29 Aug 2012
Privacy vs. Targeting in Search
Your potential customers should know by now that you’re keeping tabs on them. After all, it’s no secret that if you’re on a computer or other device with smart technology, your activity is being tracked. That said, most people may not be aware of exactly what details are being tracked. As the line between specialized targeting and breach of privacy becomes more blurred, you may have to tiptoe to ensure that you don’t have angry, violated people on your hands. There may come a time when these users say, “enough is enough”. Data collection will inevitably be stilted, so for now, make sure your customers are happy and still place their trust in you.
Traditionally, the majority of data collected used to revolve around certain websites that a user visited. Though this method is still used to a degree, the means to gather data is much less limited than it was in the past. Now users freely give up their information on social networking sites where they list everything from their phone number to their favorite sushi joint. The rise of apps has given advertisers more insight than ever. They can easily give themselves permission to track a devices’ location, or even delve into call logs and text message folders through confusing “allow” buttons, and fine print. This information wouldn’t typically be considered within the bounds of Personally Identifiable Information (PII), however, it’s being collected, and for many, it’s already taking it a step too far.
Modern technology is providing more targeting opportunities than ever, but critics are skeptical about the usefulness of some information. Behavioral targeting in particular starts to get muddy, because while a list of sites that a user visits could bear weight on whether a display ad should appear in their path, simply knowing a list of that user’s favorite movies on Facebook may not. The vastness, while exciting, can also complicate the targeting process, and offend users at the same time. This is obviously not a desirable result. Targeting should be set up thoughtfully and the information used should not be overly intrusive or obtuse. A 1000% rise in poor click through rates (.001) may just be one result of relying too heavily on this “big data”.
It’s logical to worry about a time when customers rise up against this data collection and reclaim their rights to privacy. We already see initiatives like the “Do Not Track” (the web’s equivalent to the phone’s “Do Not Call” list) movement popping up on the interweb. And speaking of pop-ups – folks have been blocking those for some time now. These are all just signs that people are fed up with being constantly bombarded by ads when browsing online. The time will come, and when it does, let’s go back to simpler times. Remember the good old days when gender, age and geographic demographics were enough to get your point across. Going back to basics can actually be a good thing, especially if you feel that some of your targeting may have started flying off the rails.
There is a settings feature in AdWords known as frequency capping that can benefit your cause. This feature ensures that the same ads are not shown to users over and over again. After all, you don’t want to drive your customers crazy, and you ultimately want them coming back for more. With frequency capping, you can set the number of times your ad is shown to certain users on the Display Network for a given amount of time (per day, per week, per month, etc.) You can modify these settings by visiting the “Settings” tab in AdWords and then clicking “Advanced Settings”. Next click the “Edit” button located next to “Frequency Capping.” By limiting the number of times that your ad is shown, your potential customers don’t have to feel like you’re constantly on their backs, or watching their every move. It alleviates that sense of urgency while still being prominent enough to stay top of mind.
Many professionals believe that we will start to see a natural balance occur in regards to how consumers will be reached. As users become more open about their frustration, advertisers will need to find new ways to reach these people. Remarketing is a great targeting option because you can reach out to potential customers who have already shown interest. It’s certainly less irritating if a user understands why you may be reaching out again. Perhaps they remember that they left your site, leaving behind a full shopping cart of items. This approach will help you supply useful messaging to your targeted audiences rather than just throwing meaningless ads into cyberspace.