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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – April 2013

Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – April 2013

Welcome to the April issue of our monthly newsletter, which covers news, tips and advice on effective website marketing techniques and trends.

In the first article this month we take a look at ‘cookies’ – what they are, how they work and the escalation in privacy concerns and regulations over them, which are becoming an increasing concern for online marketers.

In the final article this month, we follow up on last month’s focus on Google’s introduction of Enhanced AdWords campaigns for the Search Network, with more details about those for Display Network campaigns, which have just been introduced.

You can read more below, or you can also browse through previous editions of the newsletter, either by month or by subject. You can also follow us on Twitter for the latest developments during the month, or follow our Facebook page or Google+ page for updates.

On to this month’s edition…

HTTP Cookies and Privacy Concerns

The issue of ‘cookies’ is becoming increasingly important for websites, online marketers and privacy advocates. Cookies have traditionally been used by websites to track visitor activity and repeat interactions, as well as what those visitors do on a website through tools such as Google Analytics. The use of these tracking cookies has become increasingly sophisticated, but online users are also more concerned about their role, leading to privacy concerns and recent changes to legislation in Europe.

A cookie (aka HTTP cookie, web cookie, or browser cookie) is usually a small piece of data sent from a website and stored in a user’s computer or device, or in the web browser while a user is browsing a website. When the user browses the same website in the future, the data stored in the cookie can be retrieved by the website to notify it of the user’s previous activity so that repeat behaviour can be tracked (such as by Google Analytics), or advertisers can use cookies to display relevant adverts to web users based on their tracked behaviour.

Although cookies were originally designed as basic tracking mechanisms, they have now progressed beyond this and have become a crucial component for marketers to target advertising and to implement direct marketing techniques to relevant prospects. This tracking activity has raised privacy concerns to an extent that prompted European authorities to take action in 2011. The European Union’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive began to dictate that “explicit consent” must be gathered from web users who are being tracked via cookies. As a result, all websites in the UK, for example, that use tracking cookies, need to make this clear and give visitors the option to block these when they use the website.

This area is increasingly becoming a issue between privacy advocates and web users on the one hand, who don’t want their online activity to be tracked, and online businesses on the other, who want to target and improve their marketing activity. This includes user tracking which many websites now do through tools such as Google Analytics, and targeted advertising which companies can use, from behavioural marketing to remarketing activity – which should increase relevancy and reduce advertising costs.

In the past month, Mozilla announced their intention to include a default setting that disables third-party cookies by default in upcoming releases of their Firefox browser. This prompted the US Interactive Advertising Bureau to state that it will fight the move, which it describes as being “a nuclear first strike against the ad industry”, as without the third party data companies will simply not be able to track users across sessions. Firefox may be hoping that this move will attract more web users to start using their browser and if that proves to be the case, then the other main browsers such as Google’s Chrome and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, are more likely to follow suit.

This could be a backward step for online businesses, who will lose valuable information and the option to improve the targeting of their advertising. For web users, it can also mean less relevant advertising and a reduced user experience. If you’d like to know more about cookies and how they can affect your online business or privacy, contact us now.


Google’s Enhanced AdWords Campaigns for the Display Network

Following Google’s recent introduction of the new Enhanced Campaign settings for AdWords search campaigns (which we featured last month), the company has just announced the availability of these settings for the Display Network as well. The Display Network covers those 3rd party websites that carry Google AdWords ads, either in text, image or video format, and allows advertisers to extend the reach of their advertising beyond the main search area. So, what are the implications of this further development?

Some commentators were surprised that the initial launch of the Enhanced Campaign settings didn’t apply to the Display Network as well as Search, although there are significant differences between the two. The reason behind the enhanced campaigns for the Display network is to simplify the process of reaching the right person with the right advert, in the right location, at the right time, on the right device. This will now be possible from within a single campaign, whereas previously it was recommended to separate campaign by the type of device they were targeting (i.e. mobiles/tablets/desktops).

The fact that Google has different Enhanced Campaign settings for Display and Search means that this, at first glance, is good news for Display advertisers. Google kept some features for Display advertisers that they took away from Search advertisers: namely, device targeting. In fact, Enhanced Campaigns for display ads have even more device targeting options than ‘legacy’ campaigns and allow for display ads to target specific mobile devices.

This prospect may not be as rosy as it first seems however, as it’s harder to converge devices around Display, because of the differences in capabilities. Rich media and flash ads are pretty prevalent (and successful) on Display, but will struggle to get any traction on mobile platforms. So for the time-being at least, advertisers aren’t being forced to combine the devices on Display campaigns. It’s safe to bet though that this will happen once Google works out the technical implications around image ad formats.

So the long-term advantages are that when you upgrade a Display campaign you get bid adjustments, just like the multipliers on search. Instead of adjusting per device you get to adjust per target. At ad group (or campaign) level you can now specify the multiplier for a target. These multipliers will work together so that users who match multiple targets get even higher bids.

The disadvantage is that a user matching multiple targets isn’t necessarily more likely to convert than a user who matches one, if that one target is well defined. So if a person matches many targets your bid might reach unprofitable levels. This approach is also likely to encourage broader targeting at the basic level, so it’ll be important to use low bids on broad targets in conjunction with high multipliers to appropriately target the high value users.

So the initial benefits in the settings for the Enhanced Display Campaigns are not as straightforward as they may first appear, but on the whole, the industry opinion is that the extra control that they provide is going to be positive.

For more information about Google’s Enhanced AdWords campaigns for the Display Network, please contact us for details.

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