Yes, Google tracks what you do. Yes, Google knows a lot about you. Yes, Google reads your email. Yes, it’s 2014, and no one cares.
Online privacy concerns were a hot topic in 2013 (e.g. Edward Snowden), but I suspect even more information will be gathered about all of us in 2014. Oh well. Each day, we hand over more information to Facebook, Amazon, Google and any other successful online brand. Personally, I like when Amazon recommends products I might like, when Facebook shows me updates from my closest friends, and when Google tailors their search results just for me.
Clearly, there are some boundaries when it comes to personal privacy, but I think more and more we are opting in to sharing our information, rather than worrying about our information being used inappropriately. Microsoft launched a whole advertising campaign notoriously titled “Scroogled” to deter people from Google products, but the campaign is panning out to be more of an embarrassment than anything (although, they’re clinging to it). Seriously, it’s time to start looking at information gathering as an advantage and not a problem. If you’re an advertiser, stop complaining, and start capitalizing on the information available to you.
What Does Google Know About Me?
Below is a short list of things Google tracks about you. Let’s identify what they are and how, as a marketer, you can use them to our advantage.
Your search history
Advantage: Search query data – start mining your search query data for new keyword opportunities, and start weeding out the queries that are burning your cash by adding negatives.
What pages you visited on a site, in what order, how long, and a whole lot more
Advantage: Remarketing – cookie those that have been to your site, and bring them back to purchase or to complete a desired action on your site. Better yet, segment that cookie pool, and bid higher for those that have shown more intent (e.g. added an item to your shopping cart, spent 10 minutes on your site, etc.).
Advantage: Location extensions and geotargeted bid adjustments – add location extensions to your campaigns and watch your click through rates and ad rank improve. For geotargeted bid adjustments, bid up on areas that are more profitable for you, and bid down or exclude those that are losing you money.
Your interests and demographics
Advantage: Similar user remarketing – Google profiles all of us that are logged into a Google account. (Click here to see what Google knows about you – or thinks it knows about you!) With this information, Google will create lists for you that try to mirror the interests and demographics of those in your remarketing list. So if Google finds that a lot of your site visitors are 25-year-old, English-speaking males that like football, they will create buckets of similar users which you can target. (Users can opt out of this kind of interest-based advertising if they want to, thanks to the AdChoices program.)
Your search trends
Advantage: Google Trends – know which days and months search volume for your product or service increase, and make sure you’re spending your dollars on those days/seasons. If you’re McDonalds, it might make sense for you to bid up higher on the weekends, as those looking to see if you’re open are searching on Friday and Saturday nights (blue peaks). Conversely, everyone feels guilty on Monday, and we see a spike for the search term “diets” (red peaks). (Notice the highest volume for McDonalds is the night before Thanksgiving; shockingly, this is also when people are most often disregarding their diets.)
Your Gmail information
Advantage: Gmail sponsored promotions – this is currently in beta. But you will soon be able to create ads that look like emails that appear at the top of the Gmail inbox. You can target based on the terms that are appearing in people’s inboxes. In our tests this performs much better than managed placements.
Personally, as a search marketer, I love all of the above information. If you don’t want your information being shared, just opt out. Delete your Facebook, stop using Google, block your browser cookies, and seal up that protective bubble you live in before bed tonight. As for me, I’ll sleep easy tonight knowing I’m improving my campaign results, and I probably won’t be checking under my bed for Larry Page.