Jeremy is the VP of Digital Media at Vovia. He loves all things digital and has an insatiable appetite to learn new things. He spends his free time riding his bicycle in the mountains and backroads of Alberta.

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Measuring Success By Leveraging First-Party Data – Google Enhanced Conversions

We have known for some time that the death of third-party cookies is coming in 2023. You can read my previous blog on this here if you need a better explanation of what third-party cookies are and why they are going away. The TLDR is that with the increasing focus on protecting people’s online privacy, web browser makers have slowly been phasing out support for third-party cookies used to help track them. 

Platforms like Google Analytics are used in the digital marketing world to help measure actions and events (conversions) on websites. They use third-party cookies to help track users across websites and devices in order to provide a clear picture of how and when a conversion takes place.

The removal of third-party cookies will have a significant impact on the volume and quality of data marketers will be able to leverage to measure the effectiveness of digital marketing programs. One of the great things about digital marketing is that it can be measured. So, what happens when we can’t measure it anymore? I guess we just shut off the lights and go home right? Not so fast! The use of third-party data may be the way success has been measured in the past, but advances in AI and machine learning coupled with years of known measured behaviour (data) mean that conversions can now be modelled with a high degree of accuracy. Add in some first-party data and the picture can become even clearer. 

What is first-party data?

First-party data refers to information website owners collect on their website directly. This can include things like web browsers used, device types and website page views in addition to other information like email addresses and phone numbers that may be collected as part of a visitor’s interaction with a website.

Often this information lives inside connected platforms like CRMs or Ecommerce systems and is collected as site visitors complete their journey through the sales funnel. It can be things like completing a sales lead form, buying and paying for a product or service, signing up for an email newsletter or registering for a webinar etc. You may hear this referred to as “owned data” as well.

The tricky part of using first-party data is that it is often considered personally identifiable information (PII) and there are laws and regulations in place to protect how this type of data can be used. Examples of this include GDPR regulations in the EU, the CCPA regulation in the US and CASL regulations for emails in Canada.

With this in mind, digital marketing platforms like Google Ads have been developing options for advertisers to leverage first-party data in a privacy-safe manner to help layer into their measurement of conversions on websites.

What are Enhanced Conversions and how do they work?

As per Google:

“Enhanced Conversions is a feature that 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.”

Let’s unpack this with an example…
  1. Jane uses her computer at work to research tents for her upcoming camping trip. The browser on her work computer is logged into a Google account on her company email address. While searching for tents, Jane clicks on an ad for a sporting goods retailer. She browses several models of tents but does not make a purchase as she wants to do some more research.
  1. Later that evening, Jane uses her mobile phone which is logged in with her personal email. She goes back to the sporting goods store’s website and decides to buy one of the tents she looked at earlier.
  1. As part of the checkout process on the website, Jane provides several pieces of first-party data like her shipping address, email, and phone number. The Enhanced Conversion feature captures a privacy safe, encrypted and anonymous hashed copy of this information and sends it to the Google Ads platform. 
  1. Despite the fact that Jane used a different browser logged in with her personal email, Google is able to connect the purchase of the tent to Jane’s original search from her work computer. This is because Jane uses her mobile device for two-factor authentication and Google is able to link her phone number with her business email address. Enhanced Conversions will then record the purchase as a conversion originating from a paid ad on her work computer. This is all done solely through the use of first-party data.

Without leveraging Enhanced Conversions, Janes’s purchase of the tent might end up being recorded (attributed) as coming from direct or organic traffic rather than the Ad that she clicked on earlier at work. Without this first-party data, the sports store may end up thinking that their digital ads were ineffective. 

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so below is a visual from our friends at Google that explains how enhanced conversions work.

image credit: Google

How is this privacy compliant and secure?

From a security standpoint, Google only transmits data in a hashed and encrypted format using the industry standard SHA 256 encryption (Feel free to watch this video if you would like a more technical explanation of SHA 256 encryption). This ensures that any private information like an email address or phone number can’t be intercepted and decoded. Google matches the data with its own first-party hashed user data. None of this is personally identifiable in any way. Google also allows users to opt-out of this via their privacy settings within their Google account.

Google does not share any of this data with other advertisers or platforms it doesn’t own and secure access controls and protocols are used to prevent unauthorized physical access to this data. 

In order to be privacy compliant, Google requires advertisers to inform customers that their information is being shared with third parties (Google) to both measure and target them via the use of Enhanced Conversions. This is typically done through the Privacy Policy on the advertiser’s website and advertisers must obtain consent from users in order to share and use their data where legally required like in the EU for example. This is typically done via a consent management platform which is a topic for another time.

Are you going to try using Enhanced Conversions?

As ongoing changes to user privacy and data protection rules continue to evolve, using features like Enhanced Conversions will help to ensure that advertisers will be able to more accurately measure the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns. Simply put, it is a great way to be able to track conversions in a way that respects a user’s privacy. Let us know your thoughts on Enhanced Conversions.