Google’s Privacy Policy Update: Paid Search, Display & SEO Implications

Topic: Google’s integration of user data across all Google properties
Opportunity: More relevant paid search and retargeting opportunities; more personal organic SERPs
Channels Impacted: Paid search, display, SEO, social, video

Last week, Google announced that—as of March 1, 2012—it will be updating its Privacy Policy to enable the combination of user data from one Google service with user data from other Google services.  Google currently has 70+ different privacy policies covering its various products.  With the March 1st update, Google will have a new main Privacy Policy that treats each signed-in Google user as a single user across all Google products, including Google Search, Android, Gmail, Google+ and YouTube.  Google notes that the update will allow it “to integrate our different products more closely so that we can create a beautifully simple, intuitive user experience across Google.” 

In order to sign in to Google, users must accept the new Privacy Policy.  However, users can opt out of the customized experience or adjust/delete information that Google has collected on them via the Ads Preferences Manager.  Additionally, since Google’s announcement, sites like Gizmodo have outlined alternative options in search, email, social, calendar, photo, docs, and video for privacy-concerned Google users.  The update has also generated a request by lawmakers for Google to explain why the changes are necessary and how user privacy will be protected.

Implications for Advertisers

The point of the new Privacy Policy is to allow Google to gain user permission to share valuable user-interest data across all Google properties.  This sharing enables Google to better customize ads and search listings to each individual user.  The key is user data, including demographics and interests.  Google is already a powerhouse in search, video (YouTube) and display.  With the Privacy Policy update, Google is positioning itself as a one-stop shop for targeted advertising and exclusive use of data for buying media via its advertising channels.

As Google is able to link more user data across its properties, it will be able to provide more relevant, tailored paid search ads, display ads and organic listings.  For example, Google can tailor advertising based on each user’s interests—interests that Google discovers through what the user is talking about on Gmail, sharing on Google+ or watching on YouTube.  For search and display marketers, this could increase relevancy, thus boosting conversions and lowering advertising costs:

Paid Search & Display

Google can now leverage cross-property user data to create more unique, relevant search engine results pages (SERPs) for each user.  Let’s provide a real-life example: Informed by interests that a user expresses on Google+, Gmail and YouTube, Google can better understand which version of “Delta”—airline or faucets—a user is searching for, and provide more relevant results.  If that user has been talking to his Google+ friends about replacing his sink faucets, Google could display a Delta Faucet paid search ad on top of a Delta Airlines ad.  This can increase performance for Delta Faucet as the brand will drive more relevant clicks.  Relevancy fosters better Quality Scores, thus lowering paid search costs.


In the future, Google’s update could lead to hyper-targeting opportunities in paid search and display.  For example, a brand like Delta Faucet could say: for the “Delta” query, only bid on top of Delta Airlines in paid search for users who’ve either (1) talked about kitchen/bathroom remodeling on Google+ or (2) watched home-improvement videos on YouTube.  Vice versa, if Google Search knows that a person searched for “faucet” but didn’t click or buy, Delta Faucet could retarget that person with a display or text ad on YouTube, Gmail or another Google property.

SEO

With this update, Google can also better personalize organic rankings per user.  Staying with the “Delta” example, Google could rank Delta Faucet above Delta Airlines in the organic results if the searcher previously watched a kitchen remodeling video on YouTube.  As Google learns more about each user through the user’s interactions on all Google properties—as well as demographic and profile data (gender, age, location, married/single, kids, occupation) that the user provides to Google—the organic SERP could become vastly personal to that user.  This complicates organic search.  SEO strategies thus become intrinsically linked with Google+, YouTube and other Google property content strategies.  For instance, if your brand is highly visible on Google+, more Google+ users will interact with you; if your brand is highly visible on YouTube, more YouTube users will watch your videos.  Your brand is more likely to rank well in organic search for people who’ve interacted with you on those Google properties, thus indicating an interest.  The more interaction you can generate across all Google properties, the better you’ll ultimately do in Google Search.  Therefore, the future of SEO is as much connected to content marketing strategies as it is to traditional on- and off-page optimization techniques.

Google needed to connect all its properties in order to leverage user demographics and interests across all of those properties.  Google’s Privacy Policy update not only sets the stage for more relevant advertising opportunities for brands, it also better positions Google against companies like Facebook, which already house a wealth of connected user demographic and interest data.

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