How to build a framework for PPC measurement in 2023

Here'a a review of the measurement tools that are available right now that should serve as the building blocks.

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Change is coming.

The way we measure and attribute performance in PPC is going to evolve in 2023.

Third-party cookies will be retired.

You need to be ready.

There is no better time than now to start rebuilding your PPC measurement framework.

What makes the new measurement ‘privacy-safe’

Historically, PPC advertisers have relied on third-party cookies to measure campaign performance and build remarketing audiences.

These types of pixels are not focused on user privacy.

Third-party cookies are designed to track user behavior. Often, they also gather user data that is outside of their intended usage and scope.

Users can be tracked across websites, platforms and apps with just a single third-party cookie. These tracking activities violate the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and other privacy restrictions. 

Your new measurement framework will be built with proprietary data and first-party cookies that you own. 

These types of measures will not track users or gather their personal information.

Your updated measurement practices will still analyze the activity on your website in regard to visits, sales and other metrics. However, you will not be able to place pixels on devices that track user behavior beyond the proverbial walls of your walls. 

PPC platforms are developing new measurement tools that adhere to privacy regulations while still providing advertisers with as much data as possible. While many of these new tools do not provide additional data, they do let advertisers use their own data to optimize their PPC campaigns.

Platforms like Google and Microsoft certainly care about user privacy, but the financial health of their business relies on getting new measurement tactics right.

Approximately 90% of Google’s revenue is generated by advertising, meaning they have billions of dollars on the line here. 

What are the new PPC measurement opportunities?

Currently, many of your PPC measurement and audience practices are centered around a few third-party cookies.

Sometime in the next 18 months, there will not be a simple one-for-one solution that replaces your third-party cookies.

This is why we continuously refer to your new “measurement framework.”

It is likely that you will need to rely on multiple tracking methods to acquire data sets that are similar to what you have now. 

First-party data strategy

In the near future, the cornerstone of your PPC measurement and audience management will be built upon your own first-party data.

In regard to measurement, this means tracking PPC performance within your analytics and/or client relationship management (CRM) platform.

I could write an entire manual on building a first-party performance measurement practice (or, someone smarter than could write one). If you do not have complete faith in your company’s back-end tracking, now is the time to set the record straight. 

It’s important to point out that building PPC remarketing audiences from third-party cookies will not be a viable tactic. Your company needs to have first-party audience data that can be used to build new audiences.

The most common attribute of these audiences is an email address and phone number.

The more data points you have per user, the more likely they are to match back to a Google and/or Microsoft account.

This means you’ll be able to find users for targeting, exclusions, or building similar audiences.

This is critical. You need to start this process now.

Privacy-safe website tagging

You can still use tracking on your website, but you can’t use third-party cookies.

The new Google Tag (formerly Google Global Site tag) adheres to international privacy regulations and should be durable in terms of restrictions. 

Another benefit is that the new Google Tag is configured to be compatible with the entire suite of Google digital marketing products. This means one pixel will provide the necessary data gathering functionality for Google Ads, Google Analytics, SA360, and DV360. 

The new Google Tag should be one of the bedrocks of your new measurement framework. 

You should already have a Universal Event Tracking Tag (UET) from Microsoft in place. But if you don’t, now is the time to place this pixel on your website.

UET is the core measurement tactic from Microsoft that needs to be a critical component of your measurement framework in 2023. 

PPC measurement after third-party cookies go stale

Enhanced Conversions

This Google feature can improve the accuracy of your conversion measurement. It supplements your existing conversion tags by sending hashed first-party conversion data from your website to Google in a privacy-safe way. 

When a customer completes a conversion on your website, you may receive first-party customer data such as an email address, name, home address and/or phone number.

This data can be captured in your conversion tracking tags, hashed, sent to Google in its hashed form, and then used to enhance your conversion measurement.

Setting up Enhanced Conversions is not very labor-intensive. This is especially true if you already have a tag manager solution implemented on your website. Google has published extensive implementation documentation to help launch this solution. 

Google Analytics 4 (GA4)

Advertisers will still be able to track website data and user engagement because GA4 will gather information via Google Tag. GA4 should serve as another critical element of your website measurement plan going into 2023.

Keep in mind, if you are currently using Google Analytics (GA), you need to migrate your account to Google Analytics 4 by July 2023

I recommend initiating the GA4 transition process now.

You can not import historical performance data from your current GA account to your new GA4.

Data within GA4 begins to record when you create your new account and set up the new pixel. This is why you should migrate to GA4 as soon as possible.

Migrating now is especially important for ecommerce. If you do not launch your GA4 instance before the holiday season, then that data will not appear in your GA4 going into next year.

Do not procrastinate – you could lose your 2022 holiday data!

Offline conversion tracking

Sometimes, an ad doesn’t lead directly to an online sale but does start a customer down a path that ultimately leads to a sale in the offline world, such as at your office or over the phone.

By importing offline conversions via offline conversion tracking (OCT), you can measure what happens in the offline world after your ad results in a click or call to your business.

Importing offline conversion events gives you a more comprehensive look at which keywords and targeting criteria drive the most cost-effective conversions. This data can help you target and optimize your campaigns to drive growth.

This is where your first-party data can really help you with privacy-focused measurement. However, of all these solutions mentioned here, this is the most time-intensive. 

Smart Goals

Smart Goals from Microsoft Advertising uses machine learning (ML) to understand the value of each visitor to your website. When you have the UET tag installed on your website properly, the Microsoft Ads platform will automatically analyze each visitor to your website to determine which sessions resulted in a conversion.

“Smart goals use multiple signals to identify conversions. Some of the signals that are used include session duration, pages per session, location, device, and browser,” according to Microsoft

You do not have to do anything in your accounts since Smart Goals are created by Microsoft Advertising automatically.

If your account is eligible for Smart Goals, you will receive a notification from Microsoft. So, check your accounts and hopefully you have access to this helpful tool!

Your new measurement framework has options

As you can see, there isn’t one solution that simply replaces your reliance on third-party cookies.

The solutions mentioned above are all viable for measuring your performance. But it’s likely that you will use more than one method to gauge PPC performance.

That’s fine, but you should review all of your options – today!

Contributing authors are invited to create content for Search Engine Land and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the search community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.

About the author

Joseph Kerschbaum
Joseph Kerschbaum is Senior Vice President of Search & Growth Labs for 3Q/DEPT. During his 20 years of experience in digital marketing, Joseph has worked with businesses of every size from SMBs to enterprise-scale. Joseph has been a regular speaker at digital marketing conferences for over a decade. Joseph is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land. He is co-author of the Wiley/Sybex book, “Pay-Per-Click SEM: One Hour a Day," which was published long enough ago to be outdated but that is a good thing because SEM is such a dynamic industry.

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