Google Topics API

Google Topics API Leaves Cookies In the Dust

Until now, the Internet has been ruled by the following law: “If a service is free, that means YOU are the product.”

However, these days, a balance between users and businesses is close to being achieved. Google Topics API is the company’s way of positioning itself at the center of this new landscape. Not everyone was aware that an exchange was being made between free services and information used in advertising. When the Facebook scandal was publicized a few years back, the general audience understandably  demanded change. 

In order to not completely destabilize the current advertising ecosystem, Google Topics will be rolled out as a replacement for tracking cookies. Let’s take a look together at how Google Topics API came to be and why it’s worth taking into consideration as we move forward in these tumultuous times. 

The Need For Google Topics API – A Cookieless Future

The crumb trail of third-party cookies that would show what websites you visited is going away. That information is now being transformed into new solutions, including Google Topics API.  Google has committed itself to phase out third-party cookies in Chrome by late 2023. Since it holds the biggest share of the browser market, this move is touted as “the death of third-party cookies. 

Marketers and advertisers everywhere are scrambling to mitigate the impact of this change. One of the most popular options is harnessing first-party data, as opposed to third-party. This means collecting information only from pages on your own domain. Many employ the use of a well-crafted lead magnet to entice visitors to exchange data in the form of survey answers or contact information such as email addresses. 

Any first-party data strategy should be conducted with transparency as its main pillar. Ask for user consent before gathering their data and make it abundantly clear exactly how said data will be used. 

Google Privacy Sandbox Explained

Google's new Privacy Sandbox

The demand for stricter and more transparent rules regarding data collection is stronger than ever. This also runs the risk of destabilizing a whole industry by removing a major revenue stream. 

Since it has a big stake in the online advertising market, Google has launched the Privacy Sandbox Initiative. It is aimed at developing technologies that can replace tracking cookies. Out of those, the frontrunner used to be the Google FLoC API. 

We have talked about it before. FLoC stands for Federated Learning of Cohorts. It organizes users into groups (cohorts) of at least 1000 individuals, based on similarities in browsing activity. Through several rounds of testing and feedback, several flaws in the system became clear. We will discuss the most relevant ones below. In light of these flaws, the FLoC project was scrapped and transformed into what is now known as Google Topics API. 

How Google Topics API Works In Practice

With this new system, your browser determines a few topics, like “Sports”’ or “Travel”. These represent your top interests for that week, taking your browsing history into account. If you recently visited some websites for movie news & reviews, Google Topics API might add “Movies” as one of your interests. Topics are kept for only three weeks before being deleted. The selection process is done purely on your device, without the involvement of any external servers, including Google’s.  Upon visiting a participating site, Topics chooses only three topics, one from each of the past three weeks, to send to that site and its advertisers. 

This seems to take a page out of the magazine world’s playbook. For many years before the Internet, if you wanted to advertise a product/service, you would take out ads in magazines whose subject matter was associated with your field. Through this contextual advertising, you increased the chance of a reader being exposed to your messaging to respond positively to it.  Topics wants to have a user-friendly interface, so it will put options in Chrome to view your topics, remove those you don’t approve of, or opt-out of the system altogether. Topics will be curated to exclude certain categories deemed sensitive and unnecessary, such as gender or race. 

Google Topics API aims to keep things professional between advertisers and users. Its message to websites and advertisers seems to be: “Here is the information you require to keep doing your job effectively. There is no need for you to know anything else about users. If you want to have access to further data, you will have to ask them yourselves.”

How Google Topics API Evolved From FLoC 

Topics has taken a few lessons from FLoC. 

At this moment we have 350 interest tags available to the Topics API. Compare this with the 30,000-plus user classification chart that FLoC used. People were concerned that the granularity of FLoC made it possible to reveal user information by reverse-engineering data. Even though the 350 tags are only a starting point, they appear to be designed with an eye on individuals with malicious intent trying to dig up information from them. They are too vague to be of any use and the fact that certain sites will receive different topics makes fingerprinting much more difficult.

Statistical correlations between a user’s topics can lead to information regarding sensitive categories, but this is still a huge improvement over the amount of information available through cookies.

Final Words on Google Topics API 

Google has applied its principle of transparency in advertising to its development process. You can find the technical details of the Topics project on Github if you wish to get into the nitty-gritty of it all. 

If you want to get some help in making sense of all this technical jargon, we would be more than happy to give you a hand! 

Simply contact us here and we will schedule a call right away to discuss all the ways in which we can use Google Topics API to get your business through this advertising shift and even help you scale! 

We look forward to hearing from you and learning about your business! 

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