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Privacy Updates Are Changing the Rules of Digital Marketing – Here’s How to Respond

By Tuesday December 13th, 2022

As ad platforms change the rules of the game, adapting to the current state of digital marketing can make or break your success. We’ll show you what’s changing and how shifting your mindset can help your marketing campaigns come out on top.

Keep reading and see how you can avoid getting left behind your competition as we show you:

  • How changes in advertising platforms affect how you reach your audience
  • How evaluating success with marketing campaigns will change
  • What platforms and metrics you need to leverage to find success
  • Why first-party data is becoming integral to any marketing campaign
  • How to shift your marketing strategy for the future

The last decade has spurred an unprecedented interest in marketing as digital advertising networks launched, grew, and made access to tools easier and cheaper than ever before. Anyone could get in on the digital advertising game relatively quickly and cheaply, and track the performance of these investments accurately from start to finish to measure their ROI. 

However, major players that quickly rose to the forefront of digital advertising are changing the rules of the game due to pressures to protect user privacy. As personal data collection and access spread across the internet, users became increasingly wary of how their information was being used by sites, which set the stage for advertising platforms to respond with restrictions on how advertisers could utilize their ad networks. These shifts are not just top-down changes that advertising companies are forcing on marketers as a strategy for their own growth, but changes requested by end-users.

Since Google announced its Privacy Sandbox in 2019 and their eventual discontinuation of cookie tracking, Apple and Facebook have made similar changes to increase user privacy and hide details available to marketers. With Apple’s launch of iOS 14 in 2020 that allowed users to opt out of tracking across apps and websites, it became more difficult for marketers to see the impact and efficacy of their digital campaigns to the level that they have become used to. 

Similarly, over the last few years, Facebook has been changing policies by regularly removing targeting capabilities in certain categories, like religion and health conditions, which is limiting the granularity with which digital advertisers can operate.

With all of these changes heading in the direction of anonymized data and limited targeting options, marketers have been forced to adapt to changes. But, the adjustments that marketers choose will make or break their success. These large structural changes require more than simple targeting updates or changes to conversion points. 

The best marketers and most successful companies will overhaul their approach to marketing in the next few years to react to, and anticipate, more privacy-related changes. As you adapt your approach to paid media, it’s crucial to tie your campaigns to your business goals and KPIs in order to protect your business against the rapidly changing marketing landscape and ensure continued digital advertising success. 

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The impacts of the privacy push

For the last 10 years, the ease of tracking user activity through third-party cookies made gathering data and reporting easy for marketers. There was a full picture of the various touch points customers would hit before buying a product, submitting a form, or converting through any high-value action. End-to-end tracking was dependable with cookies that kept tabs on people as they used the internet. Now, it will be difficult to reliably follow customers around online and know how they’re engaging with ads and organic content. 

Now, with the gradual phase out of third-party data, there are already gaps in data as platforms adapt to changes like iOS 14’s tracking opt out. Platforms have less visibility into what users do once they leave the app, or can no longer share data collected with third-parties. Instead, it’s now the era of the “black box,” where companies input their broadest targeting, budgets, and creative angles into platforms, enabling the platforms themselves to handle optimizing based on their secretive algorithms.

Think of Google’s move away from expanded text ads, where marketers could control the combinations of headlines and descriptions searchers saw, to responsive search ads where Google automatically mixes and matches headlines and descriptions it thinks will perform best. The decline of visibility into specific asset success means that it will be difficult to determine creative that’s working and what’s not on a granular level. 

Shifting your mindset for the future

Finding success in future marketing efforts will take more time and different approaches to testing than before. Patience and an open mind will become the most valuable assets to a successful pivot. Taking the time to establish what success looks like for your company and learning how to leverage platforms to your advantage will benefit you in the long run, especially as other businesses shy away from marketing due to these changes. 

Similarly, shifting your mindset and your idea of success will help you hone in on the metrics and goals that are most valuable to your business. The lack of visibility and inability to take deep dives into data will require marketers to update their overall approach to marketing strategy. Without reliable end-to-end tracking and reporting, it will be hard to make impactful small-scale changes like before. Updating small details like ad headlines or assets used to affect results, but as platforms take more control over the data they share, larger changes like campaign goals or broader targeting will take their place. Similarly, lack of tracking capabilities means marketing efforts will be siloed across the funnel stages with little visibility into how top of funnel efforts impact bottom of funnel campaigns.

A return to more traditional marketing analysis

As a result, businesses will need to embrace a return to the philosophies of more traditional marketing approaches when it comes to evaluating success. Goals and KPIs will need to become broad to accurately measure success and set companies up for attainable goals. Think in terms of traditional metrics used in areas like brand marketing. 

Metrics that measure overall brand performance will become more meaningful for a company’s bottom line than data about how many purchases came from a specific variation of an Instagram ad, as that information will become almost impossible to rely on. Instead, think in terms of overall brand sentiment, bounce rate on key pages of your site, and customer lifetime value to accurately assess the success of your marketing efforts.

The metrics that become important will vary across marketing funnel stages. While it will be more difficult to get the exact number of people who interact with your brand across the internet then become a customer, looking at big picture data will still give you reliable feedback on the success of your campaigns. For example, it may be impossible to see if your organic social strategy leads directly to product purchases, but you can use data at each step in that process to give you directional data about your efforts.

At the top of your funnel, brand awareness is the most important. While you can’t know how people heard about your brand in most cases, you can monitor who takes action based on that knowledge. Tracking branded searches is a great way to gauge how many people are aware of your brand and are looking for more information about you. 

With Google Analytics and Search Console you can see what searches lead people to your site, and you’ll want to track anything related to your company’s name or products. Metrics like impressions, follows, and comments on social sites are another good place to watch so you can see how wide your reach is outside of your site. Now, many people discover brands through social media with recommendations or word of mouth so it’s important to keep an eye on the activity on social.

For the middle of the funnel, your site will be the best place to learn about your prospective customers. Using Google Analytics to see where people are coming to your site from, what pages they’re browsing, where they’re exiting your site, and other quality metrics. This can help you determine opportunities to improve your site and make conversions easier, or what information people in the consideration stage are looking for. This type of evaluation allows you to adapt your MOF messaging or approach to close those gaps. 

You’ll also want to consider how you’re speaking to your earned audience, both your contact list (like an email list) and your followers on social. Providing relevant, helpful content to both types of contacts can help you expand your reach and speak to people who are already interested in your brand, but may need a little nudge to move to the next step.

When it comes to the bottom of your funnel, traditional metrics will still be useful. You’ll want to keep a close eye on any valuable conversions, like a lead capture, a purchase, or an informational call. Most likely these are already visible in your marketing data, but being able to tie these conversions to other efforts will be key. See if you can identify a particular ad, newsletter, or landing page that has a high conversion rate and understand why it works.

The unavoidable importance of first-party data

One of the most important changes companies can make to adapt to recent changes, and in anticipation of future ones, is to prioritize the collection of first-party data. Unlike third-party data, first-party data is owned, collected, and managed directly by your company. You can then leverage that data to conduct first-party marketing through email marketing, like newsletters or drip campaigns, or SMS campaigns. 

The people you maintain on these lists have already engaged with your company, even if it’s just signing up for a newsletter. Since these contacts have already volunteered their information to you, they know you’ll be reaching out to them. This is different for third-party data sources where the people you’re speaking to don’t necessarily sign up for marketing communication from your company. 

Shifting your approach to growing these customer and lead lists will become more important as these privacy updates roll out across advertising platforms. It also benefits you to make the switch since you can directly reach out to these leads with emails, SMS texts, or retargeting campaigns, making your marketing efforts more personalized and targeted.

However, getting that contact information in the first place can be difficult. You need to offer something worthy of an exchange for someone’s contact information, like a free discovery call, a valuable content piece, or a tool that helps resolve your audiences’ pain points. You’ll also be competing with the advertising platforms to obtain customer information since they’re recognizing the importance of keeping users on their platform, instead of linking out to other advertising offers. 

For example, LinkedIn launched Document Ads that replace the need for a landing page to provide a content offer, so that they can keep their users on the platform while providing contact information capture points for marketers. More ad types like this will pop up in the future as these platforms also lose their ability to track their users across the web.

The steps required to adapt

While major changes are hitting the marketing landscape and will continue to do so, companies that are agile and can read the signs will successfully transition their marketing strategies. To get ahead of platform changes, these will be the most important shifts in strategy and mindset companies will need to make.

Silo your efforts by stage

Since it will become harder to track your customers from the first engagement with your company down to their purchase, you’ll need to approach each funnel stage differently. Looking at each stage separately will help you create concrete, measurable goals for each campaign and help you determine your success on a smaller scale to create the bigger picture.

Diversify your marketing within each stage

As platforms change how marketers operate, looking to new channels and opportunities will be just as important as diversifying your approach across funnel stages. Look into new channels that your marketing team can tap outside of search and social ads, like earned media or traditional print advertising. 

Adjust your budgets for extended testing periods 

Granular data has helped marketers make miniscule changes in ads to optimize for cost per clicks that are cents cheaper. Now without that visibility and platforms’ increased obfuscation of performance it will be harder for marketers to make those incremental changes. You’ll need to allocate more money than previously to advertise successfully, but with smart, strategic campaigns you can make up the difference. 

Rely on holistic models

The best way to predict performance and plan budgets will be with performance projection models that account for the entirety of your marketing strategy, so that success can be visualized and tracked for each campaign. To make the most of your money, isolate budgets based on each stage of your funnel and the specific goal you need to achieve for each. This will give you an accurate picture of what you need each goal to cost for a successful, scalable marketing program. It will be easier to keep budgets in check if you can reverse engineer them based on the end results you want. 

For example, if you know you need 20 purchases in a month, you can take a step back and understand that means you need at least 250 qualified visitors to your product page with a conversion rate around 8%. Knowing that ad traffic isn’t always quality, you assume you need to get at least 500 clicks on your ads to get 250 quality pageviews, which gives you a sense of where to set your ad spend budget.  




After years of providing tracking capabilities allowing marketers to get granular with their insights, advertising platforms and their users are changing the rules of the game with more restrictions on targeting and ad policies. While it may spell doom and gloom for those who are unaware of the changes and unprepared to adapt, businesses and marketers who keep their ear to the ground can successfully get ahead of platform changes. 

The main difference between success and struggle will be a company’s mindset — keeping an open mind as digital marketing capabilities shift and realigning their expectations with what is possible and achievable. One way to start preparing for the changes is with strategically-minded ad campaigns that are tied to your overall business goals. Start using our free Ad Spend & KPI Planner to ensure your paid media campaigns are connected to metrics that impact your bottom line.


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About the Author

As a Senior Marketing Strategist at Brolik, Christian focuses on long term marketing strategy for our clients and identifying where we can make the greatest impact on their businesses. Leading one of our marketing teams, he works closely with strategists to ensure we're providing value with every marketing initiative. He is an expert in client communication, content marketing, SEO optimization, data-driven campaigns, and digital channel audits.
You can find Christian on LinkedIn.