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Google Makes It Easier to Delete Search Data & Control Ad Settings

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Today Google has made it easier for users to delete their search data and control ad settings directly in the Google Search Page. Currently the process involves going to the Account Page and clicking through to the Personal Info & Privacy settings. This change gives the user more control over their data, directly in Google products.

What’s changing?

  • You can now review and delete your search history much quicker.
  • Quick access to privacy controls. This means easy access to for users to control their Ad Settings.
  • Access Activity Controls to decide what information Google can save on your account which it then uses for Search and other Google products (this helps it to be faster, smoother, more useful). 
  • More options available to see how Google users your search data.
Credit: Google The Keyword Blog, 2018

When does this change happen?

  • It’s launched on Google Search Desktop and Mobile today.
  • Google App for iOS and Android in the coming weeks.
  • This will expand to Google Maps in 2019.

What does this mean for advertisers?

This change is great for users, but could potentially have a wider impact on advertisers. There are a few things to consider here:

  1. It’s now easier for users to delete their search data.
  2. Users can now control their Ad Settings a lot easier.
Google let’s you control the information it stores on you.
Google The Keyword Blog, 2018

Could the benefits of Automation and Machine Learning dampen?

In every piece of communications and updates that Google have released over the past few months (and as we go into 2019), it’s all about how we can use Automation and Machine Learning to better understand the user’s intent and the context to which they are in. Using Google’s technology for help power campaigns is supposed to deliver more relevant advertising to the benefit of advertisers. However, if it’s easier for users to delete this data, that means less data to make better decisions for advertisers. Without having your previous search data to help feed Google these decisions, potentially the power of automation could dampen.

Users have better control over which Audience they fall into

What is essentially happening here is that Google are giving the user more power over which ads they could see by allowing the user to dictate which audience they should fall into. Google could then use this data to make better decisions about whether this person should fall into an ‘In-Market Audience’, ‘Similar Audience’, ‘Life Event Audience’ and more. Google use the signals available to dictate this, and if users have better control over this then they indirectly have a say in which audience pool they fall into for advertisers to target. 

Could this change be a sign of something more? 

Giving users more control over their ad settings could also point to a suspicion that has long lingered over keyword based targeting in search. By giving users more of this control, and giving advertisers less control over keyword targeting (see Exact Match updates), this indirectly gives Google greater control over which ads appear for the user. So has this change of power from advertisers to users actually given Google greater power in some respects? Could this also point towards a keywordless campaign future in PPC and another step forward for Audience first approach?

You could argue that this change is better for advertisers

It essentially removes a lot of irrelevant impressions and traffic from the results page. The quality of traffic could in fact improve as the users that are left are the one’s that are more willing (or are oblivious to these changes) to be targeted by relevant advertising. 

What do you need to do?

This change is unlikely going to dramatically change how you currently operate your search campaigns. I doubt that this is going to cause a mass switch off of ad settings and deleting of search data across the globe in the short term. However, this small change does highlight a few wider trends we should be keeping an eye on:

  • How this will impact your Audience sizes over time.
  • What this says about the potential future of Search; users seem to be getting more control, with advertisers getting less control, which indirectly could give Google even more control!
  • Is this another step forward for Google’s automation and machine learning over advertisers manual targeting and changes?
  • Make sure that you have a personalised ad strategy. It’s now an opportunity better than ever to make sure you are talking to the right people, at the right time, with the right message. Try to capitalise on the more relevant traffic that could come through as a result of this change. 

Ultimately, more transparency is good for everyone. This is a smart step by Google given the current issues around data privacy and protection. 

Dan Roberts
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