4 ways to enrich and monetize your first-party data

Laptop with Google Analytics open to go over website first party data insights

Publishers are already aware that third-party cookies will be deprecated sometime in 2023. But how many of us are actually ready for the post-cookie world?

You’ve probably heard many publications talk about leveraging your first-party data more, but what does that actually mean?

How are we supposed to use this information after we collect it?

What is first-party data?

First-party data is any user information you collect directly. Some examples include:

  • Personal information: Name, age, location
  • Website analytics: URLs visited, browser, device
  • Payment and purchase history

This is information that your users are willing to share with you. Making it compliant with privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA.

First-party data collection techniques

The most common way to collect this data is if you use a newsletter subscription or lead submission form on your website. However, there are 4 other methods you can use to gather this information.

First-party data ad tech options

Let’s quickly talk about rebuilding trust between consumers and brands.

Previously, publishers and advertisers relied on third-party cookies to track users and their interests to follow them around the web.

But between GDPR, CCPA, and all other privacy regulations that will come to pass, consumers have made their stance crystal clear. They want more control over how their personal information is used.

This has given rise to ad technologies like Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) and Data Management Platforms (DMPs). Technologies that rely on first, second, and third-party data to paint a more granular picture of who your site visitors are and what they are interested in.

CDPs and DMPs help organize your user data and offer insights into your visitor analytics. However, this technology often comes with a steep price. It is best suited for brands that witness millions of unique page visits per month.

Then there’s Prebid, the leading open-source header bidder. They offer a free solution for publishers to leverage their first-party data through their Prebid server (server-to-server header bidding option) or Prebid.js (client-side header bidding option).

Alternatively, there are situations where publishers aren’t able to put a first-party data strategy together.

Say you own a food blog that doesn’t see too many email sign-ups or a website that doesn’t see much traffic yet. Or you don’t have the resources to start using a CDP or DMP yet.

Publishers caught in this scenario can turn to curated marketplaces offered by specific ad platforms like Magnite and Pubmatic.

What is a Customer Data Platform?

CDPs collect user data from your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools. Think HubSpot or Pardot. Or various other online and offline sources like mobile and website data.

Sound familiar? That’s because CDPs operate with your first-party data. This information is then organized into cohorts or audience segments.

CDPs use Personally Identifiable Information (PII) when creating your user profiles, so you clearly identify individual users. The added benefit here is that they can also integrate with your consent management platform to ensure compliance with privacy regulations.

By unifying all your audience data in one place, CDPs are able to glean powerful insights from your first-party data.

CDPs have a broader selection of use cases compared to DMPs. For instance, marketers may use them for creating personalized campaigns.

Specifically for publishers, audience insights and segments generated using CDPs can be used to demonstrate and prove the value of available advertising inventory to advertisers. This can be helpful to set up Programmatic Direct Deals.

What is a Data Management Platform?

DMPs are similar to CDPs in that they also create user cohorts. Many DMPs primarily rely on third-party data to generate these cohorts. But with their impending departure, some DMPs can now leverage first-party data as well.

Where CDPs have more general uses, DMPs are commonly used within publishers’ ad stacks. After enriching your first-party data with user analytics, activate this data by integrating these audience segments into your DSPs and SSPs.

Publishers can use CDPs and DMPs in conjunction to create insightful and enriched user cohorts to better signal the value of their inventory to advertisers.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. These solutions can come with a hefty price tag, so it’s not an option that’s accessible to all publishers.

What are Prebid’s first-party data options?

Prebid offers both client and server-side header bidding solutions, Prebid.js and Prebid Server.

You can find out more about how it works (Prebid.js and Prebid Server) and how to set it up.

The technology and wrappers provided by Prebid are open-source. While this means that in theory any publisher can download the code and start using it without spending anything, it does require technical expertise and in-house engineering resources to set up and maintain.

Prebid gives publishers the ability to create content attributes (like domain name, page categories, search queries and keywords) and add them to the bidstream for specific bidders to access.

For instance, you own a DIY home decor website called myhomedecorDIY.com. You get a lot of site traffic to one of your pages, myhomedecorDIY.com/blog/kitchen/wall-planters. You can create attributes such as,

  • Domain: myhomedecorDIY.com
  • Page: myhomedecorDIY.com/blog/kitchen/wall-planters
  • Keywords: wall decor ideas, wall planter DIY
  • Search: wall planter

Now on the other end, advertisers who are looking for publishers with audiences that are interested in DIY home projects are now more likely to bid on your inventory. Advertisers value these signals highly and are often willing to bid more when this level of first-party data is available.

This is how you can activate and leverage your first-party data to monetize your site.

What are curated marketplaces?

Let’s say you are a publisher who doesn’t have an extensive email list (very little first-party data). Maybe you don’t have the financial resources to use CDPs and DMPs. Or, you don’t have the technical know-how to navigate around Prebid.

However, through free web visitor analytics tools like Google Analytics, you have insights into what your audience is interested in.

Ad tech platforms, like Magnite or Pubmatic, offer curated marketplaces that have pre-built audiences across multiple publishers via a deal ID that advertisers can bid on.

These solutions are great for publishers who aren’t able to build a first-party data strategy themselves yet.

In summary

Now let’s put everything together.

We talked about what first-party data was and how to collect it.

Then, we explored the different technologies that enable publishers to collect or enrich their audience data. In turn, this can help publishers build distinct audience cohorts and showcase the value of the inventory. The next step is to pass this information down to the bidstream. Allowing advertisers to identify and bid on inventory that is aligned with their campaign goals.

We also discussed options for publishers who are either planning to or just starting to build out their first-party data strategy, like curated marketplaces.

In order to monetize successfully in a post-third-party cookie world, it’s not enough to just collect first-party data. You also need to think about how you’re going to enrich that data with audience insights, which tools to use to activate that data, and how to integrate with your DSPs and SSPs, so advertisers can access all the information during the bidding process.

Adding these steps to your first-party data strategy will better prepare you before third-party cookies are eventually deprecated.

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