topics world, you can onboard new campaigns with an established partner that has prepared for these new targeting parameters. This positions your client’s campaigns for optimal performance potential while allowing your agency to remain profitable and competitive in your market.
At Conduit, we partner with successful agencies to extend their in-house team with a full suite of digital products designed for scaling profitably. Whether you are looking to manage capacity and bandwidth, offer a more competitive suite of services, or you just want to maximize performance, our ad operations team helps you achieve these goals without ever offshoring or outsourcing.
To learn more about how we can align with your agency to help you say “yes” to more opportunities, visit our Agency Partnership page today or schedule a 20-minute discovery call below: