Google Topics API: Concerns About Topic Diversity and Potential Challenges



Google Topics API: Concerns About Topic Diversity and Potential Challenges
22 February 2022
Recently, Google made an announcement concerning Topics API which is supposed to replace Cookies. While marketers generally applaud Google's suggestions regarding users’ privacy, they also continue to point out the shortcomings of the solution, meaning mainly the number of subjects in the initial draft of Topics API.



Topics API - What is It?

Earlier this month, Google made an announcement concerning Topics API, a blueprint for a new method of displaying ads. The solution is supposed to replace Cookies. Interestingly, it's not the first project of this kind - we’ve seen ideas like FLoC ( Federated Learning of Cohorts) before. Topics API is likely to become the golden mean for users that value privacy, and advertisers willing to explore the future of targeting. According to marketers, Topics API appears to be a much more realistic option than the aforementioned FLoC, which raised privacy concerns. The new solution won't track users as much as FLoC was supposed to do. [caption id="attachment_49482" align="aligncenter" width="602"]topics api 3rd party cookies vs topics Source:[/caption]

Feedback on Google's Ideas

Google listened to feedback and made significant improvements. Not only will Chrome users be able to see what Topics API knows about them, but they'll even be able to delete the data. However, the number of the topics seems to be the real problem - according to GitHub, the initial draft includes only 350 topics. As a result, many specialists are concerned that this may prevent proper targeting. Topics are simply too generic and make it difficult to target ads accurately, which means greater competition for less targeted ads. Nevertheless, it's worth keeping in mind that it's hard to say how Topics will work in real life. The solution was juxtaposed with IAB Audience Taxonomy, a similar system that offers 1,500 "topics". This system provides 5 ways to target coffee. At the same time, in the case of Google, this would simply be Food & Drink. Google seems to be aware of the problem and has announced that this is just a preliminary design, a starting point that is going to be tested and developed accordingly. However, that's not the only issue that worries advertisers - there's also the matter of time frame, as in the current design it ranges from 1 to 3 weeks, which seems to be simply not enough to convince the audience to make a purchase. In order to guarantee appropriate privacy, there is also a 5% chance of returning a random topic, which is supposed to ensure a minimum number of members of a given topic.

Will Chrome Be the Only Browser with Topics?

It's worth noting that Topics API is supposed to work only on Google Chrome, whose popularity is constantly decreasing. While it continues to be the most willingly chosen browser, more and more people select Microsoft Edge. The lack of support for other solutions is concerning, but it shouldn't affect anyone's budget. Google is probably hoping to dominate the browser market in order to work on Topics without having to negotiate it with its competitors. [caption id="attachment_49484" align="aligncenter" width="750"]StatCounter-browser-ww-monthly-202101-202201 Source:[/caption]

Topics or FLoC?

Is Topics better than FLoC? From a users’ perspective, it seems to be more privacy-friendly and transparent. However, for marketers, it means broader targeting, which gives them less control over their actions. [caption id="attachment_49486" align="aligncenter" width="602"]floc vs topics Source:[/caption] As a consequence, it's crucial to modify marketing actions and approach the topic a little more creatively.
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