Advertising, Big Data, and Google’s Moves To Own It All

Google LogoGoogle just made two major announcements. Long-term, these could change the face of online marketing and advertising for almost every company. But before we look at how they are related, two background points are key.

1. When it comes to online advertising revenue, no one is bigger than Google. Not even Facebook comes close.

2. Online advertising companies that use big data in advertising are today’s market darlings. RocketFuel’s successful IPO last week underlines the value the market is putting on these companies.

Google wants to be both. With two changes announced in the last week, Google is moving to control all online data, from the data used by today’s most innovative online advertising companies to the data B2B marketers need for simple microsites to work effectively.

Announcement One: Google AdID

With AdID, a proposed replacement for third party cookies, Google is looking to become the gateway online advertising companies need to go through in order to collect data.

If Google shuts off access to AdID for a network, either because they are not paying Google’s fees (it isn’t clear if there would be a cost to providers over time) or they are not abiding by Google’s terms, they would lose the ability to sell audience-targeted advertising.

Companies like RocketFuel will need to work through Google (or a new alternative, see below) to continue operating.

Here are my predictions:

  • Google will follow Firefox’s lead and not allow pages to set third party cookies. Over time, this will effectively turn off data collection for ad networks and online data companies.
  • Solutions similar to AdID will be announced by Facebook, Twitter, and a handful of other major players, leveraging their access to first party cookie spaces.
  • A new type of advertising technology player will emerge, one that manages access to tracking information for networks and gives users the ability to manage their own data within a publisher environment they already visit.

The approach Ari Paparo outlined could be created by any media company that users sign in to or, with reliability closer to today’s cookies, any site with either a large audience or a significant share of a niche audience.

Announcement Two: Google Is Shutting Off Organic Search Keyword Data

Yesterday, Search Engine Watch reported that Google is shutting off all remaining organic search keyword reporting. Going forward, marketers will not be able to report on or segment organic search traffic from Google.

What does this have to do with big data? Companies like and Chango collect information about what you search for and that information is sold and used to target advertising. It is a big market enabled by, in part, Google search data these companies are able to access today.

Google is saying “no more.” They are no longer allowing companies to continue building their own data sets on the back of Google’s data.

Prediction: Watch for Google to block other ways companies use activity on Google sites to build profiles of individuals. One move Google may make is blocking the full URL an ad will run on when marketing systems bid on advertising space, cutting off one of the ways advertising companies build profiles of individuals using Google’s data today.


I believe these two announcements are closely related and part of a bigger plan by Google to exert control over the data that is driving growth in the online advertising market. With secure search, and other possible restrictions in the future, Google restricts access to data. And with AdID, Google has a big club to punish any marketer that inappropriately bypasses restrictions Google or the market place on appropriate uses of data.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below (skip to comments).

Additional Background: Yes, Google and Big Data are a Big Deal

If you want more background on the importance of Google and big data, check out these stats and statements.

In 2012, search represented 46.3% of all US online advertising revenue, according to the IAB. And that actually understates the total as mobile search revenue is included in other categories. Of course, Google dominates those search dollars. (source)

Google dominates worldwide online advertising too. According to eMarketer, Google is expected to capture 33% of all global digital advertising revenue in 2013! (source)

Big Data is a big deal in online advertising. According to an article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, “a focus of [Advertising Week] will be the rise of big data.” According to Matt Freeman, the chairman of Advertising Week and partner at Bain Capital, marketing is becoming “equal parts art and science.” He goes on to say data is now foundational to multiple areas within online marketing. (source)

Your Turn

Do you believe Google is looking to establish a dominant position in online data? Share your view in the comments below or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).

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  • tompick

    Wow, quite a post Eric. For the panicking masses, are there alternatives for getting Google organic keyword data, or will all web analytics tools just be shut off from this?

    • Hi Tom,

      Thanks. No, there isn’t an alternative today, just like we don’t get details on individuals drivers of Facebook traffic, we aren’t going to get much detail going forward on keywords.

      I’m looking at two primary sources today (in addition to the traditional keyword research, ranking, etc):

      1) Google Webmaster Tools. IMO this is now the best way to see keywords driving traffic. Lots of folks are familiar with it but it was secondary, now it is key. It’s full of shortcomings, but if you start using it regularly, you will get a lot of valuable information out of it.

      2) Search Landing Page Report: I create a shortcut in Google Analytics for Google organic search traffic by landing page. If you assume that Google returns a “good” page for the query (it is a big assumption, but at a macro level it is a reasonable one), it gives you a snapshot of the content that is drawing traffic and, more importantly, what type of content is driving higher conversion rates or engagement levels.

      Check the sites you work on, chances are you will see the (not provided) search results up to between 85% and 95% the last couple days, and I’m not expecting those numbers to come back down.

      • tompick

        Thanks Eric. Search landing pages we were already going to look at as one “indicator.” GWT – ugh. But it is what it is. 🙂

  • mwaage

    It seems monopolistic to me and perhaps they have the right to control what data originates on their site.

    • I think you nailed it – when the data originates on their site, I believe they do have the ability to restrict access to it. Consider Facebook, they don’t provide information on what user’s post, even if it was a public post, drove traffic. The referrer is just “Facebook” with no additional detail in analytics.

      AdID in this context can be looked at a bit separately by regulators. As the industry moves away from 3rd party cookies, Google is providing an alternative in a way that gives uses choice about the information that is shared. (Obviously I believe the thinking behind it might go beyond that).

      Thanks for the comment!

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  • Kitty Kilian

    I will have to ask one of my technical SEO-buddies to explain how AdID works to me. As a content focused blogger I pay little attention to the technicalities. So I had not read about it yet, but all in all, coupled with the search data restrictions, Google seems to be closing in on all of us fast now. And relentlessly.

    • Thanks Kitty. I think many of the details of AdID are still to be revealed. I agree, Google is changing quickly, and I think much of the intent of those changes is yet to be revealed.

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