Who owns what? Marketers vs. Google

Let’s face it: you can’t build a business without an internet presence. And while it seems like you should just be able to slap together a website and some ads that draw people to it, there’s fierce competition in every market for the precious top search result on Google.

That coveted spot is the result of intense research into keywords, content, and brand. Marketers spend millions, if not billions, of company dollars each year on campaigns focused on getting a leg up on their competition, and they rely on (mostly) Google’s data to inform their decisions.

But the relationship between Google and the people who use its ad features is tense, to put it lightly. In many ways, Google is in full control of the data that marketers see. It decides how and what data to automate, aggregate, and display to users who pay to use Google’s services. But users, who are practically forced to use Google and other search engines for advertising, have needs of their own.

Why Marketing Data Matters

Any business leader will tell you that decisions can’t just be made in a vacuum. If you want to invest any significant amount of money, you’re going to have to prove there’s a reasonable return on the investment.

Money spent on marketing is no different, and the way to prove ROI is to use data analytics to project future clicks, calls, and impressions, as well as EMR integration to tie out ROI.

In a perfect world, advertisers and agencies would work hand-in-hand with search engines, who would gather, categorize, and present the data advertisers need to make fully informed decisions. However, Google is its own company, and can make its own decisions about what data to show and how to show it.

How Aggregation Hides Your Data

You can see this clearly if you have access to your company’s Google Analytics tool. Google tracks the “source” of people who click on your website through a search result — sources could be Facebook, an email campaign, or any search engine. Yet you’ll notice in the report there will be sources in parentheses: (direct) or (none).

If you have enough time on your hands, you could delve into the head-spinning algorithms that generate this result. In short, Google rounds up certain pieces of data to display as these catch-all categories. Put another way, it hides the true data in favor of keeping things tidy. The professional term for this is “aggregation,” and it allows Google to crunch more data, faster, which is good for them but bad for you.

Who Owns Marketing Data?

Typically, the first authority to check for ownership disputes is the court record — what precedents have been set and what do they say about marketer’s right to search engine data? Unfortunately, the legislation and court rulings are vague at best, and they only hint at user’s rights when it comes to Google’s transparency and aggregation policies.

To make a long story short, it’s hard to argue that people who simply pay to access data through Google’s tools deserve the full picture. They agree to certain Terms and Conditions when they sign up, waiving their rights to use the platform.

The important conversation happening now that will continue to be relevant in the future is, “What type of data do marketers deserve to access through Google’s platform?” This makes Google and marketers into a landlord-lessee relationship. For a rental fee, you are allowed to occupy a space Google owns (on Google’s terms) and are granted certain rights — rights that aren’t clear at the moment.

Each business finds different marketing data more important to decision-making than other businesses. Here at DLM we find more value in ROI and conversion rates than we do impressions.

When Google shifts their algorithms, it therefore affects certain businesses more than others. The more marketers who are affected by Google’s decisions, the more pressure Google will face to make access to certain data a right vs. a privilege. It’s an ongoing battle; one that won’t be over anytime soon.

What To Do About Your Data

In reality, Google will keep making controversial marketing data decisions as long as advertisers are on its platform. Since each decision affects different businesses in different ways, the best thing you can do is to stay on top of these ever-changing policies and adapt your marketing plan accordingly. We strongly recommend reaching out to your marketing specialist and asking them about EMR or Scheduling System Integration. If we are able to communicate directly with your EMR/PM then your reliance on Google controlled data becomes less crucial for making marketing decisions as the decisions will shift to an ROI based discussion. An ROI-driven decision is under your control, not Google’s.

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