Ask the professional – Your high FLoC questions answered: How Google is testing cohorts, what FLoC means for B2B and the way it works with cross-device shopping


In his highly rated SMX Advanced session “FLoC and the future of Audiences”, Frederick Vallaeys, Co-Founder and CEO of Optmyzr, discussed the technology behind Google’s data protection initiatives FLoC, FLEDGE and TURTLEDOVE. The session also covered how to develop strategies to complement Google’s targeting technologies and how to find new ways to gain a competitive advantage.

After the sessions, Vallaeys answered questions from attendees who wanted to learn more about how FLoC will work for B2B advertisers, how Google is testing FLoC cohorts, and how advertisers can be heard by Big Tech on these privacy initiatives.

FLoC cohorts for B2B. FLoC is tougher because it’s less specific in some ways. Cohorts are about how to group people based on similar behaviors. There are so many behaviors and the problem with that is that I will visit websites about the sports teams that interest me, the cars that interest me, the fitness activities that interest me. But then I’ll also do some research on things to do with my PPC business, and that’s how it comes together. The problem is that a cohort is inherently less precise than an individual. The unfortunate answer is, no, we will not be able to do some of these things. We have got to this point where I think we still have the old ways and, imperfect as they may be, how much can we get from it and this relationship with a third party, a relationship with a first party, because then we can actually do it? do something useful with it.

What to expect from Google with FLoC. Google started testing this cohort mechanism and I think one of the biggest unknowns at this point is how exactly do you create the cohorts? You have these two groups of people and you can rank them based on the category they’re interested in (e.g. bikes or cars) or based on the websites they visit. And one of these cohorts is useful and the other is less, right? And how exactly do you cohort?

How Google tests cohorts. Google is constantly testing this. They did one of those tests on cohorts and basically said, we have this advertising algorithm, we’re going to put people in these cohort buckets. And we’ll split it up. In part of the split test, they used third-party cookie data. So we know you as an individual, unique user who has done all of these things. In the other, we only know that each browser belongs to exactly one cohort. But then there are plenty of cohorts that Google could say were targeted. In this test, they found that it was actually very similar in terms of cost per conversion. And that was the metric they looked at, which is actually good news for us as advertisers, right? It wasn’t primarily about how much money Google makes. It was about how successful we are as advertisers. It still gets the conversions that we think are important to us. That’s how Google did it and got pretty similar results.

How to improve the measurement of indicators and FLoC. Here, let me step on my soap box for a minute and talk about the thing that is really huge now. We can do something about it right away and get too many advertisers wrong by not telling Google what a conversion is. Yes, you do conversion tracking, but you aren’t really telling Google what is really important to you. If someone fills out a form on your page, is it a conversion? Or is that conversion but the person who filled out the form a qualified lead and actually bought something, right? If we can find ways to get that back into Google, we’ll be in good shape because that’s when Google will run these tests. And then when they tell us, hey, the cost-per-conversion, or ROAS, of results is pretty much the same as it used to be, then we know it’s actually based on what matters to us. But when we say okay, cost-per-conversion is good for people filling out lead forms, but our B2B company now sees that half of those people thought they were buying a printer for their home or business instead , then that’s bad, isn’t it? But it’s up to us to let Google know what we really want.

Cross-device browsing and FLoC cohorts. Chrome gives you the option to sign in and turn on a sync feature so that your bookmarks and browsing history are basically synced between all the devices and computers you have. I thought this means that in the weekly process when the cohort is generated you will basically get the same cohort number. That’s not the case, because Chrome has that wall between itself and the display system. And any synchronization you do will be hidden from the ad system. So there is a very good chance that if you use your mobile device in a very different way than your desktop computer, you have a different cohort. As you use your work computer for work, you may receive ads that are specific to your work personality. And then you get a different personality on your mobile device or your home computer because you fit into a different cohort, because you do different things on those computers.

Audience targeting limitations compared to traditional personalized marketing. Microsoft has this proposal called PARAKEET and Google has FLoC. Advertisers fear that so much will change that we will have to change the way we work. PARAKEET says very clearly that all the heavy lifting will be on the advertising platform side. As an advertiser, you will continue to do what you did before. But now you are not targeting an individual, but a group of individuals. But really, when you dive into FLoC, it’s pretty much the same. A lot of hard work has to be done on the advertising platform side. I think where maybe Google is a bit fair is that FLoC is a proposal that is quite evolving. So we don’t know exactly what the ad platform will build up in the end.

The targeting will still be pretty precise. When I started writing this presentation, I had information that said advertisers would no longer be able to target people who were interested in cars, but would be able to target cohorts. As an advertiser, I’m scared, right? This is such a fundamental change. How do I even find out what these cohort IDs are called? But in the end, when I wrote this presentation and spoke to Google, they said, well, actually, we’re probably just going to find out that certain of these categories of interest that we used to have are highly correlated with certain of these cohorts, and not exactly. So it won’t be as accurate as it was, but it will still be a relatively high index. It will index higher than certain of those goals we used to have, so we’ll keep picking those goals and Google will figure out who needs to protect the ads. I mean, I think a lot of this is just handled by the engines.

How advertisers can be heard in these offers. Visit Google is involved in all W3C standards and attends meetings on the subject of advertising. As advertisers, we can provide feedback on this in the forums. So understand what is happening. Bring your point of view because many of the people attending these meetings are big actors with big self-interest. So the little people among them, the little players, we also have to bring our voices to the outside world. And we can’t really do that if we don’t understand what is happening.

About the author

Carolyn Lyden is Director of Search Content for Search Engine Land and SMX. With expertise in SEO, content marketing, local search, and analytics, she focuses on making things easier for marketers with critical news and educational content.

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