How Beauty Brands Can Win on Google Shopping

We’ll be honest—a year ago, we never recommended Google Shopping to beauty brands.

There was too much competition. Individual sellers list products on Jet or eBay for a fraction of the retail value, and those listings would gain preference every time. The lowest price always wins.

But now, when we consult with our current or prospective beauty clients, we almost always recommend enacting a Google Shopping strategy. So what shifted?

Google Smart Shopping.

We talked about Google shopping being free a few weeks ago, but this is a different conversation. Google Smart Shopping is part of the advertising side of Google Shopping, not just listing your product so it shows up in organic search.

Google Smart Shopping

The advent of Google Smart Shopping transformed how we as an agency viewed the platform.

Essentially, Google Smart Shopping lets Google’s algorithm optimize your product campaigns when you advertise on Google Shopping. Google does all the hard work of testing and automating your ad imagery, copy, placement, and bidding:

“With Smart Shopping campaigns, your existing product feed and assets are combined with Google’s machine learning to show a variety of ads across networks. Our systems will pull from your product feed and test different combinations of the image and text you provide, then show the most relevant ads across Google networks. . . Google also automates ad placement and bidding for maximum conversion value at your given budget.” (via Google)

This automation will save your brand a ton of time, since you won’t have to make product feeds from scratch. The algorithm and bidding is really efficient as well, additionally saving you money. Even brands who have MAP issues have seen semi-successful results.

We’ve seen the results of these optimizations with our own beauty clients. Whereas before, we might spend $2,000 and only return $200, now we are returning at a 1, but often return at a 2 or 2.5—without a human analyzing and optimizing each campaign.

Tips for Google Smart Shopping

Optimize Your Product Feed

Google Smart Shopping pulls information based on your product title and product description, so make sure that information is optimized for search. Make sure that all your products are correctly named and optimized for search; they should feature your brand name and the product name.

Treat it as Awareness

Smart shopping really supplements all of your brand’s pre-existing search efforts, making for a more well-rounded Google Ads account.

Don’t expect Google Shopping to be a main stream of revenue for your brand. Instead, think of this ad type like you would a prospecting or awareness campaign. Google Shopping is a defensive move that won’t actively drive profit, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important.

The purpose of Google Shopping is to take up real estate and hopefully convert someone from buying from another retailer—but the most important part is just having your brand’s name out there.

Don’t Feel Like You Have to Rely on Smart Shopping

Smart Shopping has worked incredibly well for most of our beauty brands. However, that doesn’t mean that will be the case for your brand.

We theorize that brands with a lot of SKUs that span different product categories might not do well on Google Shopping, despite the fact that you can divide campaigns:

“In order to maximize performance, Google recommends that you consolidate your Smart Shopping campaigns and only create separate campaigns when necessary due to business requirements (e.g. different ROAS goals for different parts of your product inventory).” (via Google)

So even though you can divide campaigns to combine products with similar goals, it might not be ideal if your products have vastly different audiences, as Google’s algorithm might have trouble optimizing a set of products that don’t align audiences.

Need help navigating the world of Google Smart Shopping? Reach out to the experts at Blue Wheel today!

Digital Strategies for the New Normal (Which Won’t Be Normal At All)

As states are slowly beginning to reopen, many businesses are preparing for what they hope will be a return to normalcy — namely, increased sales at brick-and-mortar locations or retailers.

You might be thinking, “I’ll just reopen and go about business as usual with a few more health precautions.”

But as you go about the process of adjusting to this new normal, you might be caught off guard at how much actually goes into reopening, especially regarding your digital strategy. Your business will experience unprecedented changes, just like it has been, and you need to be prepared to tackle them head-on—and communicate them clearly to your customers.

Your window to bounce back is shorter than ever, and you’ll likely only have a few days to enact your reopening plan, so it’s important to have it set in place beforehand.

Reopening Physical Stores

Product Packaging and Source

One of the major new issues businesses will face is adjusting their product packaging and sourcing to accommodate for new restrictions and precautions. Some businesses will have to design new packaging that minimizes contact and germ-sharing, while others might have to adjust where they source their products from.

In-Store Safety

Providing hand sanitizer near the entrance of your store, as well as by the checkout, will help slow the spread of germs getting in to and leaving your store. Be sure to have clear signage that indicates your new procedures, such as:

  • Taking temperature before entering store
  • Hand sanitizing upon entering and leaving
  • Maintaining social distancing within store
  • Wearing a mask at all times
  • Store capacity limits

You also need to have a complete digital strategy set up to communicate your safety precautions—including social posts, new and prominent sections on your website, emails, and more. Properly educate your teams on how to answer questions surrounding this, especially on social media. Your social team or agency should be well-versed in how to respond to questions and concerns that might come up.

Some in-store novelties—like testers, free samples, and up-close consultations—will need to be revisited and revised under this new normal. How can you provide a similar experience those offerings give, while still abiding by safety and health regulations?

For example, if your brand relies heavily on brick-and-mortar sales and the testers that are present, you can shift your organic social strategy to focus more on what your product looks like, smells like, feels like, or tastes like. Solicit videos of influencers or customers trying your product and describing it in detail, and post texture shots and videos that really convey your product.


As you reopen, make sure you have enough inventory available to meet demand. As states begin to open up, people might be itching to return to their normal shopping habits, and the last problem you want to have is selling out of products!

Some questions to keep in mind: Was your supply chain affected by the pandemic? Or will it be in the coming months? Did you sell out of certain products due to an ecommerce sales boom, and need to restock?

Start getting answers to those questions well before you’re set to reopen so that you don’t have to scramble for stock at the last minute.

Digital Strategy for Relaunching

Everyone essentially has to do a soft launch for their business, so you need to have a digital strategy prepared for when you’re able to reopen.

Figure out now how you’ll want to communicate any updates, as well as any messaging you’ll want to use. Will you offer any promotions? Gifts with purchase? How will you essentially relaunch your brand? It’s important to get your ducks in a row now, so when your state inevitably opens back up you have a clear path forward.

It’s always better to communicate your expectations ahead of time, so we recommend sending an email blast to your subscriber list, posting on social media, and creating a banner on your website. All of these areas should have similar (if not identical) messaging to clearly communicate your new policies, precautions, and expectations.

What comes next for ecommerce?

Release delayed launches

If your brand delayed any product launches in the wake of COVID-19, you’re likely ready to release it. Make sure you have all your assets in place, and that they are still sensitive to the current situation (avoid copy that centers around traveling, going out, etc.).

Consider how you’ll time your launch with your store reopening—will you do both at once to encourage traffic in your store, or will you stagger your campaigns to space out what will hopefully be a spike in sales?

Focus on new customer acquisition

Some brands have been mostly unaffected by the pandemic—or have even thrived—which begs the question: How will you maintain long-term success in this “new normal”?

If you’re on pace to hit your revenue goals, now is the time to start prospecting for new customers by running awareness campaigns. Reallocate some of your ad budget to these campaigns. And while these campaigns typically don’t return as well as ads targeting your already-engaged audiences, it’s crucial to start expanding your pool of customers while you’re able to.

Keep in mind that the holiday season is coming up faster that we likely realize (we’re almost halfway through 2020!). Now is the time to start building engaged audiences who you can convert during November and December.

Prepare for the worst

We’re all about thinking positively, but it’s important to prepare for the worst so you can ride the wave.

You might experience a downturn in online sales when your physical store opens up. Will your brick-and-mortar or retail sales be enough to offset the dip in ecom sales? Should you run an online-only promo during that time, or would that only deter in-person sales?

Prepare to experience slower growth for your retail or owned-and-operated store than you might expect. While many brands might expect customers to flood to their store as soon as their state reopens, that might not be the case, as 1) many people are still maintaining social distancing as much as possible and 2) buying habits may have shifted, with customers used to solely buying online now.

Is Google Shopping Really Free Now?

 You’ve likely heard the news that Google Shopping is free now, in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Is that true? And if so, what does it mean for brands?

Is Google Shopping really free?

Yes, eligible brands are able to list for free on Google Shopping now. (US clients with an active Merchant Center feed are eligible. If you’re already running Google Shopping campaigns, you are automatically opted in.)

What does that mean?

Eligible brands can create listings for free on Google Shopping, but this is much different than a Google Shopping Ad. A Google Shopping listing refers to an organic search result on the Google Shopping Tab (see image below). Your product listing will not appear on the homepage (All) SERP.

Google Shopping tab

Your free listing would instead appear as an organic search result on the Shopping tab, which appears below the carousel of sponsored products that appear first (see image below).

Google Shopping ad

Instead, your listing would appear as an organic search result (see image below). The key here is that there is no guarantee of placement — it functions much like any other organic ranking.

Google Shopping free listing placement

TL;DR: Yes, the Google Shopping listing is free, but it will only show up as an organic search result on the Google Shopping page.

Should I apply for a free listing?

The simple answer is “Sure, why not!” If you end up being eligible, it will cost you nothing and will likely drive some sales for your brand. Remember, If you’re already running Google Shopping campaigns, you are automatically opted in.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure you can meet demand. If your stock is running low, we recommend not listing those items. Keep in mind that your supply chain may be impacted in the next few months. If that’s the case, will you still be able to fulfill orders?
  • Don’t use your Google Shopping listing as a substitute for Google Search. Taking up real estate on a Google SERP is much more impactful than a Google shopping listing. Your shopping listing should only serve as a supplement to your paid search on Google, not as a replacement.
  • Don’t depend on getting free access. Google has been vague on what brands are eligible and how to apply. Our team has scoured posts from Google and articles from industry leaders and have still be unable to find any clear description on how to apply, or what qualifications a brand needs to meet to gain access.

We hope this clarifies some of the confusion surrounding this latest announcement from Google. There are still a lot of unknowns surrounding it, so we’ll update as soon as we get more information.

Tips for 2020 Mother’s Day (And All Other) Ads

Our team feels like we’ve seen waaaaay more ads for Mother’s Day items/promos this year than we have any other year. Brands are advertising a variety of Mother’s Day promotions:

  • X% off / $X off $X
  • Gift with Purchase
  • Buy X Ship X
  • Gift Cards
  • Bundles

Maybe it’s just because we’re noticing any ad that isn’t related to COVID-19. Or maybe it’s because brands are doubling down on advertising in order to boost sales.

We’ve seen a 38% increase in Facebook CPMs, likely due to all of these Mother’s Day ads.

The consensus across our teams was that brands are likely pivoting their strategies to be more “normal,” rather than relating their copy fully to staying at home.

It’s important to still be sensitive to the current situation, while still transitioning the focus of your ads to meet your brand’s current needs as well. We’ve compiled a few tips that will help you craft your Mother’s Day ads, as well as any ads moving forward.

Be Sensitive

We mentioned this in brief, but it’s so important to still be sensitive to the state of the world in your ads. While you don’t have to directly mention “staying at home” or “staying safe,” you can still craft your ads in a way that makes sense in light of the current situation.

For example, saying something like “Celebrate with Mom, from wherever you are” or “Send your mom a surprise she’ll love.”

Make It Easy

Some brands are offering 2 for 1 promos, where you buy two of the same item and ship them to different addresses. If you offer that sort of promo, make it easy to enter in two addresses, and perhaps offer free shipping on one of the shipments.

This tip is, of course, true for all of the time — you should reduce friction for your customer as much as possible. Removing all barriers to purchase will increase your conversion rate and make for a better user experience.

Consider Delaying Product Launches

Previously, we had advised brands to move forward with product launches because the demand was there. And while only you can make that decision, we encourage you to potentially consider delaying your product launch, especially if it will come across as disingenuous.

Some brands have come under fire for launching and promoting expensive products in a time when unemployment is nearing record highs and death tolls are still climbing in many states.

Consider the pro and cons of launching a new product, and keep the first point of being sensitive in mind. If you think an ad could seem at all disingenuous, don’t post it.

Facebook CPMs Dropped 77% Last Week

We’ve been closely monitoring advertising stats (both social and PPC) during COVID-19. When we reviewed the stats from last week (March 20–26), we were floored.

CPMs dropped 77% week over week.

CPMs had been on the rise for 4 weeks straight (10.66, 11.04, 12.43, 14.52) — until last week, when the average dropped to 8.20. This is by far the lowest CPM we’ve seen since the beginning of March.

We don’t have any rock-solid insights into why this happened (just keepin’ it real), but we do have a couple hunches. (We should note that we only monitor CPMs for prospecting.)

Theory #1: Fewer brands are advertising

As the effects of the pandemic keep spreading and more businesses are being affected, fewer brands are advertising on social. Because of that, there’s more space for brands who can advertise to take advantage of low CPMs!

Theory #2: More people are purchasing

This could be a residual effect of people spending their stimulus check money, or going back to work after being furloughed/laid off.

As certain states begin to reopen, we could see CPMs continue to drop as more people begin shopping, but we could also see CPMs rise as more businesses begin advertising again. Check our COVID-19 Digital Marketing Command Center for up-to-date stats!

The State of the Beauty Industry during COVID-19

File this under: “News We’re Actually Excited to Share.”

The beauty industry is THRIVING. (Imagine there’s clapping hands emojis in there… THRI *clap* VING *clap*)

It’s not just surviving. It’s not just making end’s meet. It’s not just “doing well for the times.”

We’re talking about record-breaking sales days.

Consistently high engagement rates.

Promotions that are the best in the company’s history.

Sky-high ROAS.

So what’s this all mean?

What’s Been The Trend?

In talking with our Account Managers who work with our beauty clients over the past month, almost everyone noted that sales were up across the board.

As the economic impacts of the pandemic extended into April, we wondered if sales would taper off. But as time went on, sales were maintaining their high level or even increasing. Since mid-March, sales have been steadily high, as brands maintain their successful advertising and organic social.

Why Is the Beauty Industry Thriving?

People are prioritizing self-care. In a time when everything is uncertain and anxiety levels are high, people are recognizing the importance of taking care of themselves. With people

Testing out new looks. Look, the boredom is real during quarantine. Why not watch a tutorial and experiment with a new look?

Stocking up on products they usually buy. Those who haven’t been as financially affected by the hit to the economy are buying what they’d usually buy, and potentially stocking up online as retailers have closed, which explains the lift in direct online sales.

Is Every Beauty Brand Doing Well?

Not every brand is following this general trend. Some of the beauty brands we work with have experienced sales dips, but it’s sometimes hard to tell exactly why.

What Happened When Stimulus Checks Hit?

Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly), nothing notable.

None of our beauty brands saw a huge lift in sales from April 14–16, when the checks were direct deposited for many Americans.

Sales were already high, since self-care has become essential during quarantine, and people used their stimulus checks to either buy necessities (rent, food, etc.) or non-essential items they had been holding off on buying (Animal Crossing, probably).

TikTok: Trends, Case Studies, and Tips

It seems like everyone is talking about TikTok. Generation Z can’t stop making them, young Millennials are adding it to their social consumption next to Instagram and Facebook, and Boomers can’t stop asking what it is. Meanwhile marketers are wondering: how can we capitalize on this hyper-engaged audience?

As the app continues to skyrocket in popularity among young people, many brands are hungry to create content that will engage a new audience. But ask any social media guru, and they’ll immediately tell you that TikTok is a totally different beast than other platforms.

So where do you begin with TikTok? How do you know if it’s right for your brand? We’re giving you all the deets on this new platform, and how to succeed on the app if it’s right for you.

A Brief History of TikTok

TikTok is a video-based social media platform, generally dominated by Generation Z. These teens (and tweens) post videos up to one minute in length.

Music is a huge part of many TikTok trends and videos, probably due to the fact that the app used to be known as, where users would lip sync to songs or audio clips. That concept still exists in many videos on TikTok, but more commonly songs go viral by being used in dance trend videos, where thousands of users do a choreographed dance or action to a specific song.

Trends are a large part of the TikTok ecosystem. Not only do trends encourage users to actively participate and post videos, but they also create a sense of community within the app. In general, TikTok videos are goofy, authentic, and raw. You won’t see lots of editing like you might on a platform like YouTube.

As of now, brands have their own TikTok accounts, influencers have paid sponsorships with brands, and there are a small number of brands who are eligible to do paid advertising within the app. This is new territory for almost all marketers, as TikTok defies many traditional marketing tactics and is a relatively new app.

Our Work on TikTok with Banila Co

Many brands that we work with have asked us about TikTok. As we’ll note later, not every brand is right for the app, but when Banila Co approached us to create a TikTok strategy, we knew they were a perfect fit.

Banila Co is a Korean skincare brand who recently launched in the United States market. Their most popular product is Clean It Zero, a 3-in-1 cleansing balm that removes makeup and cleanses skin without irritation. They’re incredibly popular among Gen Z and have a low price point, making them an ideal brand to try out TikTok.

We reached out to a range of TikTok influencers—some with tons of followers, some with fewer followers, as well as a differing ages. We sent them a free tub of Clean It Zero, and gave them minimal instructions. All they had to do was create a video of them melting off their makeup with Clean It Zero to the song “Melt” by E40 and include the hashtag #TheMeltChallenge.

No influencers were paid, and we didn’t provide a ton of guidelines for the videos. We wanted the content to be organic and creative, which TikTok influencers excel at.

The goal of the challenge, like most social campaigns, was simply brand awareness. Specifically, with this campaign, we wanted to create a movement that would inspire other users on the app to take part in the challenge.

#TheMeltChallenge Results

The videos made by influencers were really creative and authentic. One video in particular has over 65,000 likes!


so satisfying to melt this makeup off🤤 ##TheMeltChallenge @banilacousa

♬ Melt – E-40

We saw the trend start to expand beyond the individuals we sent product to, with other users taking part in #TheMeltChallenge (with or without Clean It Zero).

Overall, we were pleased with the results of the campaign, especially since there was minimal cost and high-quality videos that came out of it!

Tips for TikTok

There are a lot of brands on TikTok trying to make it work—from Ralph Lauren to Chipotle, brands are desperately trying to connect with a younger generation that is averse to and unimpressed with traditional marketing techniques.

Assess Your Social Workload

Lots of brands want to start posting on TikTok, but they may not realize how much work goes into creating these videos. It requires a lot of creativity and effort to make videos that do well, which includes researching trends. And even though videos generally have minimal editing, you will still need to take time to do a little bit of work on them in post-production.

If you choose to do it in-house (instead of working with influencers to create the videos), you need to find employees who can be naturally goofy on camera without coming across as super cheesy or corny. Not every company has employees who are willing to put themselves out there on camera like that, so that is a consideration as well.

Bottom line: if your team is already struggling to find time to manage your Twitter/Facebook/Instagram accounts, you shouldn’t be on TikTok.

Work with Influencers

One of the easiest ways to break ground in TikTok is to work with influencers. This is still a relatively new platform, but there are still people monetizing off their following—even people who aren’t old enough to drive yet!

The influencer work we coordinated for Banila was on a product exchange only basis, requiring no additional cost to the client on top of the cost of goods and shipping.

Keep in mind that as influencers grow and more begin to take advantage of monetizing their audiences, just sending free product might not be enough. But, with smaller influencers, that option will likely always be there. Of course, you’ll still want to create your own brand account so that you can be tagged in the post from the influencer, and can also repost those influencer videos to your page to populate your brand’s feed.

Make Raw and Authentic Videos

TikToks are an interesting combination of raw and authentic, as well as rehearsed and choreographed. The production value is low, so that part doesn’t require much more equipment than your smartphone.

Where the bulk of your investment in TikTok lies is making the content feel natural, fun, and not forced. Every piece of content you create should feel authentic. I know these words are somewhat vague and seem like trendy filler words, but they’re really the key to succeeding on TikTok.

Don’t Be an Infomercial

TikTok is the last place you want to traditionally promote your product. Whereas on platforms like Instagram or YouTube, you can document how to use a product or show features, that will absolutely not perform well on TikTok. In order for campaigns to be successful, something besides your brand has to be the feature—whether a challenge, dance, or trending song.

Your product becomes secondary or even tertiary to the point of the video. The focus should be on some kind of challenge, dance, or specific action that involves your product.

It’s Not for Everyone

So many brands are hungry to connect with Generation Z, and at first glance TikTok seems like the perfect place to market your product to them. However, not every brand is right for TikTok.

For example, if your brand has a high price point, you’ll likely not be able to eventually convince a teenager to invest in your product. Or maybe your brand simply isn’t geared towards young people—like a treatment that reverses wrinkles or a product for heart health.

However, many brands would do well on TikTok, even if they seem unconventional. Fast fashion brands would do well, as well as health-conscious food and restaurants.

Need a little help getting your TikTok off the ground? Want help determining if TikTok is right for your brand? Reach out to the Blue Wheel team today!

How to Choose an Attribution Window for Your Ads

This is part 2 in our series on the basics of scaling your advertising efforts. Catch up on our introduction to resetting expectations and Part 1—Setting KPIs for your business goals!

Deciding on an attribution window to review your data is just as important as the KPIs you use to determine how effective your advertising is—in fact, it will directly affect how those KPIs look depending on which lens you choose to look at your data through. 

Channel Attribution

We have a client who drives membership sign-ups and looks at their cost per acquisition to decide on how to invest budget into their various marketing channels. Their target CPA was $80. In this blog post, you will see 3 examples of how they could look at attribution and which we chose and recognize to be the most accurate to calculate their CPA, resulting in them to scale their advertising campaigns.

As you can see below, the number of membership sign-ups they received in 2019 via Facebook Ads looks quite different depending on the attribution window you choose.

These numbers are even less when you look at their membership sign ups in Google default last-click attribution because it doesn’t account for view through conversions, stripped UTM parameters, or assisted conversions from Facebook Ads.

There are several attribution window combinations you can choose to use, but some will be more accurate than others. We’re breaking down three common attribution windows, listing the pros and cons and comparing results from the same account in the same time period!

Google Analytics Last-Click

This view only looks at conversions in Google Analytics associated with coming directly from a Facebook ad.

CPA Formula

Facebook Spend / Google Analytics Membership Signups from Last-Click Facebook source/medium


You’ll have a good sense of your direct response traffic from your specific ad—that is, you’ll know how many people purchased/converted directly from a click. This view allows you to see how traffic from a channel interacts with your website through bounce rate, average time on page, average number of pages viewed, etc.


This attribution model only tracks the very last thing a user does, completely ignoring the earlier part of the customer journey. It doesn’t have all the conversions that came from the Facebook ads because of issues like UTM parameters typically dropping off when someone clicks an ad in the Facebook app and it redirects to their web browser. 

End Result

Only looking at last-click conversions avoided any overlap with other channels, however, it didn’t show all of the membership sign-ups driven from their Facebook campaigns.

Facebook 28-Day Click/1-Day View Default Attribution

This view looks at all conversions in Facebook ads that viewed or clicked the ad within the automatic Facebook attribution window (28-day click, 1-day view).

CPA Formula

Facebook Spend / Membership Signups from anyone who clicked an ad in 28 days or viewed an ad within one day


This view accounts for all conversions that interacted with your Facebook campaigns. Many agencies and brands use this attribution view because it seems like it’s the most profitable.


This view is too broad and oftentimes will cause a large overlap in reporting when you are running multiple advertising channels, making it hard to actually determine how large of a role Facebook played in the customer journey. For example, maybe the last thing they clicked was a Google ad, but they clicked a Facebook ad 28 days ago and now the sale is attributed to both.

End Result

This view was too broad and made the CPA look very low in comparison to Google’s numbers. Additionally, we were not able to discern how much of an impact Facebook actually had on converting these users and how much channel overlap was being reported on.

7-Day Click/1-Day View Blue Wheel Attribution

This view looked at all conversions in Facebook ads that clicked an ad within 7 days or viewed an ad within 1 day and converted.

At Blue Wheel, we always report on Facebook ads using this attribution view. As you’ll see, we believe that this view gives the most accurate representation of how many conversions Facebook is actually driving. 

CPA Formula

Facebook Spend / Membership Signups from anyone who clicked an ad in 7 days or viewed an ad within 1 day.


This accounts for the first interaction with a Facebook ad and within one week of clicking an ad to minimalize overlap with other channels without completely ignoring people who don’t convert immediately. 


Our brands frequently want to compare this view with Google Last-Click and, as stated above, Google Last-Click doesn’t account for view-throughs, UTM stripping, or traffic that converts outside of the last-click.

End Result

With the narrow view, it appeared we were drastically unprofitable, and with the broad view, we were over-reporting on conversions coming in from other channels.

This view gave us a better understanding of how much we could scale based on a CPA that was in between the broad and narrow views. Using this attribution window, we were able to forecast budget according to how much we could spend while maintaining their CPA goal. 

Choose the Right Attribution for You

The client we reviewed in this post had a very short sales cycle. That being said, something like a 28-day click attribution may make more sense for a brand that has a longer time-to-close.

Whatever attribution you decide, make sure you decide which is the most accurate to your business and use that view consistently to set your benchmarks. It’s crucial to view all your Facebook campaigns through the same model so you can better understand how to optimize!

Keep in mind that you should only use the spend on a specific campaign to calculate that campaign’s CPA. Total spend isn’t an efficient number to use when you have other campaigns with different goals, such as awareness, lead gen, etc.

Check back soon for the final part of our ad series, which will focus on everyone’s favorite topic—testing! Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn for the latest.

What Eliminating Chrome Third-Party Cookies Means for Brands

The news that Google Chrome will be eliminating third-party cookies rocked the marketing and advertising world. Because so many campaigns utilize third-party cookies, and so many people use Google Chrome as their default browser, this announcement had marketers everywhere wondering, “What are we going to do now?”

We chatted with Michael Riley, Regional Vice President and Head of Industry, Automotive for Nativo. Nativo’s mission is to equip advertising for the age of content, improving the web experience and creating meaningful connections for today’s digital consumer. They work between advertisers and publishers to build a conversation and create relevant content.

The work that both Nativo and Blue Wheel do in the advertising space is being directly affected by the elimination of third-party cookies. Here’s our take on what’s happening in the industry, and what it means for brands and agencies alike!

Wait, remind me what third-party cookies are?

Third-party cookies are used to serve relevant ads to users. They’re invisibly placed on a site, so any time that cookie is loaded, it tracks the user. For years, third-party cookies have been the basis of ad retargeting and programmatic advertising.

For example, let’s say I visit a website about sustainable living. Next, I look at a site that sells custom engagement rings. Then I look up the definition of fair trade on Merriam Webster. My website history is beginning to build a profile about me. Based on my perceived interests from my browsing history, it’s a good guess that I’d be interested in engagement rings that are made with sustainable diamonds and fair-trade gold—so a sustainable jewelry site might serve an ad to me.

Then I visit that site and browse around a little bit, but I don’t buy anything. A few days later, I get an ad on Facebook for that same site, advertising a carousel of products I viewed.

Both of these examples used third-party cookies to track me and build a profile that describes me, and then serve me relevant behavioral and retargeting ads.

So what’s happening with Google Chrome cookies?

In January 2020, Google Chrome announced that they were going to be phasing out third-party cookies over the next two years.

Safari and Firefox have already disabled many types of third-party cookies, but Google Chrome is taking two years to fully implement the change, citing that they want to give plenty of time for sites to adjust their cookies and migrate to a new tactic. The delay will hopefully prevent thousands of sites from breaking.

Why is this happening?

Cookies originally started out with a more simple purpose, but over the years, they began to be repurposed outside of their original intention. This innovation wasn’t inherently bad, but soon everyone was relying on cookies in a way that was becoming bigger than intended. So the elimination of third-party cookies is really the Internet’s way of bringing things back to basics and attempting to get things under control.

With the recent increased focus on privacy, we see brands scrambling to increase security across the board, so it doesn’t come as a shock that Google Chrome is getting rid of third-party cookies. While third-party cookies are typically not seen as being as invasive as other forms of privacy infringements, companies are looking for ways to minimize any kind of risk.

But the removal of third-party cookies doesn’t come as a surprise—iPhones haven’t had them for a couple years. “You never hear people saying, ‘What are we doing about Apple devices?’ People have just been turning a blind eye to it,” says Michael. “But there will be a lot more affected soon, because Chrome is so big and a lot more companies are being threatened in a massive way.”

But, this move also benefits Google and can be viewed as a power play by the brand. “Google has a good ‘in’ to say, ‘Hey, we’re doing this for security reasons,’ but there’s also an exterior business reason, because this shift helps them,” Michael theorizes. “One-to-one matching and login-based data are not going anywhere. What’s the number one thing people log in to? Google.

Google isn’t reliant on third-party cookies, because so many people have a Google account that logs them into Gmail, Youtube, and more. Some of Google’s competitors are reliant on cookies, whereas Google isn’t. Some people view this as a power move on Google’s part to further their already-contested monopoly on the industry. (Google was under investigation in late 2019 for monopolizing the space.)

What effect is this having on the marketplace?

Cookies have played a large part in how brands market their products across multiple platforms. Now, brands will need to shift their tactics.

“Cookies have been the background subject of advertising for so long. They really got out of control,” Michael says. “This is a reset back to what marketing was in the first place—having a conversation and building out trust in the audience and talking to them in relevant areas.”

We’ve seen this reset coming for years, with the emergence of inbound marketing and engaged social media communities—the elimination of cookies just solidifies this refocus. The focus of marketing has slowly shifted from only relying on paid advertising to building a community that loves what you have to offer.

Michael notes that this can be a positive for small businesses: “At this point, it’s leveling the playing field. If you’re a smaller marketer, you have more of a chance than ever to compete. Larger marketers have had very intense ecosystems with access to data, and that gave them a huge advantage. Now local advertisers can be good at speaking to audiences, so they’re on the same playing field.”

What should agencies and brands do now?

It’s time to double down on your organic marketing efforts—whether that means building up your email list, increasing your SEO content, or creating a community on social media. “If you can create content and you’re good at it, you’ll win,” Michael advises.

Another important aspect of eliminating third-party cookies will be having users create a log-in or account so you can directly market to them, instead of relying on third-party cookies. “If you can have a reason to create log-ins, it’ll give you an advantage in the long run.”

Michael also noted that not every consumer will create a login for everything—for example, you probably won’t create an account for a random local store you’ll shop at once, but you might for a nationwide chain. You’ll need to evaluate whether it would be a good experience for your customer.

If a log-in isn’t feasible or applicable for your brand, you’ll need to build an engaged email or social audience. These are both certainly principles of solid marketing, but it will become even more important to organically build these audiences as third-party cookies are eliminated.

What if I need more help?

This is a complex issue that will affect many sites, even if you don’t realize it. And, if you dabble in any kind of paid advertising, you’ll definitely need to alter your strategy.

The expert team at Blue Wheel can help—reach out today to see if we’d be a good fit to work together!

How to Identify and Define Ad Performance Goals

This is part 2 in our series on the basics of scaling your advertising efforts. Read part 1 here!

Whether you’re just beginning your brand’s advertising efforts or looking to scale existing campaigns, it’s always good to take a step back before you begin any campaigns and determine how you will define performance and what metrics you’ll use to define success.

We’ve broken it down into three questions you should ask in order to determine which KPIs you should use for your ad campaign.

What is your primary business objective?

Do you need to show immediate returns? Or are you more concerned with getting people to try your product? Are you a subscription service looking to get someone in the door? Knowing your primary method of growth is key in determining what type of campaigns you should run.

What is the goal of each campaign?

Once you’ve decided your business objectives, you need to know the type of campaign you are running to decide which KPI to optimize for. These will closely resemble your business objectives!

For example, if you’re looking to show immediate returns, you’ll want to use a metric like return on ad spend (ROAS) to show how much you are returning for what you spent. If you’re trying to grow your subscription service, you’ll want to look at cost per acquisition (CPA) and customer lifetime value (CPL) to determine if you are going to make a profit from what you pay to acquire a customer. 

Answering these questions will help you decide what type of campaign you need to drive your primary business function.

What is the best metric to hit your goals?

After you’ve determined what type of campaign you are running, you’ll need to identify a specific metric to apply to the campaign. One piece of especially important advice: you need to keep your metrics consistent so that you can effectively monitor results.

Analyzing ROAS is the best way to determine if your campaign was profitable, but looking at cost per reach will give you a more accurate idea of how many people you have put your brand in front of. 

Some examples

Lead Generation

One of our brands, a subscription-based service in the health and wellness industry, needed to determine a customer acquisition cost they could realistically make back from any leads we drove.

Because their business model relies on lead generation and recurring memberships, looking at direct ROAS wasn’t enough. Instead, we needed to come up with a more complex model that gave us an accurate representation of the effectiveness of our ads.

We looked at a few things to decide that:

  • What is the customer lifetime value? Out of every membership signup, how long were they a member and how much revenue did they contribute?
  • What is a cost per acquisition that makes sense given the customer lifetime value?
  • What is the conversion rate from lead to membership?
  • What is a cost per lead that will convert enough membership that makes sense for the brand?

We had a dual approach driving leads and membership signups. We wanted quality leads that would sign up for the subscription and stay members, lowering their cost to acquire. Using all available data, we figured out a cost per lead and cost per acquisition that was sustainable for the brand’s growth.

The trendline above shows how driving leads directly correlated to membership signups. Our budget allocation in this case was directly related to the KPI we set for both leads and memberships.

Direct Return

Many brands are primarily focused on return—they just want to know how profitable the campaign was. ROAS is the easiest way to gauge what you’re getting back for what you’re spending. Any one (or any ad) can drive site traffic, but how much purchase intent does that traffic have? Metrics like click-through rate, add-to-cart conversion rate, and ROAS show how much people are engaged with your ad and how willing they are to move into the consideration and acquisition phases of your marketing funnel.

A word of caution: ROAS can be a shortsighted metric in terms of overall growth. Without new customers, you’re never going to scale. It’s important to balance new customer acquisition and returns. You can focus on hammering the audiences you know return with ads but without testing new audiences and being willing to pay more to acquire new people, eventually your overall costs will continue to go up and your customer base will become stagnant. 

ROAS is obviously very popular and is the preferred metric for many of our clients. One of our clients in the health and wellness industry (not subscription based) identified ROAS as their indicator of success.

As their agency partner, we also look at CTR, add-to-cart conversion rate, and purchase conversion rate, allowing us to see trends in sales and how people interacted with the ads.

As shown above, looking at how metrics interact with each other is crucial to driving success. We believe any successful brand has a good mix of different types of ad campaigns and understands how they work together, even if an individual campaign (perhaps one just for acquiring new customers) doesn’t look as profitable as others.


If you’re a new brand or are looking to branch out into new audiences, you’ll likely want to run awareness campaigns at some point. Cost per impression is a universal metric used to calculate impressions served for you spend, however, channels like Facebook let you use metrics that are much more accurate at measuring how many individual people have seen your brand. At Blue Wheel, we recommend metrics like cost per people reached or cost per video view (assuming you’re running video ads). These metrics seldum connect directly to revenue, but can help increase returns through your campaigns that are optimizing for your primary business KPI.

One of our clients, in the high-end fashion space, wanted to pivot their clothing line to target an entirely new audience that hadn’t historically purchased from their company. In order to branch out into this new area, they needed to educate the new potential consumers about their brand.

We ran brand awareness videos at the top of the funnel to introduce these people to the brand. Running these as a form of brand education gave people an overview of the brands message, type of products, and lifestyle they promote.

These campaigns themselves didn’t generate any statistically significant revenue. We chose to instead look at cost per reach in Facebook as our main metric, additionally looking at the average amount of time the video was watched. The amount of video viewed metric helped us understand two things:

  • How engaged people were in general with the video creative we were running
  • How much of the message in the video they received, informing what type of ads to run based on how much of the video they watched

The graph above shows through the course of their product season video views directly correlated with the number of clicks and ultimately purchases they acquired from their campaigns.

The benefit of this type of campaign is that, even though it’s not returning itself, it opens up video viewers retargeting audiences on Facebook and educates people who would get served our other ads if they went to the website. Ultimately, getting the lowest cost per reach was our primary campaign KPI and we used CTR and video views as KPIs to optimize which ads we ran.

Stay tuned for how we measure these goals! Depending on attribution models, these metrics can look quite different. In our next post, we’ll dive into the attribution windows we think are the most effective to measure these goals.