How to Get Started On Your First-party Data Strategy?

Updated on: December 20, 2023
Google announced that Chrome will not support third-party cookies in two years. While we will discuss the implications in another post, in here, we'll focus on what publishers should do - Building first-party data.

We all know for a fact that third-party cookies are facing existential threats from browsers and data regulators. Sooner, the industry will likely come up with an alternative to cookies. Besides, the consortiums have started exploring different methods and both IAB and Google proposed new advertising standards from their ends. 

If there’s one thing we can be certain about, it is the significance of first-party data on your bottom line. At present, you might not be having a sophisticated data collection platform in place. And, that’s perfectly fine as the programmatic ecosystem still works based on cookies. But don’t you need a strategy to prepare yourself for the post-cookie era? 

Even if the cookies are here to stay, a first-party strategy can maximize your ad revenue and help you understand your audiences better. Without any further ado, we’ll cover what is a first-party data strategy and how to collect, store, and use data to deliver a better experience to users and higher returns to advertisers. If you can delight both of them, your job is done. 

What is First-party Data?

First-party data refers to any data that you collect from your audience. As a publisher, you’ll receive millions of visitors to your site, thousands of email newsletter subscribers, and hundreds of feedback/surveys. And, each event and page view generates several data points that you can utilize to target ad campaigns, understand your readers, optimize the site experience, and more. 

For instance, a single page view generates 40 data points. Now, imagine how many data points would be generated in a day or in a month. The data is exactly what advertisers are looking for while running their campaigns.

So, it is important to have an efficient strategy to collect, store, and put data into use. Let’s start with data collections. Shall we?

Collecting first-party data

We can categorize it into two parts. 

  1. Data to collect
  2. How to collect. 

In other words, you need to know what data should you be collecting and how you should collect them.

Data to collect

Before getting into data collection, we want to make one thing clear. You need to understand the purpose behind your data collection (why are you collecting data) to zero in on what data points to collect. 

Here, we’ll be focusing on two broad themes. The first purpose is audience segment insights and the second one is advertising. Let’s talk about them later in this post. 

Data points:

Generally, you can collect the following data points for the two purposes we’ve mentioned above. 

– Clicks across the page.

– Any downloads or newsletter sign-ups

– Ad engagements.

– Media on the page.

– Search queries.

– Comments, topics, and forum posts. 

– Page metadata


What you can derive from the data points: 

While they seem simple, you can build up the following insights from the data points:

– Age

– Gender

– Location

– Household Income

– Marital Status and Family Size

– Interests

– Preferences

– Browsing History

– Purchase History

– Social Network Usage, and more. 

If you are collecting data via surveys and offline modes (via CRM), you can on-board them to build a more granular and accurate user profile. 

Now, how to collect data points?

While there are multiple tools to use, you can start with the simple and existing ones. 

– Google Analytics

Yes, the analytics code that’s on your pages can collect several important data points. Most probably, you should’ve been using analytics to understand your audience and the performance of the content.

Sidenote: You need to have GA 360 to integrate it with Google Ad Manager. 

You can also use GA to improve the ad revenue. Here’s what you need to enable Remarketing and Advertising Reporting Features in Analytics. 

– Keep the required data handy. The email address of the admin of both Google Analytics 360 and Google Ad Manager, Name of the Analytics 360 account manager, Analytics property ID, Analytics view ID(s), and Google Ad Manager network ID. 

– Sign in to GA 360 > Product Help > Request Email Support.

– Issue Type > Google Ads Manager Linking > Answer the questions > Done.

Once approved, you’ll be able to see Google Ad Manager data in Google Analytics. 

Here’s how to do it – Set up the Google Ad Manager integration – Analytics Help 

– Hotjar/Smartlook

If you aren’t familiar with Hotjar or Smartlook, both are heatmap tools for the web that can help you recognize how the users are engaging with the content on the page(s). You can track where they click, cursor movements, scroll-depth, and more. 

– Pixels 

We don’t need to explain tracking pixels as you’re well aware of them. Every marketing technology and advertising platforms you use are likely to pixel your pages to place cookies so that anonymous user data can be collected for intended purposes. 

A simple example can be Facebook pixels. When you’re running Facebook ads, Facebook will ask you place their tracking and conversion pixels in order to track traffic and conversions. Similarly, you will be able to collect user data if you pixel the pages. 

– DMP 

Last but not least, data management platforms (DMPs). DMPs are specifically made for collecting first-party data and put it into use. It is perhaps the easiest option available for you. If you can afford a DMP, we suggest you give it a try. 

Putting data into use

This is the most important part – how can you apply the data you’ve collected to improve user experience and revenue? Before getting started, there are several ways to do this. In fact, we’ve written a separate post on this before as well. 

So, we’ll try to give a few examples.

– First, Google Analytics.

For revenue: 

If you use Google Analytics 360, then do you know that there’s a way to compare and recognize the ad units performing well per 1000 sessions? That’s not all, you can see the demographic markup of ad units that are being sold to advertisers and determine if certain sections have more valuable users to set the pricing accordingly. Here’s how to get the insights.

Secondly, you can share the remarketing list from Google Analytics to the Google Ad Manager. With the lists, you can create segments and target them to meet your campaign goals. 

Not a Google Analytics 360, then you can create and share remarketing lists with Google Ads to target campaigns better. Imagine a scenario where you have to run special ads/offers to certain users, well, you can do so via remarketing lists. As you have guessed, Google Analytics and Google Ads should be linked beforehand. 

For user experience: 

Google Analytics is for user behavior and Google Ad Manager is for ads. When you link them, you can reports that help you assess how ads are affecting the user experience and vice versa. 

– Hotjar/Smartlook

You can clearly see how users are engaging with your pages, where they tend to click, and where they tend to stay for a while, etc. This is the most accurate data you can get for optimizing ad placement and your content flow.

We have a detailed guide on this one here


There are two ways to use pixels for optimizing user experience and revenue. 

Are you using any platforms and tools for two use cases? This is most likely the case and if so, you’ve to access the first-party data via the tool and use it to improve the experience and revenue. 

Sounds too generic? Let us show you a few examples. 

You’re likely to be familiar with the term ‘log-level data’. If not, log-level data is the most granular data about ad impressions. It includes everything about an impression/ad request including URL, cookie id, timestamp, viewability, and transaction data. You can get access to log-level data from your SSPs to 

– Understand the quality of inventory. 

You can figure out which inventory garners better bid prices and why, what are the inventories with a 90+% fill rate, what inventories generally have higher viewability and why so, and more. 

– Creating personas.

You can analyze and create segments from the log-level data. That’s how Google Ad Manager does it too. For instance, based on geo, OS, and device type, you can form a segment and see how bidders are bidding for such users or you can help advertisers to target such users with the help of log-level data. 

You can use pixels to cookie users and collect user data. With the user data, again you can run targeted ad campaigns, come up with a better content strategy, and offer exclusive insights/data to advertisers. Some top publishers have built products on top of the data. Washington’s Post Zeus Insights is a great reference here. 

Sidenote: We understand this isn’t possible for all the publishers, but only a few. We’re including it so that you’ll be aware of the opportunity. 

– Data Management Platforms

This is quite straightforward. All the other tools we’ve mentioned above aren’t designed specifically for improving ad revenue use cases. But, data management platforms are developed so that publishers can collect and use the data to improve ad revenue. 

Some DMPs also offer a marketplace where you can buy from other publishers (to support your data) and sell your first-party data (anonymized) to other publishers/advertisers. 

What’s Next?

We’ve outlined a few methodologies and tools you can use to build first-party data. As a publisher, you can always start somewhere – don’t wait for the magical DMP to show up and resolve all the problems. With the growing demand for accurate first-party data, you’ll experience several benefits and satisfy both the users and the advertisers. 

Have you tried any method to build first-party data? Let us know in the comments.

Recommended- How to Use Data and Analytics to Improve Content and Monetization? 

News and Tips for Publishers

Get the inside scoop on publishing and programmatic with our 5-minute newsletter.