What can you do to prepare for FLoC?

Google’s Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) is their newest initiative to stay ahead of data privacy issues. Without getting into overly technical details, FLoC essentially gives Google Chrome users anonymity on their actions by clustering them with similar users.

For marketers, this initiative will heavily impact the way ad campaigns are built, especially when using Google Ads. There are a lot of unknowns about FLoC, but from our experience, research, and discussions with other digital marketers, we have identified important action items on how to stay ahead of FLoC and other data privacy changes.

Here are the top three ways you can prepare your company or your clients’ companies for FLoC.

#1 Learn the cohorts

The entire concept of FLoC is based around giving users anonymity by making them a part of a cohort. As a marketer, it will be crucial to understand these cohorts in order to evaluate ad data and make the right optimizations.

Learning Cohorts will be broken down into three important stages:

  • What is a Cohort?
  • How do the Cohorts work?
  • How to prepare for Cohorts

Understanding these three things will be essential to refining your ad data collection process, post-FLoC.

What is a cohort?

A cohort, much like the literal definition, is a grouping of user browsers. Instead of advertisers being able to distinguish people as individuals their browser will be associated with a cohort of users.

Thousands of cohorts will contain thousands of users, making the user in the cohort semi-anonymous when interacting with the ad.


Google flocs cohorts


How do the Cohorts Work?

Cohorts can make marketing decisions tricky. Their anonymization of the users within the cohorts make it impossible to do direct retargeting, and significantly change the way an audience is built. Table A describes how user actions will create different results with cohorts compared to previously.

Table A: How Cohorts Change Targeting and Retargeting

Table A: How Cohorts Change Targeting and Retargeting


Consider the following example. Company A wants to create ads to target vegan digital marketers. In the current day ads (pre-FLoC) if Alice, a vegan and a digital marketer, interacts with the ad and converts; Company A can retarget Alice and build lookalike audiences around her data.

With FLoC this will work differently. Company A still wants to create an ad to target vegan digital marketers. Alice might still interact with the ad and convert. The same interactions have happened up to this point; but now, in Company A’s data, they will only see that someone from Cohort #1101 converted, not Alice.

Cohort #1101 can be retargeted, but this can be problematic for a couple of reasons.

1. Cohort #1101 may not contain many good matches for your target audience

Inside Cohort #1101 may be some people likely to convert like Alice, but it may also overwhelmingly contain people who are a poor match for the product. Robert, who sometimes runs ads for his company and is an avid nature enthusiast, has used enough websites similar to the ones Alice browses to be in the same Cohort #1101 as her. Taking a conversion from Cohort #1101 and building further action upon this information may lead us to incorrectly targeting more Robert’s than Alice’s.

2. The audience you want to retarget may no longer be in Cohort #1101

The cohort a user starts in is not the cohort they will always be in. This could cause problems for Company A if they try to retarget the person who made the conversion, Alice in this case, by using Cohort #1101’s data.

Alice might have had a side hobby of hiking and was actively searching for new hiking trails last month. This had her clustered in Cohort #1101 with Robert who similarly was looking for hiking trails. Now that they have gone back to their usual browsing searches, they have moved over to different adjacent cohorts.


How to Prepare for Cohorts

The two most important things are understanding the meaning of data from cohorts, and having a strategy ready to optimize with it.

Your company or agency might have similar products that they will sell over time. It will be important to have a data collection strategy that will identify which cohorts are the most profitable for different campaigns. For example, if you advertised a pencil targeted at a certain psychographic, then later advertised a pen with a similar psychographic audience, it is likely that a lot of the same cohorts that succeeded for the pencil will succeed for the pen.

If you can tell which cohorts will succeed from prior experience, you can start your ad campaigns off with an edge.

Keeping up so far? It’s ok if you’re not. Contact us to learn more about how to prepare your digital ads post-FLoC.


#2 Opt your websites into FLoC

Not everything about FLoC has been announced, but one thing that we know is that websites can either opt-in or out of the FLoC algorithm. What opting in will do is when an individual’s browser interacts with your website, the keywords from that website will be used to assist in defining what cohort their browser will be a part of.

Digital Marketers have been crafting a theory around this. The importance of opting in is not only concerned with the advantage for pushing website users towards a cohort related to your website. Rather the rumour is for Google to incentivise websites to opt into FLoC, they might punish websites that opted-out in regards to SEO. To ensure your website’s SEO is not put at risk, ensure your companies websites and the websites of all your clients opt into FLoC on release.

If your website relates to sensitive topics like race, medical history, or sexuality (view all the sensitive topics here), this step is less important. The FLoC algorithm will not use these sensitive topics to determine browser cohorts.

#3 Diversify your ad strategy and data collection

Being ready to make quick changes is not new to digital advertisers. But with data privacy concerns on the rise for advertising platforms (See Facebook’s response to IOS 14), it is even more important to not get stuck with just a single advertising strategy. Making efforts to advertise on multiple platforms, using multiple ad types, and collecting your own data is crucial to thriving in this dynamic environment.

One avenue that should not be largely affected by the FLoC changes is Google Search ads. Keyword searches do not require precise audience targeting to get high conversions. Being adept at creating these advertisements could be a safe campaign to fall back on.

Additionally, Facebook and Google are not the only advertising platforms. By using other platforms like LinkedIn or Pinterest, it will be easier to be opportunistic when your main platform starts showing increasing CPMs and worse results.

Lastly, first-party data is not going anywhere. Generating lead Email lists and other first-party data with your website is more valuable than it has been for a while. Even if this data cannot be collected through Google or Facebook ads, it can still be used to create lookalike audiences on these platforms. Integrating first-party data collection into your full-funnel strategies is a necessity to put your company at the forefront of digital marketing.


Closing thoughts

Regardless of how we feel about it, data-privacy changes are coming and are here to stay. While these changes will affect today’s digital marketing landscape, it should be all of our goals to do the most with whatever tools we have available. FLoC and other data-privacy initiatives will force changes in ad optimizations, but by following the three tips outlined above you, your company, or your agency will be ready to keep thriving.

Concerned about keeping up digital conversions and leads through oncoming data privacy changes? Ballistic Arts offers digital marketing packages that utilize complete marketing funnels to work towards the results you want. Contact us, we are interested in your success.