As we hurtle towards a cookieless future, brand publishing may provide a powerful solution to brand woes about access to third-party data.
Brand publishing can help companies collect valuable first-party data to fuel various parts of their marketing operations and practices, including advertising, attribution and email marketing.
Google will phase out third-party cookies starting next year, leaving many companies without access to most third party data. Firefox and Safari have already phased out use of the cookie, but because Google Chrome is the biggest player in the browser business, its plans are likeliest to have the most impact. And beyond Google, privacy-oriented decisions in Europe and California have already meant that users now have to consent actively to the use of analytics cookies when they visit websites.
The solution to this is first-party data. And one of the key ways to collect first-party data will be a concerted effort to directly engage with customers, which is where brand publishing can come in.
Speaking with clients we work with, there are a few considerations for brands as they build out publishing as a key way to collect first-party data from audiences.
Consider how close to the transaction the brand is. Customers are used to giving up data to retailers, entertainment sites, or financial institutes. But for brands in other sectors who don’t have that natural exchange built into how they work, publishing can provide an opportunity and a rationale to ask for customer data.
Ensure content is of high quality. For it to feel like a fair exchange for an audience, it has to be worth their while. That means that brands who decide to put up registration walls to ask for customer data in exchange for access to stories or content must ensure that what they’re producing is compelling, valuable and entertaining. The Internet is flooded with thin-value marketing content and audiences have become more discerning as they have more choices.
Offer a quality value exchange in return for data. It’s not only content quality that brand publishers must consider, but also what else customers and audiences are receiving in exchange for putting in, for example, their email addresses. Brands can provide audiences with personalized content, email newsletters, commenting privileges, community elements or something else in exchange for receiving customer data. Relatedly, audiences must get a quality experience after signing up, which means registration onboarding strategies must be put in place to greet new customers and show them what they have unlocked in exchange for their data.
Optimize to the right metrics. Sophisticated brand publishers don’t only optimize to traffic generation. Related to the above point, they have to track (and focus on) metrics that tell them how much each visitor to their site is “worth” – and optimize content to those users. “Fly-by” visitors may be bigger in volume, but matter less because brands don’t know who they are. Known visitors, who have given up data in exchange for content, and are much more engaged with the brand, are worth more.
The impact on traffic. Brands must also be cognizant of the impact that registration walls designed to collect first party data will have on their traffic numbers. Typically, publishers will experience a decrease in pageviews as people have to enter their emails or log in to access content. This shouldn’t matter much to brands who aren;t trying to monetize via advertising on their content, but expectations should be set internally and with other parts of the organization so all groups are aligned. Registration also typically has an impact on SEO performance, so
brands must implement them carefully and ensure that content is still generating as much search traffic as possible.
Use data responsibly. Data from Reuters Institute has shown that overall, consumers are becoming more privacy-aware and therefore reluctant to give up their email addresses. The company’s latest report, which applies to news publishers but offers some hints for brands, found that only a third of respondents say they trust websites to use personal data responsibly – that figure drops to 18% in the U.S. Brands that are asking for data from consumers must ensure they have the right data handling practices in place.