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Google Testing New Way to Catch Up in Mobile

  |  August 12, 2014   |  Comments

The tech giant is trying out a new way of targeting both mobile Web visitors and mobile app users, something they should have done much earlier in the mobile space, say industry participants.

In an effort to enhance its mobile ad-targeting capability, Google is testing a new method of identifying whether users who search on the mobile Web are the same users who spend time in mobile apps.

Specifically, Google will blend existing identifiers like Android ID, Apple's Identifier for Advertising (IDFA), and DoubleClick, to connect its separate tracking mechanisms.

"As an alternative to less transparent methods, we're doing some tests to help businesses run consistent ad campaigns across a device's mobile browser and mobile apps, using existing anonymous identifiers, while enabling people to use the established privacy controls on Android and iOS," a Google spokesperson tells ClickZ in an email.

For example, if a user clicks on an ad in a mobile app, they will be linked to a Web page. With this, Google can detect the user across mobile apps and mobile browsers.

The method is not new to the digital marketing industry as a whole, industry insiders say, but for Google, the new way of targeting could push the search giant forward in the mobile space.

"This is something any mobile-first advertising platform has been investing in for many years," says Piyush Shah, vice president of products at mobile ad network InMobi. "Google should have done this a long time ago."

Android and iOS users have spent close to 90 percent of their time on devices using apps, according to mobile ad company Flurry. While Google is able to gather a large amount of users' information on Web browsers via cookies, it cannot use the same approach on mobile, because cookies don't work in the app world.

And compared to the likes of Facebook and Twitter, it seems more challenging for Google to identify users across mobile browsers and mobile apps.

According to Shah, to detect mobile users, Facebook and Twitter mainly use a "deterministic approach," which identifies users on the mobile Web and in mobile apps based on their email addresses, phone numbers, or other specific information.

"[But] it's impossible for everyone to do so, including Google, because most mobile users can access Google-owned properties without logins," he explains, adding that more than 90 percent of Google's mobile traffic is from its search box and YouTube, which does not require users to log in with a Google account.

Since companies can use the "deterministic approach" to follow users outside their apps or networks, many see this as an invasion of privacy. But the mobile ad-targeting method Google is testing allows users to opt out of tracking on either or both the mobile browser or apps.

Once the mobile browser and mobile app are connected, industry leaders think Google can better leverage users' browsing behavior, and strengthen its ad-targeting capability when users are in mobile apps.

"[And] from an e-commerce perspective, Google can also use this new methodology to enhance its retargeting," Shah says, explaining that the company will be able to help e-commerce sites deliver more relevant product ads to consumers and further accelerate transactions.

Google declined to disclose whether it is testing this new mobile ad-targeting method just within its own ad network or elsewhere as well. Additionally, the company says it has not yet come up with a timeline for this approach.


Yuyu Chen

Yuyu Chen is a reporter at ClickZ. Her work has appeared in Local East Village, New York Daily News and Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce website. Yuyu received her M.A. in Business and Economic Reporting from New York University in May, 2013.

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