The Impact Of The GDPR On Digital Advertising

The GDPR has consequences for all digital marketing channels, including the SEA. In this article, I want to inform SEA specialists about how they should take GDPR into account in a given situation. I zoom in on the consequences for Google AdWords and Bing Ads. You will get handles to ensure that your campaigns continue to perform well after May 25, 2018.

In previous articles, my colleagues have already discussed the impact of GDPR on digital marketing in general, digital analytics and content marketing.
In which situations do you have to take GDPR for SEA into account?

For many digital marketing channels, audience characteristics, such as demographic data, interest categories, and in-market audiences are the primary means of targeting. But within SEA it is, in addition to keywords, an additional way of targeting. Nevertheless, Google has in recent years offered more and more opportunities to supplement the campaign strategy with these types of targeting methods. For that reason, there are many situations for SEA where you have to take GDPR into account. In this article you will read all about the impact of GDPR when you use as an advertiser:

  • Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA)
  • Similar Audiences
  • Conversion measurements in, for example, Google AdWords
  • The link between Google AdWords and Google Analytics
  • Google Customer Match
  • Targeting target audience attributes collected by Google, for example

In this article, I go through all the above situations, and I give you the handles that you as an advertiser have to take into account.

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA)

Almost every AdWords or Bing Ads campaign currently uses RLSA. In some cases to set a different bid, on the other hand, to show a different text or to exclude a specific group of people who have previously visited your website from your campaigns. These refinements of the campaigns often produce excellent results. It is therefore essential that you can continue to use this data within AdWords or Bing Ads. To accomplish this, you must meet the following requirements:

  • For the use of remarketing cookies, unambiguous consent must be given. This can be done through a cookie bar in which you clearly state which cookies are placed and for which you use them. The user has only permitted if he has made a conscious action to accept the cookies. For example by clicking on ‘ok’ or ‘agree’. You can find more about this in the article about the impact of GDPR on digital analytics.
  • Besides, you must state in your privacy statement that you place remarketing cookies and for what purposes you use them.

In the case of remarketing, it makes no difference if you use Google Analytics or the AdWords remarketing pixel (or the UET tag in the case of Bing) to place cookies. Also, it does not matter whether you use the cookies correctly to exclude a group of people from a campaign. If you have already received permission, you may continue to use remarketing on these cookies. Without this permission, you must logically first get permission to use this.

Similar Audiences

Based on existing remarketing lists, Google searches for people with similar behavior and corresponding personal characteristics and creates a separate remarketing list. So these are by definition people who have not been to you on the website yet and to whom you can not request permission. However, you do offer the existing remarketing lists to Google (a third party) to create similar target groups based on those data. For this reason, you must meet the following requirements for the use of similar audiences:

  • The website visitor must have given explicit permission for the use of cookies on the website
  • In your privacy statement, you must state that you collect this data to build interest profiles that you use for advertising purposes
  • In the privacy statement, you must also state that you share this information with third parties, such as Google

Lastly, Google needs permission from its users to apply this data. This is therefore not the responsibility of the advertiser.

Conversion measurements

Of course, you want as an advertiser to understand the results of your campaigns. The way to do that is with conversion measurements. For SEA this is done via the AdWords conversion code (either the UET tag in the case of Bing) or via an import from Google Analytics. With the AdWords or Bing tracking code, you place a cookie on the thank you page, so it automatically falls under GDPR.

The moment you use Google Analytics to measure conversions, you use analytical cookies. Also, in this case, you must meet the following requirements:

  • ┬áThe website visitor must give explicit permission to place the AdWords conversion code cookie. In the case of import from Google Analytics, it is necessary to request explicit permission for the placement of analytical cookies.
  • ┬áThe privacy statement must state that you use these cookies to improve digital marketing campaigns.

Google Customer Match

Google Customer Match makes it possible to upload collected e-mail addresses in the AdWords interface and to match these e-mail addresses to Google users. This way you have the possibility to, for example, set more specific bids for this group of people. To continue using Google Customer Match, you must meet the following requirements:

  • The owner of the e-mail address must have given explicit permission for the use of his data. If you want to use the e-mail address for these purposes, you should not only include this in the privacy statement of your website. You also need to include it in the agreements you enter into with customers, where you will use e-mail addresses of customers.
  • In the privacy statement, you must state that you use e-mail addresses to personalize and improve your digital marketing campaigns.

Finally, it is advisable to always have e-mail addresses before you share them with a third party (for example your digital marketing agency or Google). In this way, you ensure that this data is seen as pseudo-anonymous data. Then you have enough of the above measures.

Google Analytics Link

Many advertisers have linked Google Analytics to AdWords to gain additional insights into website use after clicking an ad. In this case, you must meet the requirements for placing analytical cookies. What you have to comply within this situation, you can read the article about the impact of GDPR on digital analytics by my colleague Felipe Wesbonk.

Targeting characteristics via third parties

Audience characteristics offer opportunities to personalize the ads within Google AdWords. This way you can focus your campaigns on specific characteristics such as age, gender, and parental status. All these features are collected by Google and made available within Google AdWords. In this case, it is Google’s responsibility to obtain permission to collect and make the user profiles available to advertisers. For the use of this data, you do not need permission, because Google has this permission from its users.

All in all, the GDPR impact is on the SEA.

The bottom line is that as an advertiser you have to look carefully at the data you need for running and improving your SEA campaigns. You also need to look at which data you may want to use in the future. Then you must take the above measures to ensure that you meet the requirements of GDPR. If this is the case, you can continue to improve your SEA campaigns after 25 May. Do you miss a situation in this article where you should potentially consider GDPR? Or do you have any questions? Leave a comment!


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