How the Google Advertising ID Changes May Affect Your Mobile Game

by Game Marketing Genie, on 12-Jan-2022 13:29:25

Following the iOS 14 update released by Apple, Google too came up with its own measures to safeguard its users’ privacy. On 3rd June 2021, Google informed developers that starting late 2021, when Android 12 users opt-out of personalized ads, the advertising identifier provided by Google Play Services (GAID) will not be available to developers and marketers for any purpose. 

The GAID is a unique device ID that allows advertisers to anonymously track user ad activity on their Android devices. Previously, when users opted out of internet-based advertising on the devices, the device GAID was still available to developers for limited use in analytics and fraud prevention. But with the announced changes, developers will not be able to access the GAID of users who opt-out of advertising. 

The GAID impact on advertising is expected to be huge since publishers will no longer be able to access crucial user data that will help them serve personalized ads. Your ability to monetize your app effectively will also be limited since you will not have sufficient data for campaign optimization like before. 

This article explains how the GAID changes could affect your advertising moving forward and what you need to do to overcome the challenges. 

What is GAID?

The Google Advertising ID (GAID) is a unique identifier for advertising provided by Google Play Services. The ID is a string of 32 characters (numbers and lowercase letters) that identify a unique device like a smartphone and tablet. Google creates these IDs randomly but users can reset their device’s GAID or disable them completely to prevent mobile tracking. 

GAID plays an important role in the mobile advertising ecosystem. GAID tracking helps advertisers and app owners to analyze app traffic and attribute users to specific traffic sources. Advertisers can know when an ad published in an app has been viewed or clicked, and when the ad causes a conversion. App installs and purchases are the two common conversion elements that can be tracked using Google Advertising ID. With this information, advertisers can tell the effectiveness of their advertising campaigns and create powerful user profiles to understand their customers. 

The GAID also helps marketers target specific individuals that have taken certain in-app actions from their mobile devices. Based on the tracking data available to them, marketers can know the users that are the most valuable to their brands, and tell ad networks to show their ads to users with similar characteristics. The ad networks will then access the GAID information to identify users who match the characteristics demanded by the advertisers. This act greatly improves ad efficiency since ads are shown to highly targeted individuals who have shown great interest in the ad content. 

Relationship between IDFA and GAID

Both the GAID and IDFA are privacy-focused identifiers that give users more control over their data. Both these IDs replaced permanent device identifiers on Android and Apple devices. The GAID replaced the Android ID on Android devices, while the IDFA replaced the Unique Device Identifier on iOS. Before Google introduced the Google Advertising ID (GAID), Advertisers could track user activity using the permanent and unchangeable device ID. GAID enables more privacy and consumer choice since users can easily turn it off or alter its value – neither of which was possible with a permanent ID. 

Google's GAID changes come on the heels of Apple's ATT (App Tracking Transparency) framework that came into effect in April 2021. While Apple made IDFA tracking an opt-in feature, Google doesn't require users to categorically opt into the use of their unique identifiers for advertising purposes. Device ID tracking is still the default option when users install an app from Google Play Store, but they can disable tracking from their device settings. Advertisers who attempt to access the identifier of users who have opted out of tracking receive a string of zeros instead of the device ID. Just like the IDFA changes on iOS, this gives users more control over their data and bolsters online security and privacy. 

Learn more about Apple’s IDFA changes and its impact on advertising in our blog, What is An Apple IDFA? How Apple’s iOS 14 Update Will Impact Your Game Marketing. 

Google's update on GAID restrictions

As part of the Google privacy update for 2021, the Google Advertising ID will be disabled when a user opts out of internet-based advertising. Advertisers used the GAID to build customer profiles to ensure users receive personalized ads. By opting out of GAID tracking, the user makes it clear that they don't want their personal data used for any marketing purposes. When an advertiser tries to access the GAID for a user who has opted out of tracking, they get a bunch of zeros and no personal information about that user. 

The rollout of these changes will affect apps starting in late 2021 and expand to affect apps installed on devices that run Google Play in early 2022. 

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How does this impact mobile advertising and tracking?

The ability to opt-out of ad personalization isn't new for Android users. Google made it possible for Android users to disable tracking on their devices in 2013. This system-level function was similar to the LAT (Limit Ad Tracking) feature on iOS, but with one key difference. When users enabled LAT on their iOS devices, the IDFA became a string of zeros. On Android devices, the GAID was still available to advertisers for use in analytics and attribution, but it came flagged with the user’s preference not to be tracked for advertising purposes. 

However, when the latest privacy update takes place, all this will change. When a user opts out of ad personalization, their GAID will become a string of zeros to help apps respect their desire for privacy. Without GAID tracking, mobile attribution becomes very difficult. Data analysis on a granular level is not possible for their opt-out audience since advertisers can only access very limited data. The GAID impact on Facebook Ads is quite significant since there’s very limited demographic data for campaign analysis. The CPI (Cost per install) and number per install are not available or take long to be attributed. 

As a result, advertisers cannot accurately attribute their ad spends for different campaigns. The GAID impact on Google Ads also means that advertisers cannot tell their most valuable users and the ad assets that attract most users. This makes campaign optimization very challenging, forcing marketers to find alternative ways to understand their users and improve campaign performance. 

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What can you do about it?

As you can see, the GAID changes limit the data available to advertisers for campaign optimization. To help you navigate the changes and still make your advertising effective, here are a couple of our expert recommendations on what to do next. 

1. Invest in third party attribution tools

Third-party attribution tools like and Adjust provide a holistic measurement of campaign performance across all devices and channels. These tools use dedicated URLs to track users across marketing campaigns. This dedicated tracking helps advertisers understand the user journey and attribute ad spend across different campaigns and ad networks. 

The tools allow for strong link matching which makes it easy to understand how conversion happens for each user, especially when identifiers like GAID don’t exist. The tools use predictive algorithms that incorporate historical attributions to provide accurate attributions where there are no universal IDs. With this information, you can now easily tell your most valuable users and optimize ad campaigns accordingly to drive the highest ROAS. 

2. Invest in deep linking

Lucky for you, the GAID changes don’t affect deep linking. This means you can still deliver a seamless user experience by routing visitors to the content they expect when they land on your marketing assets. Well-implemented deep links store contextual information about where the link was clicked, where the user wants to go, and other custom user data. This information empowers you to build powerful marketing features to provide your audience with better experiences. 

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Get ready to market your mobile game

Mobile game marketing can be tricky! Take control of your game and make its marketing matter with our help in Mobile Game Marketing: Your Complete Guide to Success.

These changes look scary and you are worried about your ability to reach your users with targeted ads when they opt out of GAID tracking. Well, worry not! We have been tracking the Google Privacy changes and our team has helped many clients deal with the changes and come out on top. 

The team at Game Marketing Genie can also help navigate the changes and find the best solutions to reach your users. 

Feel free to contact us if you need more help with your ad campaigns. 

Topics:Mobile Game MarketingVideo Game Marketing StrategyVideo Game MarketingDigital Marketing StrategyApp Marketing StrategyGoogle AdsPaid Advertising

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