Digital Marketing Industry Updates: September 2023

Come along with us as we close out the summer with a few more splashes from the digital marketing pool. We help you (continue to!) learn GA4, join you in lamenting the reduced visibility of FAQs in SERPs, and share news across the digital advertising sphere. Welcome to September!


FAAQ’s (Frequently Asked Analytics Questions)

Now that people have completely switched from Universal Analytics to GA4, we are noticing that some questions tend to come up a lot. Here are a few of the most common questions

Why do I have two GA4 properties?

Also asked: why do I have two properties with the same name?

Google automatically creates GA4 properties connected to Universal Analytics accounts unless you explicitly opted out of this feature at some point. Google sent emails notifying users that this would happen, and presented notifications in the Universal Analytics interface, but the email may never have made it to your inbox and Google’s GA4 notifications were so relentless that most people ignored them. 

You can tell if a GA4 property was automatically generated by going to  GA4 > Admin > Property Change History and looking for entries that show “Changed by System” or “Changed by System (migration)”. You may need to increase the date range to show all changes from the beginning of the year to see these entries. If you only see system entries and it is a duplicate property, our recommendation is to delete it so no one uses it or makes changes to it by accident. You can delete a property by going to Admin > Property Settings and selecting ‘Move to Trash Can’ in the upper-right corner.

We have also encountered a number of cases where Google went in and made updates to properties that were not automatically created, but were linked to a Universal Analytics property. This typically happens when the Universal Analytics property stops collecting data. We are still seeing a surprising number of Universal Analytics properties that are active, in spite of the fact that Google adamantly declared that they would stop working on July 1. We have gone through most of our client GA4 properties and unlinked UA and cleaned up Google’s auto-updates, but if you see weird or unfamiliar events in your GA4 property, this may be the cause. Let us know if you do and we can have a look and clean up as necessary.

How long will I be able to access Universal Analytics data?

You will no longer be able to access your Universal Analytics data and properties on July 1, 2024.

How can I learn  more about GA4?

And check out our hands-on GA4 coaching service if you would like to take your analytics game to the next level.

Why am I seeing different session counts (here) versus (there)?

Also asked: there are LOTS of variations of this question and they all relate to the fact that you can report twice on Sessions with the same date range and dimensions and get two different numbers.

Sessions is generally a very squirrely metric in GA4. Google describes how they count sessions: “Analytics calculates the number of sessions that occur on your site or app by estimating the number of unique session IDs.” So, first of all, the metric is an estimate. Second, you can get different total session counts when you apply different dimensions, since one session ID can span dimensions. For example, a session that spans August 28 and 29 will count as two sessions if you segment by date, but one if you don’t. Lastly, strictly speaking session ID is not unique to a user (wait, what?), it’s actually the timestamp of the session_start event, so you can get different session counts if you apply user-scoped dimensions than if you don’t. 

On top of all that, GA4 sometimes applies thresholding and/or sampling, which can both change a given metric value.

The long and short of it is, don’t think of the Sessions metric as a true number, think of it as an estimate. As such, it is useful for measuring overall trends, but don’t assign any meaning to slight differences.

More FAAQs

We answered even more questions in last month’s digital marketing industry updates blog.

  • Why am I seeing fewer users in GA4?
  • Should i report on avg. session duration or avg. engagement time per session?
  • Why am i not seeing any page views for /a-specific-page-path/?
  • Why am i seeing so many sessions with (not set) in the landing page report?

Paid Media

Meta Introduces Competitive Content Research Tool

Meta launched a new search tool within the Ads Library which allows users to search the branded content of any business. Currently only showing data for the past 7 days of content, it provides insight on influencer-brand partnerships (aka Paid Partnerships) as well as different content types. This is part of steps Meta is taking to increase transparency on their platform, driven by increasing EU government pressure for platforms to provide safer digital spaces.

Meta Testing Multi-Advertiser Ads

Meta is testing a new ad format on Instagram which features multiple advertisers, side by side, based on Meta’s analysis of advertiser match to consumer interest. The new layout shows between Reels, and can be disabled by advertisers. Multi-ad formats have the potential to lower cost per impression for advertisers, but it is hard for us to believe this will lead to better engagement and conversion rates on Instagram ads.

Google to Limit Ad Serving from New Advertisers

Google introduced a Limited Ads Serving policy and said it would limit ad serving when new accounts advertise for brands where the relationship between the ad and the brand is unclear. Google’s aim is to reduce misleading ads, and the impact for legitimate advertisers should be net positive.

Political Ads Back on X/Twitter

X will no longer ban political advertising in the US, a move X’s owner Elon Musk says is part of his “commitment to free speech.” Previous leadership at Twitter stopped political advertising over concerns about “paying for reach” to amplify political speech, and its potential implications on democracy. Ad costs in all ad platforms tend to increase with increased competition during political season, so expect to see an increase on X ad costs.

Amazon Sponsored Product Ads to Get Expanded Reach

Amazon Sponsored Product Ads will now be seen on Pinterest, BuzzFeed, Lifehacker, and other websites. The reach will be added automatically for advertisers. This expanded reach is good news for Amazon advertisers, but may impact advertisers currently on Pinterest by increasing their costs.


Google Rolls Out The August 2023 Core Algorithm Updates

Google has rolled out the August 2023 core algorithm update on August 22nd, 2023. Google stated this will take up to two weeks to roll out to all sites, so you may not see fluctuations in rankings until September. These updates have a wide range of possible influences on impressions and traffic for sites, but it is expected that quality of content will be a focus.

More data will be needed to really assess how this will affect sites. If you notice any decreases in rankings, note which URLs have taken a hit, and focus on improving overall quality of content for those pages. Better E-E-A-T, improved header and meta tags, along with content refreshes are usually in line with typical useful site updates to combat core algorithm changes.  

Google Reduces Visibility For HowTo And FAQ Rich Snippets

Google has reduced rich snippet visibility for howTo and FAQ schema. These types of rich snippets will be reserved for “well-known, authoritative government and health websites.” This is a surprising update from Google, as both of those schema types are among the most common json schema markup recommendations from the SEO community. These reductions of rich snippets opportunities will likely result in decreases in clicks from pages that benefited from these rich results.

The search landscape of Google is volatile, particularly with its Generative Experience search results that it’s testing out. It wouldn’t be surprising if we get additional updates on how Google may or may not use different schema types to influence SERPs. Monitor any pages that benefited from FAQ or howTo schema, and note if traffic has declined. Content updates, and other schema types, such as Article or itemList schema, could be candidates to help bolster their search presence.

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