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Google’s Privacy Roadmap: FLoC

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28th May 2021 in

Earlier this year, Google announced its Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) solution for third-party cookies. Bonfire’s Digital Advertising Manager, Gabe Mach discusses this new algorithm to help prepare your business for the change to privacy-first advertising.

Top Takeaways:

  • Cookie-based retargeting will disappear.
  • Audiences will be aggregated groupings of users (cohorts) based only on their past week’s online behaviour
  • Vanity domains will be limited to 5 per first-party (data collection) set – basically on a pathway to being obsolete.
  • This is still untested at scale, and Google isn’t talking about the possible workarounds/blocks to FLoC tracking.

What is FLoC?

The new FLoC algorithm came as a result of Google’s Privacy Sandbox technology as a way to replace individual identifiers used in third-party tracking. Its products will be powered by privacy-preserving APIs that discourage tracking whilst still offering valuable insight for advertisers to engage their target audience.

Why do we need FLoC?

In preparation for the removal of third-party tracking in 2022, Google has introduced a new privacy-considered method of advertising to consumers. Since the announcement in 2020, Google has actively explored new ways to meet the needs of the privacy-first world through its Privacy Sandbox technology initiative, where FLoC was born.

How does FLoC work?

Integrated with its Chrome browser, this algorithm will apply behavioural tracking to categorise users into “interest cohorts” and recalibrated on a weekly basis based on new data insights gathered. An “interest cohort” is an interest-based collective categorised by similarities in browsing activity. It is comprised of thousands of different users at any given point in time and is designed to discourage specific tracking and targeting of user-specific browser history.

What about targeting and tracking of sensitive categories?

Google has explained its plan to consistently monitor sensitive interest categories and adjust its algorithm to prevent targeting. Read more in Google’s policy guidelines.

How is it different to third-party tracking?

The critical difference between third-party tracking and FLoC is the level of tracking. With FLoC, a user is categorised with thousands of other users based on their online behaviours meaning user-specific data is not collected and shared.

How do I prepare to migrate to FLoC?

The official rollout of the FLoC system will commence in Q2 of 2021 and be completed by 2022. Several advertising strategies will be impacted due to this change, including remarketing, vanity domains, and dynamic creative optimisation. The future of remarketing and dynamic targeting in this space will focus on utilising first-party data to target relevant and engaged consumers. A new restriction of five vanity domains per brand will be mandated to remain within the first-party data parameter set by Google. How can we overcome this? SEO best practice requires brands to consolidate and publish online content under one domain.

A key priority for all businesses is to confirm any, and all lead management strategies meet Google’s first-party data standards. Alongside this, brands must firm up their Information Architecture (IA) strategy, either opting for subdomains or subfolders. Finally, implementing a CRM platform is most vital going forward for modern business. Collecting and storing a brand’s customer contacts effectively and securely lays the foundation for meaningful and targeted campaign execution.

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