Digital Marketing Industry Updates: July 2023

Google Analytics 4 is on fire! Gather ’round the campfire while we spin some digital marketing stories for your edification and enjoyment.


Goodbye Universal Analytics, hello GA4!

As promised, the Universal Analytics version of Google Analytics was sunset on July 1. Some of you may have noticed data still flowing in over the weekend, but don’t get your hopes up. It wasn’t an instantaneous shutdown, but by now most or all Universal Analytics properties have stopped working.

If you’ve poked around in GA4 and don’t love what you see, we get it. It’s a lot different, which always takes getting used to, but there are some things that are objectively worse. Most notably, reporting has been dumbed down a bit. For a quick overview of some of the differences, check out this video, and for a crash course on reporting, go here.

There are also some things about GA4 that we like a lot better. A few that stand out:

  • It is much more customizable – custom dimensions and metrics are easier to set up, and reports and reporting navigation can be tailored to show what matters most to you. We’ve been helping organizations optimize GA4 for their needs since it was released in 2020, so reach out if you are curious about what it more could be doing for you.
  • It is much better at measuring user engagement. Universal Analytics had metrics for bounce rate and time on site, but frankly they were garbage. GA4 measures when a user is actually engaged with a site, which is a big leap forward. Learn more about engagement metrics in GA4.
  • It can measure activity anonymously, which is really important as US privacy laws get stricter. With Universal Analytics and most other tracking platforms besides GA4, respecting users’ privacy choices meant getting no data at all.
  • It integrates with Google BigQuery (Google’s Cloud data warehouse) for free. This feature costs > $100k per year with Universal Analytics. This is a key step towards building a single source of truth, and we’ve been loving the insights we can uncover by joining GA4 data to data from Google Search Console, Google Ads, Facebook and a variety of other marketing platforms.

We do bespoke GA4 training if you’d like to build your proficiency, and as always we are happy to answer any questions you have.

Looker Studio has lots of new GA4 dimensions and metrics

Another big frustration with GA4 has been that it wasn’t very well supported in Google Looker Studio, which is what we use to build client dashboards. In June, Google did a major update and now nearly everything that is reportable in GA4 can be brought into Looker Studio. Given the limitations of native GA4 reporting, this is a pretty big deal. We are in the process of updating our YouTube channel in light of this change, so keep an eye out for tips and tricks that can help you get more from your data.

When does Universal Analytics data go away?

Good news on this one. Google had previously said that Universal Analytics data would remain available through the end of the year, but they now say until July 2024. To be clear – no new data is being collected as of July 1 – this just means you will have access to your historical data for another year. We’ll be sharing different ways to archive historical data so you continue to have access after July 2024, but for now you can focus on getting up to speed on the new platform.

Paid Media

Brand exclusion now available in Google Ads campaign setup

Performance Max campaign types have gotten some heat for incorporating branded traffic and conversions, which will naturally boost performance over shopping or search campaign equivalents. By removing branded traffic, we can compare apples to apples between the two campaign types.

Previously, to add negative keywords to Performance Max campaigns you had to engage Google support, but now you can set up a new campaign and remove your own branded traffic. Also by adding brands instead of keywords you don’t have to add variations or misspelled words to the list. This is a quick optimization for a campaign type that is focused on automation.

LinkedIn Thought Leader Ads

Allow employees to speak for your business via promoted posts on LinkedIn. These posts are similar to sponsored content posts on the platform, but you can now sponsor posts directly from your employee’s feed if they are connected to your company page.

Especially in the LinkedIn community, there are individuals who have a great following and are pumping out a lot of great content on a frequent basis to help their individual brand. If you have an employee on your team who is doing this, you can use their content with their permission and showcase their post and help get the company’s brand a larger reach.


Google Is Deprecating Sitemap Ping Endpoint By The End Of The Year

Sitemap ping was another method webmasters had to submit sitemap updates to search engines, but Google will be deprecating that option in six months. Studies by both Google and Bing have shown that sitemap pinging was not a reliable method of sitemap submission, and it mostly resulted in increased spam submissions. 

sitemap ping

Submitting sitemaps directly to Search Console and adding it to your robots.txt file is still the main recommended way to submit your sitemaps. To inform search engines of changes on your page, Google emphasizes the use of the lastmod element in sitemaps. For any significant changes in content, structured data, and linking, make sure that the lastmod element reflects the date of that change.

Google Includes INP in Search Console Reporting

Google will replace FID (first input delay) with INP (interaction to next paint) as part of their main Core Web Vitals metrics in March 2024, and is preparing for that change by now including INP reporting in Search Console. This helps webmasters note what pages are failing the INP metric, and gives them time to make the updates before it becomes a part of the Core Web Vitals algorithm. 

Google’s definition of INP (interaction to next paint): A metric that assesses a page’s overall responsiveness to user interactions by observing the time that it takes for the page to respond to all click, tap, and keyboard interactions that occur throughout the lifespan of a user’s visit to a page. The final INP value is the longest interaction observed, ignoring outliers.

We’ve seen notable improvements in impressions and on-site behavioral metrics when updating a site’s Core Web Vitals, so incorporating INP optimizations will be a part of our recommendations moving forward.

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