Companies that can embrace this new reality will thrive
- Google, Meta, and Amazon are rolling out powerful new tools and features that better leverage user behaviour to give markers more power than ever before
- Some of these new tools and features are extremely sophisticated but also difficult to properly implement, creating a barrier to entry that keeps amateurs and tech stagnant companies at a disadvantage
- These new tools can provide valuable insight into customer engagement and behaviour across multiple devices and allow marketers to target audiences based on customer intent rather than demographics
- By keeping up-to-date with the latest tools, companies can gain a huge advantage over competitors who don’t keep up with technology
Data will be harder to collect:
- More and more people using ad blockers
- More and more countries and regions implementing privacy laws
- More complex tools like GA4
- UA is being phased out
Low value content will be easier to generate
- AI is being a major disruption to the tradition “SEO” model
- Creating low-quality, low-value blog articles are easily being caught by Google
- Video is easier than ever to create
- More and more companies specialize in generating content for clients (this is not necessarily a bad thing)
- Content no longer makes you stand out, it’s become a prerequisite for any company marketing online
- The coming recession will make ad performance much worse as people spend less on non-essential goods
- More than ever, efficiency of ad spend will separate winners and losers in the marketplace (as many businesses built their strategy around “cheap” online ads which are no longer viable)
- As pandemic restrictions come to an end in many places, people are spending less time online (compared to pandemic highs)
The old adage of “Content is King” no longer works in 2023
2022 saw some huge changes to the industry both from a technical standpoint as well as from a societal one.
In 2023, however, bigger changes are around the corner that will further disrupt the way marketers need to think about their strategy. The barriers to entry are rising and many will be left behind as online competition continues to increase.
Fundamentally, this comes down to two key points (that we’re going to be exploring in this article):
- Content is going to be easier than ever before to generate
- Sophisticated data will be more difficult to collect and use effectively
First, a look back
So what really changed in 2022 that was so significant? While many marketers tend to focus solely on content and technology, I want to paint the picture by looking at the economic and societal shifts that occurred. This holistic viewpoint provides some valuable insight into why certain technologies and platforms changed, and can provide us with a more complete picture from which to extrapolate possible changes to come.
The “end” of the pandemic
Ok, so obviously, the pandemic is not completely over and COVID seems to be here to stay. However, governments around the world have started pulling back restrictions, clawing back emergency funds, and trying to get back to a state of normalcy.
People, in general, are tired of pandemic restrictions and are just trying to get back to “life as normal”.
This means that people, in general, are spending less of their free time online and looking to travel and have experiences again. If anything, there has been a reversal of the pendulum as pent up demand is creating havoc for the travel industry.
What this means for us and our clients is that people’s attention online has dropped back to pre-pandemic levels and is driving ad costs back up. To add to this, more companies than ever before realized the importance of getting online during the pandemic, meaning many new companies started advertising online during this time.
Those companies advertising online are unlikely to stop anytime soon leading to a drop in supply (people spending time online) while we have had an increase in demand (more companies advertising). This obviously means it’s more costly to run ads than before.
The coming recession
One of the side effects from the COVID restrictions and emergency funds was that consumers had free time, nothing to spend money on, while receiving emergency money from governments. Interest rates during the height of the pandemic were also historically low making borrowing very easy.
With all of the above coming largely to an end, governments around the world are predicting a global recession (as well as high inflation rates).
All of this means that consumers in 2023 are likely to be more careful about their spending as easy money dries up, credit becomes more expensive and less accessible, layoffs loom as companies cut jobs to prepare for lower profits, and inflation raises the price of everyday necessities.
Many online retailers will feel the squeeze as less consumers are spending on luxury items. More window shoppers will mean that CTR may stay high but CPA will also go up as conversion rates drop across the board.
A more informed consumer
One of the most notable things to come about in 2022 were the legal changes to many markets. As Facebook and Google tracking gain notoriety in the mainstream public, governments are starting to legislate data tracking (similar to GDPR rules from the EU).
The average user is also more savvy than ever before about marketers capturing and using their online data to run ads. As of 2022, close to 30% of users now use ad blockers. (https://backlinko.com/ad-blockers-users).
All of this means that marketers have to be much more careful about what kind of data tracking they are using in order to stay compliant. This also means that data may be less reliable than before since Google Analytics and Facebook Analytics are becoming less reliable than.
The maturing market
The pandemic propelled the online space into the spotlight forcing many non-tech business owners to adapt or die. This resulted in a much more mature market where both consumers and companies became more informed about the technologies that run the web.
This means that the competition to stay ahead of the pack just got much fiercer. You can no longer just “make a few posts on social media” and see new customers roll in. Running effective ads and collecting useful data about traffic and behaviour has also become more sophisticated and many marketing agencies are ill-equipped to adapt.
To make things worse, many businesses that started up during the pandemic were only viable early on while ads were relatively cheap to run. As ad costs creep up, many of these early stage start ups may no longer be viable as their business models can’t adapt to higher ad costs. For companies on the cusp, it will be more important than ever to track ROI and take full advantage of proper data attribution and feedback models.
What’s Changing in Content
One word: AI.
Well … ok, so that’s two words technically and it’s not really a word, it’s an acronym.
A number of new technologies rolled out last year making it possible to quickly create graphics and text content using AI algorithms. The impact of these tools have not been fully felt yet but already their releases have sparked heated debate in the industry from topics such as privacy and copyright issues to the end of x position in the next few years.
While it’s yet to be seen what the full impact of these new platforms will mean for the industry and consumer brands at large, the clear direction is that content will be easier (and cheaper) than ever before to generate.
Those who embrace these new tools and use them to their full advantage will overtake traditional agencies that are outsourcing the work to overseas markets, interns, and entry-level employees.
This doesn’t mean that AI tools will fully replace those who have extremely specialized knowledge and experience but it will mean that content will now become a baseline expectation instead of something that helps you stand out.
On the SEO side of things, Google has already stated that this influx of low value content means that they will be adjusting their algorithms to largely ignore content that seems like it was created by AI. While the current technology to detect AI generated content is lagging behind the tools to create the content itself, the long-term vision for Google is to discount or discredit sites offering generic content on their sites.
The advent of AI tools means that a new kind of content company will start to emerge. Companies that can fully embrace these tools to crank out content will be the new market leaders and the technologies offer a multiplying factor making it difficult if not impossible for low-tech, unsophisticated content agencies to keep up.
"content will be easier (and cheaper) than ever before to generate"
- Sheldon P.
What’s Changing in Data (UA vs GA4)
So this is real meat-and-potatoes part of the article. Data is going to see some huge changes this year as Google retires its Universal Analytics platform (also known as Google Analytics 3, GA3, or simple “Classic” Analytics).
To many in the industry, Google Analytics has been a solid staple in their toolbox for a little over a decade (it was launched in 2012). Many of my friends and colleagues in the industry have only ever used UA for reporting and data tracking.
So first, lets talk about why Google is making the switch.
Did you catch that? 10 years. This tech is ten years old and has largely been unchanged in that time. That’s almost unheard of for a tech giant like Google, especially when it comes to a platform this central to their business customers’ needs.
In the last ten years, the web, and internet as a whole, have seen many drastic changes. While many still want to know a page’s “bounce rate” and “page views”, these metrics are not very sophisticated for a modern-day digital marketer. At best, they can point to some shallow user behaviour, at worst they are a vanity metric that keeps a C-Level executive happy but don’t provide any real insight or value to your strategy.
As sad as many of my friends are to see it go, they are (reluctantly) coming to the conclusion that a new Analytics platform is necessary.
It’s not really useful
This point is controversial. Marketers love UA and stand by it as the industry standard when it comes to analytics and measuring user traffic and engagement.
The thing is, the data you’re able to collect with UA is limited to mostly demographic information unless you go through the work of implementing customizations. Even then, more advanced tracking options are largely limited.
The other issue is that user attribution was done largely based on devices instead of users. UA also had trouble stitching together user activity across multiple devices unless you very purposefully, and carefully implemented user IDs.
Finally, the UA model doesn’t really provide an easy way to understand attribution without a lot of extra work and configuration. This means that marketers would have to draw conclusions on ROI based on loosely related metrics (like page views, sessions times, and bounce rates).
It doesn’t line up well with strategic goals
It’s great to know how often people are bouncing off your page but what does that really tell you about your customer’s intention to buy your productS?
UA was built in an earlier time when online marketing was less sophisticated and needs were simpler. Competition was low and as long as you could show hits to your website, your job was done. Fast-forward to 2023 and every business owner I speak to is asking me about data attribution and SEO strategies.
The platform also kind of stands apart from the website and all of the other Google tools to give you an overview of what’s happening but doesn’t really talk to the other platforms to create a feedback loop.
… so how does GA4 address all these issues?
A Helpful Table Appears!
|Data Sampling||With a large amount of data, Google Universal Analytics may sample data, leading to less accurate reporting.||GA4 collects all data without sampling, providing more accurate reporting.|
|Privacy||GA collects user data by default, raising privacy concerns.||GA4 provides privacy-focused features such as data deletion and IP masking by default.|
|Loading Speed||GA script can slow down page load time.||GA4 uses a smaller script that is optimized for fast loading.|
|Cross-Domain Tracking||It can be challenging to track users across multiple domains.||GA4 provides simplified cross-domain tracking out of the box.|
|Customization||GA provides limited customization options for more advanced tracking and reporting.||GA4 provides more customization options through machine learning and a flexible event models.|
|Configuration||Setting up GA requires technical knowledge and can be complex for non-technical users.||GA4 has a simplified setup process and user-friendly interface.|
|Integration||Integration with other tools can be difficult and lead to discrepancies in data.||GA4 integrates seamlessly with other Google products and APIs, reducing the risk of data discrepancies.|
A completely different approach
Fundamentally, GA4 moves from being a platform monitoring performance to provide reporting to being at the center of your digital marketing efforts and crunching data to provide valuable, automated feedback to your other tools. This leads to a huge increase in ad campaign efficiencies and richer, more detailed reporting of user psychographics.
The key goal for GA4 is to focus on engagement metrics instead of simple behaviours. The measurement reporting is also much more close ly related to providing insight into your custom journey and marketing funnels.
What does this actually mean for marketers?
- Understand your customer’s intention to buy through engagement over time
- Create feedback loops to Ads accounts to vastly improve targeting (target users likely to buy instead of users fitting a demographic)
- Improved attribution to track ROI across different campaigns
In essence, Google wants to give marketers the power to better leverage complex data in order to improve their ROAS.
Time to switch
One last thing to mention about UA: it’s coming to an end. That’s right, as of July 1st 2023, Google will be shutting down UA. It will stop working. Full stop.
If you don’t switch over to GA4 by this date, you’re going to find yourself flying blind. Google currently has no plans to extend this deadline any longer and is fully warning all webmasters to switch to GA4.
The thing that sucks is that this not a simple matter of copy-pasting the new snippet onto your site. As discussed above, there are fundamental differences between the old Analytics and the new one.
To properly implement this platform, you need to plan out what metrics are relevant to your business needs. We have our own recommendations for best practices here Need the link.
At the very least, we would strongly recommend:
- Implementing Google Tag Manager
- Adding custom GA4 events for:
- Time on page
- Scroll depth
- Form submissions
- All CTA buttons
- All link clicks
- Phone clicks
- Email clicks
- Identifying conversions
- Linking GA4 to Ads and Search Console at minimum
- Understanding how GA4 metrics relate to AIDA [link]
What’s changing legally
This last item is a little different. It’s not focused on technology and is not a sexy new trend but rather a stern warning: compliance is going to become mandatory in 2023.
The cowboy days are coming to an end as legislators around the world are starting to question what online platforms are up to. Mega-tech corporations are being positioned as the villains as more and more news stories come out about the dangers of misinformation, misuse of private data, and online tracking.
The response from the public has been outcry and demands that tech firms get their houses in order. As a result, there are now harsher and harsher crackdowns on sites that are not conforming to privacy laws (think cookie popups), accessibility rules, and proper management of user data.
As the market matures, these kind of rules and regulations were inevitable.
Today, marketers, webmasters, and business owners in general, should be aware of any compliance issues with their digital footprint or data handling.
How to get ahead in 2023
With these changes coming down the pipe, these are the things we would recommend every marketing team focus on for 2023:
- Leverage AI content creation tools
- Switch from UA to GA4
- Use GA4 to create feedback loops for your marketing campaigns (important!)
- Update your privacy policies and make sure your digital footprint is compliant with your local laws (data management, privacy, accessibility)
In short, the coming year is going to see a lot of changes that are going to raise the bar when it comes to marketing online. Newcomers will have a higher barrier to entry than ever before and existing companies will have to compete harder than previous years as market conditions and new rules come into place.
The ones who are able to embrace this new reality, leverage the new tools, and stay out of legal trouble, are going to have an easy time out-performing their competitors.
Does this new reality scare you? We’re here to help! We help clients navigate the ever-changing world of digital marketing. We help marketing companies and marketers with the behind-the-scenes technical work so that they can focus on what they do best: create engaging content that resonates with their audiences.