Advertising as we know it is about to change. Apple is introducing a new update in iOS14 that is going to hugely impact our ability as advertisers to track our results.

Apple is blocking tracking of IDFAs (this refers to Apple’s “Identifier for Advertisers”, used by Apple devices and currently shared with Ad platforms).

The main theory behind why they have decided to do this is that Apple wants to decimate the data that Facebook and Google (their main tech rivals) have access to.  Apple will remain able to access this data themselves. At the same time, they will be advising the consumer that they can choose to no longer be tracked – this is seen as a smart “marketing” move on Apple’s part (appearing to act in the consumer’s best interests).

So what can we do about it? Let’s take a look!

What is Actually Happening?

Advertisers are losing the ability to track people clicking their ads on Apple devices – meaning a substantial loss of data for all advertising campaigns.

Google does have its own mobile ad ID so can partly track users – meaning that its situation is not quite as dire as Facebook’s. However, it looks likely that Google will follow Apple with its new privacy changes, partly to avoid regulation by the government but also to avoid consumer backlash. This means we are likely to lose this data imminently too.

Apple is changing the tracking prompt that people see when installing apps on their iPhone from opt-out to opt-in. “users will be presented with a prompt to allow or deny tracking as necessary when opening apps on iOS “. (Source)

It’s presumed that a high percentage of people won’t choose to opt-in to be tracked, therefore the default will be opt-out. This is going to result in a huge loss of data for those running targeted ads.

It is estimated that mobile data accounts for 60% of all web traffic, and Apple accounts for around 50% of this data, so it is estimated we will lose the ability to track 30% of all traffic.  It is presumed that Google will choose to follow Apple’s path later in 2021, and when Google follows suit, this will be upwards of 60%.  Therefore, it is imperative that advertisers keep abreast of the current situation.

What Data Is Being Lost?

We are losing the ability to track individual people, their characteristics (age, gender, parental status etc), plus the majority of the actions they take on our site.

The tracking that remains is the actions they take within a single session only – the pages they visit, and opt-ins they make. If they leave the session and then return later, they will be treated as a brand new visitor.

Conversion tracking will be limited to click-based only (which means that Impression based conversion tracking is out – meaning you won’t be able to see the effects of your retargeting campaigns except if they click the ad directly).  Conversions will be passed through in batches of 24 to 48 hours, meaning there will be a slight delay in tracking.  It is not possible to adjust attribution and look back for different time periods (such as 1 day, 7 day, 28 day etc). This will make lengthy funnel optimisations far more difficult to manage.

How Does It Affect Google Ads Search Campaigns?

The good news is that for most of you running Google Search campaigns that are based upon a single search in Google resulting in a single conversion – your results are not going to be hugely affected at this stage.

For those of you running lengthier funnels, however, it is a different story. You won’t be able to rely on data from previous sessions to make your decisions.

If you rely on retargeting to bring back past visitors – you will have less visibility to track if these are working to convert leads.

How Does It Affect Google Ads Display and YouTube Campaigns?

For those of you running Display campaigns, you’re going to find things more difficult. This is because you will have less ability to target people by past behaviour or characteristics. Instead, your targeting will be restricted to the page they are currently viewing.

It is presumed that on the YouTube app, Google will still be able to track those logged in to their Google accounts. This means that at this stage, it will still have access to past videos people have watched, alongside their personal characteristics.

Issues will arise when people click on YouTube ads that take them to a web browser – as at this point cookies will be blocked by Apple, and the only data that can be reported is once again restricted to a single session.

Will this Affect Google’s Automated Bidding?

Google’s AI uses personal characteristics to make decisions on bidding, so yes it will. It uses its detailed history – including past conversion data – to decide whether to show a person an ad. So it’s likely that conversions will drop, and costs will increase.

However – Google has confirmed that it will use modelled conversions for ios 14 traffic to add to the data it provides.

We don’t yet know how much this will impact the cost for advertisers, it is presumed that costs will increase as data is withheld.

Okay Claire, I’ve Heard Enough. What Can We Do About It?

We aren’t going to get this data back. Advertising is going to change substantially throughout 2021. Many targeting options we found useful will cease to exist, so we need to deal with this.

Your CRM is going to hold some of the answers. Not all of them, but enough that you can minimise the impact and at least figure out which campaigns are leading to sales, especially in lengthier sales cycles.

Rather than send data to the same landing pages you use for Facebook or organic traffic – you’ll want to create dedicated landing pages.

Consider using a single landing page for each Campaign/test you create, so you can follow the data all the way through from click to sale, especially if you have a long lead nurture process.

CRM’s such as HubSpot will be ideal, as you can track prospects from their initial signup through their entire journey. You’ll be able to see the ad they came through, every opt-in they make, every email they open – all the way through to the moment they become a customer.

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