As obvious as this sounds, almost no companies actually take the necessary, simple steps to own their visitor data. This is mostly due to the fact that until today, there wasn’t a very easy way to capture anonymous visitors and store them in a compliant way using a persistent identifier (doesn’t expire like browser cookies do). Now you can deploy a simple, inexpensive way to identify, own, and control your first party data. This is truly a “digital asset” for your company. Businesses that own their data are always worth more than those who don’t, in varying degrees. How much would a company like Facebook be worth if it didn’t own its visitor data? Much, much less. Some would argue: zero. When you run 3rd party tracking pixels on your site, you’re basically handing over your visitor data to those companies. Now you can leverage identity resolution to capture your 1st party data as you make it: permanent, portable, and more profitable.
Rather than using browser cookie-based tracking technology like most do, we link the visitor back to their known identity (in the form of a hashed email that can never expire like a cookie does). Shockingly, browser cookies actually have a short life expectancy, just 35-45 days on average (as of 2019 statistics). This is primarily due to consumers becoming more privacy-focused, clearing their cache more often. This is one key benefit to building your retargeting audiences using identity resolution vs. traditional cookie-based tracking: hashed emails never expire. And moreover, all of the major ad platforms can accept your list of identified visitors (hashed emails) and match those back to the most current known set of device ID’s for each visitor. Now you can retarget visitors for as short or as long as you want, or seasonally (think Black Friday sales), or drip on them forever. Also, if you like some platform’s ad targeting filters (say… Facebook ads manager), great! You can upload your new list of identified visitors as a custom audience, then further filter from there using Facebook’s tools.
Like using Facebook for targeting and/or retargeting? Great! Keep doing it. But given the fact that the average browser cookie is dying faster and faster, imagine how many times you’re paying to get the same visitor to your site over and over on Facebook. Like most marketers, you probably have some front-end ad campaigns and also your retargeting campaigns. The retargeting campaigns should always be cheaper since those are prospects already familiar with your brand, have been to your website, etc. So imaging how much money you’re wasting by Facebook repeatedly targeting those visitors with your front-end ad campaigns because their system stops recognizing the prospect as already having been to your website. If you run your campaigns consistently, you are most likely paying 3-5 times per year to drive the same visitor into your retargeting campaign. Start using identity resolution to create a permanent targeting audience, one where the prospects stay in your retargeting audience where they belong – putting those prospects on a shorter path to close/convert.
Once you own and control you visitor data in the form of hashed emails, this audience can be uploaded into virtually any of the major ad platforms including: Facebook, Instagram, Adwords, YouTube, DoubleClick, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, OpenX, Taboola, and more. You can even leverage this custom audience to retarget on streaming TV platforms like AppleTV, YouTubeTV, HuluTV as well as streaming radio services like iHeartRadio and Pandora. One pixel to rule them all.
You’re probably well aware of Facebook’s “lookalike audience” capability which is very helpful when trying to zero-in on targeting your ideal audience. You can now build even stronger lookalike audiences by leveraging your identified website visitor custom audience. Why would a lookalike based on your ID’d visitors yield better results? Well this gets a bit into the weeds but we’ll try and keep it simplified: Facebook’s algorithm matches overlapping online behaviors of those users it can identify on your site, but a fair % of those may be the same visitor on different devices (duplicates). The average users has 3+ devices these days so its fair to reason that the duplicate issue is real. The more duplicates that are fed into an equation could skew the results in trying to identify real patterns among a set of users. Example: If I visited your website about stock trading and previously visited sites about learning guitar, and I do so on all 4 of my devices, that would be construed as 4 “votes” in the algorithm as those two types of websites visited as being a pattern for your ideal avatar and that may not be a pattern at all. Now take this issue and extrapolate it out over hundreds of thousands of duplicate visitors in your lookalike audience recipe and that could cause targeting inaccuracy. Aside from the duplicates issue, there’s the potential for not getting the full picture in cases of products with long sales cycles (anything over 45 days). With the shorter life expectancy of browser cookies, how can any lookalike algorithm work optimally to detect patters among users in a 90 day sales cycle when the data input only covers 60 days? Answer: Its difficult. The solution: try creating a Facebook lookalike audience based on a tighter seed list from your identified website visitors and test that lookalike audience head-to-head (same ads, budget, everything else) against the new lookalike audience and see which one performs better.
The idea here is similar to the Facebook example above. Google calls their lookalike audience a “similar audience” and the algorithm is supposed to be about the same. The big difference is that Facebook can generate a lookalike audience with just 100 site visitors uploaded whereas Google requires 1000 or more (usually more). Also, there have been reports that Google is now restricting the upload of hashed emails to seasoned ad accounts (no newbie accounts allowed). To know for sure, you can try uploading a batch of 1000+ emails (hashed or not) as a custom audience in Adwords and see if Google accepts it. Once you have your “Similar Audience” built in Adwords, you can run your best performing ads at this new target and compare against your legacy targeting.
The questions always pop up around consumer privacy so its important to clarify the distinction between running identity resolution on a pure B2B site or landing page vs. a consumer-driven website. There are strict privacy laws around consumer protection that you should adhere to, especially in California and the GDPR-governed EU region of the world. Always check the area where your ads show to be sure you are following the rules. If you are unsure, consult with a specialized attorney in consumer privacy protection. That being said, there are generally fewer privacy rules when it comes to marketing to businesses online. If you are businesses marketing a product to other businesses (B2B), then you should generally be ok marketing to them directly. There are data enrichment companies nowadays who can easily take the identifier uncovered during identity resolution and convert that into essentially full lead records. Again, be very careful you are following all applicable privacy rules but unlocking this powerful data about website visitors actively browsing your website is in credibly powerful. The cost for this is typically just a few cents per record at most enrichment vendors and they can typically return fields such as: full name, home address, email, phone number, and more.
While many identity resolution scenarios revolve around lead generation, there’s also value in simply understanding more about your visitor audience in terms of the demographic makeup, behavioral patterns, consumer purchase behaviors, and more. Essentially, gaining the ability to visualize what your visitors have in common vs. just having a lookalike audience understand it but keeping it a secret. There are enrichment data vendors who can take the persistent identifiers you collect and return a wealth of data about those individuals, usually hundreds of fields. So while keeping the consumers’ identities concealed, you could may discover things like: most of your visitors drive a BMW, or the majority of visitors own a home vs. rent, or the majority of your visitors are DIY enthusiasts, or the majority of your visitors have kids, and so on. Creating a more complete picture of who your ideal customers are can help in building the “ideal customer profile” or avatar. You can apply this to all of your marketing, both online and offline to better position your product or service to your ideal audience. As always, be sure to keep the consumer PII (personally identifiable information) concealed anytime you’re doing data enrichment. If you have any questions on whether you should proceed with appending visitor data, be sure to consult with a qualified attorney.
Once you identify your site visitors, you can even send them a physical postcard. Yes! There are actually quite a few data enrichment companies out there who can take a hashed email and give you back the home address to mail if you wanted to get more targeted with your mailings. Similar to the examples above, be very careful to adhere to consumer privacy protections. So who still sends physical mail pieces? Actually lots do: Realtors, Insurance Agents, Medicare Providers, Restaurants, and more. Up until now, these companies would have to pay thousands of dollars per run to blanket entire zip codes with the hope of 1%-5% being in-market for their product or service. Today, you can get much, much more targeted by simply retargeting only those who are actively browsing your website.
Did you know that statistically as much as 15% of all ad campaign funds are wasted on showing ads to bots? Yes, this crazy wasteful. Now there is a solution: by matching your website visitors back to a known identity and then uploading that “clean audience” into your ad campaigns for retargeting, you’re ensured to only be showing ads to humans. In this case, the humans who were actively browsing your product or service. On larger budget ad campaigns, the savings of this waste along could justify the cost of the service.
This is perhaps the most exciting aspect of how identity resolution is completely changing the playing field. Up until now, tech giants like Google and Facebook are collecting and leveraging your site visitors for their own ad purposes and you could only access them by playing their game, within their “walled gardens”. Well not any more. By identifying and owning your 1st party data, YOU now have those Google-like super powers. One super power you now posess is the ability to make your targeting data / anonymized custom audience data portable. Consider who else in your industry, or other strategic partners, would find value in having the ability to buy your audience targeting? Probably quite a few. Example: For a larger auto dealer, they can market their audience targeting data to strategic partners including car insurance partners, auto finance partners, auto leasing partners, or even sell the targeting data for >90 day old prospects to competitors if they wanted. All-in, the auto dealer could product an entirely new revenue stream – a DATA revenue stream – which could generate as much as $1M/year in additional revenue (depending on their website volume and cost per match). By owning and controlling your 1st party website data, now YOU can legitimately create new revenue streams by anonymizing, packaging, and marketing your targeting data to strategic partners.
If you’re currently using a link shortener like Bitly to shorten your links for tracking purposes or visual enhancement, you can now also embed an identity resolution pixel in the shortened link using a custom shortener tool. Why is this a game-changer? Because now you can get much more than just how many clicks your links got, or the IP address of those who clicked. Now you can leverage the full power of identity resolution to capture, own, and control your 1st party data in the form of your link clickers. These are users clicking on links everywhere outside your websites: social media posts, links under your YouTube videos, links in your online ads, and much more. Contact us to learn more about how you can start building powerful, permanent retargeting lists from those who click on your shortened links.
These are just some of the powerful ways you should be leveraging your 1st party data. To get started, you’ll need to be running identity resolution on your website or tracking links.
Contact us today for a free consultation and find out how you can start making your visitor data: permanent, portable, and more profitable.