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How Are iOS 14 Changes Affecting Google Ads?

Kyle: Welcome to the Google Ads Strategy show! I’m your host, Kyle Sulerud, and today I have someone with me and we are going to talk about the iOS 14 changes. In case you have not heard about these changes, it’s basically the end of the world and nobody’s going to be able to advertise anything on the Internet and more.

Well, not exactly. That’s a little extreme, but if you listen to some of the chatter online, you may be getting that impression. Let me introduce my guest, Drew Carrell, and we can dive into iOS 14 changes. Drew is actually a media buyer, so he’s a lot closer to this tracking stuff and has more hands-on experience, so I wanted to bring him on. Drew was also a long-time podcast listener and applied to work at AdLeg and now here he is.

Let that be a lesson to anyone listening that if you listen to this podcast, great things could really happen to you too.

Drew, welcome to the show!

Drew: Awesome, thanks! Happy to be here.

Kyle: So what is going on with iOS 14? Can you give us a broad overview of what’s happening and then we can dig into some details a little more?

Drew: Sure! Well, iOS 14 has definitely been called the Armageddon of tracking recently. I don’t know if that’s entirely the case, but it’s definitely hindered some of our abilities to track and optimize campaigns.

As an overview, basically, they have not changed anything dramatically. Technically, on the back end, what it’s really done is allowed iOS users the option to opt-out of tracking upfront when they download an app.

The way it worked before is that you’ve always had the option, but you’ve had to go into your app settings to actually opt-out of IDFA (identification for advertisers) to allow advertisers to customize your ad experience essentially on the app. So now Apple has decided that this is something you need to be aware of upfront when you download the app and have the option to either opt-in or opt-out of it.

Kyle: Okay, and how is this affecting Google Ads and YouTube Ads tracking?

Drew: Well, essentially what it’s done is it’s increased the pool of people who are opting out of the tracking. Prior to this, the tracking has never been perfect natively for YouTube and Google.

There’s always been some tracking that slips through the cracks and that’s people who have gone into the back end of their settings and then opted out of the tracking.

Now, with the changes, and I’m sure it’s going to change even more over time, but currently what we’re seeing is we’re only tracking about 60% of mobile traffic. So, it’s a 40% difference that we’re missing and it’s even more extreme on tablets. It seems like we’re almost missing about 80% of traffic, so it’s pretty dramatic. Now, desktop is pretty well the same. We get above 90% of traffic conversions tracked. We’ve not seen a lot of difference there. It’s mainly the mobile and tablet device where we’re seeing the issues.

Kyle: You’re just talking about YouTube Ads now, right?

Drew: Yes, that’s correct.

Kyle: So with Google search ads, is there much of a problem right now?

Drew: It seems like there could be. I think nothing major has popped up in anything that we’ve seen mainly because there hasn’t been a lot of updates, specifically for browser apps. But what we could potentially see if this affects Google click ID is that it could affect how other third-party softwares are integrating with our tracking. For example, CallRail and their call pools use specifically Google Click ID to dynamically place phone numbers on websites, so that we’re able to track those phone calls. There’s a potential that could be dramatically affected by this as well.

Kyle: But, as of now we’re not really seeing those differences with Google search, right? But we are with YouTube, so can you explain that a little more? Why is there this difference between YouTube ads vs Google search ads?

Drew:  Sure, I think the biggest difference is that YouTube is primarily used through its app. So, when you get an Apple phone, you get the YouTube app downloaded on it. Even if you’re using a browser, you’re constantly being prompted to get the app.

This update has really affected apps so the reason we’re seeing it on YouTube is that the app has been blocked from using IDFA. It blocks from being able to pull data off of your phone to be able to track conversions and other things as well. We’re not seeing this affected so much in web browsers. Google search is typically something done on a web browser and those things don’t seem to have been blocked yet from IDFA and they don’t rely so much on IDFA.

Because a browser typically is the main force for Google and Google owns most of the browsers that people are using, it tracks in a different way. It’s able to bypass this IDFA issue and uses its own source of traffic tracking that isn’t affected by the IDFA.

Kyle: So there seems to be this battle going on between Apple and they’re battling against Google and Facebook, so you keep saying that, as of now, things are still okay on browsers. Do you think that’ll change? Do you think Apple’s going to keep making it harder for advertisers to track users on iPhones and iPads?

Drew: Yeah, I think there are two conversations there. I think Apple is always going to be trying to appease its users. Right now, there’s a big push on privacy, and users all don’t want to share their information. Apple is trying to make their user experience that much better by going, “Okay, people are afraid of sharing their information, so let’s give them a very upfront way of making sure that they don’t have to.”

Now, Google, Facebook, and all of these other platforms are going to have to combat that in their own way. We’re already starting to see, with one advertising platform for example, is that they’re trying to combat it by educating people as to why they would want to be tracked because it’s going to enhance their experiences across these Apps.

Being able to have ads that are more specific to them and more relatable to them is good for the advertiser and also the user. Like it’s nice for me to see things that I’m interested in is as opposed to seeing high heels or women’s clothing.

You know, it’s going to take away from my experience of them. So, YouTube, Google, and Facebook are going to start doing the best they can to start educating users as to why they may want to opt into it. We’re going to see this push and pull. We’ll probably end up somewhere in the middle. I don’t imagine that’s going to just increasingly get worse for advertisers. I think that we’re just going to have to be dynamic and change with it as it happens.

Kyle: Yeah, so I think there’s kind of two parts of this. There’s the ability to target people, based on their interests. The solution to that would just be contextual targeting, where we’re targeting them more based on the type of content they’re looking at if we’re not allowed to target them based on their interests and their behavior.

That’s not a huge deal. It’s certainly a blow to some of our types of targeting, but not the end of the world. What seems to be a bigger issue is that we can’t track what they’re doing. We can’t track their conversions and, therefore, we can’t optimize for what’s happening in our campaigns.

So this seems like I need to be much quicker at getting my doomsday bunker ready and stocked up because, if I can’t track what people are doing for my campaigns, that’ll be the end of the world. Is that true, Drew? Is it going to be the end of the world? Let’s say this all goes completely south and Google doesn’t have a solution and we can’t track anyone’s conversions. What do we do in that case?

Drew: I think there are two options there. Option number one – start building the doomsday bunkers. Just accept it it’s all coming down.

The other option is we can prepare ourselves in terms of really creating a database for our business that has nothing to do with the ad platforms that we’re using. So, we separate the two because right now, they’re kind of integrated together. We take our customer data and it’s integrated with our ad platforms. We really rely on that relationship to track campaigns and optimize campaigns and scale campaigns. Now, we’re forced to be able to really build our own database and/or use the databases we already have that we’re not necessarily utilizing. So, for example, with this update (and if it gets keeps getting worse and we’re unable to track people back and forth from our website to the ad platform), we’re still able to track who is on our website. We’re still able to see how many opt-ins we’re getting and who is opting in. They’re giving us their information in exchange for some sort of value, whether it’s to watch a webinar or whatever that might be.

So we can still take that information and take our customer list and upload it back into the ad platform to retarget these people if that’s what we want to do. There are other things we could do, like take our list and create a lifetime value for those people. This allows us to know what we’re able to spend on advertising and really just work on the top of funnel metrics and get people to our website. We can then measure on our side what the conversion rates are and use our customer data that way, as opposed to relying on Google user customer data for us.

Kyle: Yeah, I think we might not actually be able to upload our customer list because that’s then going to require Google to connect that to their audiences, which might be data they don’t have. But I think your point is solid – we just need to find new ways of doing things. Before the Internet, plenty of businesses made plenty of money advertising. Either they didn’t track stuff or they figured out creative ways to track things. One of my favorite split tests, I believe it was the first video split test ever done, was when Kellogg’s was trying to figure out who would be the mascot for Frosted Flakes. Would it be Tony the Tiger, or would it be Katie the Kangaroo?

I think we all know how the story ends, but basically, they ran half the commercials with Tony the Tiger and half the commercials with Katie the Kangaroo. Then they had both options on the store shelves. Lo and behold, they figured out which was going to be the better option by figuring out which mascots sold more boxes of cereal.

If they can come up with a solution like that, figure out which ad is going to work the best, I think we’re going to be just fine. In this digital age, we don’t have to go to such extreme lengths. Even if Google’s not going to tell us what our conversions are, we’re going to be able to figure out data in a much faster, cheaper, and reliable way.

Drew: Right, I absolutely agree with that.

Kyle: So I think we pretty much covered things here, Drew. Is there anything we forgot or anything that you want to add?

Drew: I don’t think so. I think, right now, it’s just about monitoring what’s happening and exactly like you were saying – stay flexible and see what other ways we can do to measure performance of our campaigns. There will always be a solution – it’s just a matter of finding it.

Kyle: Alright, thanks for coming on the show, Drew!