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The best part—and some say worst—of digital advertising has always been the ability to target and track users. Advertisers have come to consider the dual measurements critical components to any digital marketing strategy. It allows them to define an audience, customize messaging to increase engagement, push users toward conversion, and then measure what works and what doesn’t. Consumers even give a general nod to the practice, with more than 40 percent saying personalized ads are important and nearly a third saying that they’re more likely to buy something attached to personalized messaging. But the downside of getting messages that appear to be made just for you is that advertisers need to know a lot about you. And they do.

Digital Ad Targeting

How much is too much?

Privacy advocates have for years decried the amount and means of data collection by digital advertisers. They have worked diligently to provide safeguards to consumers. Almost as quickly as digital ads appeared, technology to block them also came online. And with the advent of each ad blocking, anti-tracking technology and pro-privacy legislation, advertisers have hit the panic button.

Consider the EU General Data Protection Regulation of 2018. When the GDPR rules went into effect across Europe, we knew the citizen protections for personal data would wash over U.S. shores and change the way we do digital business. It did. Because the new law covered EU citizens’ data anywhere in the world, digital marketers had no choice but to step up privacy protections. And with the California Privacy Rights Act right behind its European counterpart, it was clear that digital data and tracking would have boundaries.

Both regulations came with dire warnings that proved less catastrophic than expected. The same goes for Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention and App Track Transparency and Google’s Federated Learning of Cohorts. The newest earth-shattering event unlikely to shatter the earth is Google’s FLEDGE or First Locally-Executed Decision over Groups Experiment. Instead of third-party cookies and group cohorts, this model intends to use your own browser to store info about you and your interests. You’ll still receive those sometimes useful, often annoying targeted ads, but no big outside corporation gets to save your data. Well, no big company outside of the browser’s owner. And in the case of Chrome, that’s Google. In case you’re wondering how Google will fare through all these privacy adoptions; it will be just fine. Because it doesn’t depend on third-party cookies—and neither does Facebook or YouTube, btw—there’s reason to believe the search giant will have even more of a stranglehold on the internet.

How To Advertise in an Age of Privacy

ad targeting

In case it wasn’t abundantly clear already, you’re not Google. On the other hand, you may want to advertise on Google, other search engines, and social media channels. But sending your messages out to the 300+ million U.S. users would be a colossal waste of money. Targeting is critical to any master plan. Here’s how to find your users, attract them to your products and services, get them to engage, and build your brand:

Embrace First-Party Data

Even if the absence of third-party cookies sends a shudder through your marketing plans, don’t forget that you already have a lot of first-party data. Or you should. Whether you track ad clicks, website visits, email opens, social media shares, content downloads, or form fills, you should already have a good idea of who your customers are, what they purchase, and how they like to be treated. Rely on the information and build upon it.

Build Relationships

Whether you sell tiny widgets or big-ticket items with a long sales funnel, don’t consider any purchase a one-off action. Your customers may not come back tomorrow for another purchase, but they might next year. And they have friends and family, maybe even children and grandchildren. Brand loyalty is often passed down to sons and daughters and while its value can be difficult to exactly pinpoint, by some accounts, it’s priceless.

To be your customers’ brand of choice, you need a real relationship with them. Like a trusted friend, you can invite them into your home, aka website; show them hospitality with discounts and promo codes; answer questions via a blog, and meet their needs with excellent products and services. And online loyalty programs and opt-in newsletters can make your customers feel special; exactly the way you want them to feel.

Create Content that Connects

Your products and services are the best you can deliver. You should be able to say the same about the content you create for your website, whitepapers, ebooks, infographics, ads, emails, newsletters, videos, webinars, and whatever else might resonate with your audience. Know your audience and create content that they actually want.

Measure and Optimize

Digital marketing provides ample ways to measure what you do, see what works, and toss what doesn’t. Measurement and optimization should be continuous actions that everyone in your organization understands and embraces.

Try Something New

Google has more than a 90 percent market share of search and it changes its algorithm every single day. Be like Google. Don’t be afraid to change things up from time to time. You may not be able to get ahead of Google’s algorithm, but if you always produce top-quality content, you’re more likely to win its bots’ favor. More importantly, when you take innovative chances, you show your audience you’re a leader in your field.

Obey the Rules

Without a federal privacy law, you may need to conform to rules of individual states and nations. It’s a tall order, but critical to staying relevant online. As a general rule, you need to be fully transparent about the data you collect, including how they’re collected, processed, stored, protected, and for what purpose you use them. Especially important is with whom you’ll share the collected information. You must also grant users more control of their data. You may be required to provide them access to what you hold, the ability for them to make corrections, and even delete what you have. And you need to control how the entities you work with handle data.

If you perform any kind of digital marketing, whether through an organic website, email outreach, social media, or paid ads online, you need to honor users’ privacy while also getting the kind of results that make your efforts worth the investment. At CloudControlMedia, we understand how to push the envelope without running afoul of the cybergods who monitor the digital atmosphere. Check out our complete line of digital marketing services and contact us if you need a partner who will embrace your mission and help you achieve your goals.

~Linda Emma