Google Analytics 4: Advertiser Q&A

Google Analytics 4: Advertiser Q&A

Google

If you use Google Analytics, by now you are probably aware that a new version known as Google Analytics 4 is coming. By July 2023, Google Analytics 4 will replace the current version of the popular web analytics service, known as Universal Analytics (UA). This news has sent shock waves throughout an ad tech world that has grown dependent on UA to track and report website traffic. Here are some questions you may have – and some answers:

What exactly is happening to Google Analytics?

UA – the current version of Google Analytics — is going away. UA will stop processing hits in July 2023. That’s because Google is replacing UA with Google Analytics 4 (GA4). If you want to continue using Google to track and report website traffic, you’ll need to transition to GA4. Google actually began to introduce GA4 in 2020, as noted in this blog post. But in July 2023, Google is making GA4 mandatory, as Google said in March 2022. While standard UA properties will stop working July 2023, Universal Analytics 360 properties will receive an additional three months of new hit processing, meaning these will stop working come October 1, 2023.

Why is Google Replacing Universal Analytics with Google Analytics 4?

Google says that GA4 is coming for three primary reasons:

  • Provide more user-centric data. UA is built on a session-based data model that is 15 years old. Google built UA to measure independent sessions, or groups of user interactions within a given time frame on a desktop device. This measurement approach has become obsolete. GA4 does not measure goals by user, only by session. For instance, if someone watches four videos in one session, the interaction can only count as one conversion. By collecting user data as events, GA4 seeks to provide businesses with more accurate insight into user activity.
  • Work across platforms. UA was built for a desktop experience. GA4 is designed to work across platforms, including mobile. According to Google, GA4 provides a complete view of the customer lifecycle with an event-based measurement model that isn’t fragmented by platform or organized into independent sessions. Google cites the example of UK-based fitness apparel and accessories brand Gymshark, which is already using an iteration of GA4 to measure user activity across its website and app. This allows the Gymshark team to better understand how users move through the purchase funnel. Google says that as a result, Gymshark has reduced user drop off by 9 percent, increased product page clickthroughs by 5 percent, and cut down their own time spent on user journey analysis by 30 percent.
  • Transition to a privacy-centric world. Google is under tremendous pressure to adapt to a world in which user privacy is a much bigger priority than it used to be when UA was introduced. GA4 does that. For instance, GA4 4 will also no longer store internet protocol (IP) addresses. GA4 also offers a workaround for when users reject cookies. UA works by setting cookies on a user’s browser when visiting your website. But more people are opting out of sharing their data via cookies. So, UA cannot report on all the people who visit a website. GA4 will rely on a technique known as conversion modeling to provide results in a cookie-less world. Conversion modeling uses machine learning (a form of artificial intelligence) to enable accurate measurement while only reporting on aggregated and anonymized data. GA4 will still collect data from first-party cookies, but conversion modeling makes it possible for GA4 to continue collecting user data when cookies are rejected by users.

In short, Google is changing website tracking and reporting to adapt to a more privacy-centric world in which people use multiple devices to interact with brands.

How does Google Analytics 4 differ from Universal Analytics?

GA4 is a replacement, not an update. It’s a completely new way of tracking and reporting website traffic. The key difference is the adoption of more user-centric data as discussed above. This post from the Google Help Center explains in more detail how the more user-centric data model differs from Universal Analytics. Don’t read it until you’ve had your morning coffee.

There are many other differences too numerous to describe here. For instance, with GA4, you can choose to retain data for two months or 14 months. And GA4 offers custom reporting templates (whereas UA favored the use of pre-built reports).

What will happen to Universal Analytics?

UA will go away. It will not be possible to track and report website traffic with UA as of July 2023 for standard accounts, and October 2023 for UA 360 accounts.

After UA properties stop processing new hits, all previously processed data will remain accessible for at least six months. In the coming months, Google will provide a future date for when existing Universal Analytics properties will no longer be available. After that date, users will no longer be able to see UA reports in the Google Analytics interface or access UA data via the API.

What should I do to prepare for Google Analytics 4?

If you rely on a marketing and advertising agency to manage GA4, it’s highly likely that they are managing the transition for you. Just the same, contact them to understand how they are going to make the transition and how your website tracking and reporting will change. True Interactive uses UA in our client work. We’re doing all the heavy lifting for our clients by transitioning them to GA4.

If you manage GA4 yourself, it’s important to start your transition now. Don’t wait until 2023. For example, right now you’ll need to start building historical data so that you can do a year-over-year analysis in 2023.

In addition, we recommend downloading historic data from your UA account and storing it for future reference before Google shuts off access to it via both the web interface and its reporting API as mentioned above.

Make no mistake: the learning curve is steep. You’ll need to understand how GA4 conducts event reports, conversion reports, and many other details. We recommend that businesses review resources such as:

It’s going to take an effort from an integrated team to pull this off. You’ll need to make this effort a high priority managed with a project timeline to get it right.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. We design and develop successful marketing and advertising campaigns and know how to track results, including the use of Google. Read about some of our client work here.

What Does the Redesigned Instagram Content Feed Mean to Brands?

What Does the Redesigned Instagram Content Feed Mean to Brands?

Instagram

Instagram is giving more power to the people. Meta, Instagram’s parent, has announced that the social networking service will now give users two new ways to view their feeds: “Following” and “Favorites” (the standard “Home” experience, based on by the Instagram algorithm, is still an option too). Let’s take a closer look at these alternatives and what the development means for brands.

Following vs. Favorites vs. Home

So, what are these options, exactly? Essentially, Instagram wants to give users more control over what they see. For context, let’s review the experience Instagram users are accustomed to getting: the Home experience. This is an algorithm-based feed by which Instagram presents content that Instagram thinks users will be most interested in, based on their viewing habits. Notably, the Home experience is not purely chronological—it’s grounded first and foremost in user interests.

Instagram’s hunch is that the Home experience will remain the preferred go-to for users, so they’ve made it the default. As an Instagram spokesperson explained to CNET, “people have a better experience on Instagram with a ranked feed, so we won’t be defaulting people into a chronological feed.”

But now, based on a March 23 announcement from Meta, users also have the choice of a chronological experience with the Following and Favorites options:

  • The Following option presents a steady feed of posts from all the people one follows.
  • Favorites gives users the ability to further curate what they see by allowing them to designate up to 50 accounts they want to view higher in their feeds.

Users can make changes to their Favorites list at any time (people are not notified when they are added or removed).

Both Following and Favorites show posts in chronological order, making it easy to catch up on recent posts.

How Might Brands Adapt?

According to Ad Age, the chronological feed (for both Following and Favorites) may prove advantageous to advertisers and facilitate more real-time marketing opportunities. Amber Gallihar Boyes, director analyst at research firm Gartner, notes, “On the brand and creator side, there is an excitement and optimism about [the new structure]. I’ve seen creators just really feeling beaten down by lack of reach on Instagram and this gives them some element of control because they can make sure they’re connecting with their most loyal fans and followers.”

Live situations already lend themselves to Instagram, but the chronological feed, by creating a sense of immediacy, could prove especially beneficial to marketers during events like the Oscars or the Super Bowl.

“If you play it right [as a brand] you can almost . . . give people the experience that ‘if you’re not there when it happens, you’re missing out,’” Shawn Francis, head of creative at social media marketing company We Are Social, explains. He adds that it behooves brands or creators to ask “what content can you put out that makes people say, ‘I have to follow this brand in real-time.’”

In other words? Brands can lean into that FOMO.

They can also lobby to be on the coveted Favorites list: some creators are even putting out tutorials to teach fans how to add to their Favorites feed, presumably with the hope that their brand name will place high on the list when it’s created.

But achieving Favorites status is no slam dunk. “With 50 spots, people will be selective,” Nicholas Stoeckle, executive director of strategy and innovation at advertising and production company PPK, points out.

Competitive as it is, the Favorites list will certainly give brands a clearer sense of who their most loyal fans are, based on whether the brand makes it into a given Favorites section. Brands and creators will also get the opportunity to experiment with different posting times, to see if there are “sweet spots” for them in the chronological feed.

Contact True Interactive

Social media platforms are constantly evolving to meet users’ needs, and Instagram’s recent announcement is just one example. Trying to stay abreast of —and to leverage — these changes? Contact us. We can help.

How to Market to Gen X

How to Market to Gen X

Advertising Branding

Generation X is often overlooked as businesses focus on the surging Millennial and Gen Z populations. Moreover, squeezed as it is between two massive generations — Boomers and Millennials — Gen X has sometimes been mistakenly viewed as being small in size, ergo less powerful. But Gen X still comprises a large segment of the population, and Gen Xers possess spending power. What sets them apart from other generations, and how should brands market to them online?

Who Is Gen X?

The fourth-largest U.S. generation behind Millennials, Baby Boomers, and Gen Z, Gen X encompasses Americans born between the mid-1960s and 1980. And Gen X is projected to surpass Baby Boomers in size by 2028.

What Are Some Notable Characteristics of Gen X?

Gen Xers have a reputation for being hard to pin down. This is perhaps because there’s a split in the generation, with older Gen Xers possessing some of the characteristics of their Baby Boomer forebears (digitally savvy, but not born into digital the way subsequent generations have been), and younger members of Gen X displaying Millennial tendencies (their mobile usage is similar to Millennials, for example). Moreover, this is a generation that prides itself on individuality — which can make it challenging for brands hoping to hone in on a “type.” But common denominators still exist across the generation, namely:

  • Reliance on digital. Even after seeing a television commercial or print ad, Gen Xers tend to turn to the internet to perform further research. And they love social media; a whopping 95 percent of this generation engages with Facebook.
  • Brand loyalty. Small Biz Technology notes that Gen Xers are likely to spend more on brands that “give back.” And according to eMarketer, when Gen Xers develop an affinity for a product, they are willing to pay a premium.

How Should Brands Market to Gen X?

What is the best way for brands to reach out to Gen X? We recommend that you:

  • Understand where they live online — and meet them there. As noted above, Facebook is popular with Gen X. So is YouTube. Paid advertising works, of course. But brands might also create content that draw Gen Xers in with educational information or even nostalgia  — because every generation loves a little throwback. In the case of Gen X, there’s a rich vein to mine: the 1970s, with all the possibilities that era represents in terms of pop culture, music, fashion, and more.
  • Offer rewards, coupons, and loyalty programs. This is a generation that remembers the Great Recession, and doesn’t have faith that Social Security will be around when they retire. And as noted earlier, they shoulder some debt. Reach out with opportunities to save, and this generation will listen.
  • Do good. As noted above, Gen X responds to brands that demonstrate a commitment to society or the environment.
  • Understand that for Gen Xers, status is less important. This is a generational feature that Ford Motor Company figured out years ago. As far back as 2016, Omar Odeh, a Ford Explorer marketing manager, observed to Forbes, “[Gen Xers are] less likely to have to put their wealth on status. They don’t necessarily have to buy that premium brand. They will look at value for money and performance.”
  • Think mobile. According to eMarketer, 88.5 percent of this generation use smartphones. Reach out to this group through mobile devices, and make sure your website is mobile-friendly.
  • Keep communications short and to the point. Immersed in raising kids and building careers, this generation puts a value on time — and has little patience for perceived time-wasters.
  • Give them some love. According to Big Commerce, 54 percent of Gen Xers “are frustrated that brands constantly ignore them.”

Contact True Interactive

How can your brand resonate with Gen X, that most elusive of generations? Contact us. We can help.

Photo by Eric Nopanen on Unsplash

Why Advertisers Love Baby Boomers

Why Advertisers Love Baby Boomers

Advertising

Baby Boomers are hot! While Millennials and Gen Z continue to capture love from marketers, brands are also reaching out to the Boomer audience. This post will take a closer look at why:

Baby Boomers Defined

Baby Boomers are the generation sandwiched between the so-called Silent Generation and Generation X. Roughly defined as the cohort born from 1946 to 1964 during the post-World War II baby boom, Boomers were shaped by post-WW II optimism, the cold war, and the seismic changes wrought by 1960s counterculture.

Boomers make up a large segment of the U.S. population. In fact, they are right behind Millennials in terms of size; according to 2019 stats published by Statista Research Department early this year, just under 70 million Baby Boomers live in the United States, compared to about 72 million Millennials. Furthermore, as Forbes points out, the Baby Boomer generation, at 40 percent market share, make up the largest piece of the consumer pie.

And they’ve got money to spend.

Why Boomers Matter to Brands

Craig Millon, the chief client officer of IPG’s Jack Morton Worldwide, reminds brands that while younger generations are a worthy target audience, the importance of Boomers should not be underestimated.

“A lot of people spent an insane amount of time focused on Millennials,” Millon says. “Boomers are an incredibly good, loyal, and wealthy segment of our population that probably do not get as much attention as they used to.”

And yet the Baby Boomer generation continues to manifest the values that have characterized them all along: this cohort is defined by a tendency to be hard workers who have spent wisely and saved. Many are still working full- or part-time, which means that their choices continue to have a powerful impact on the economy. In fact, Boomers “make up the only population group experiencing growth in the workforce.” As a relatively health-conscious generation, Baby Boomers are also poised to take advantage of advanced medical technology to live healthier and longer. As Forbes has noted, “Unlike their parents, who desired to relax during retirement, the baby boomer generation wants to get out and do all the things they’ve always dreamed of doing.”

How does this manifest in a world moving beyond pandemic-era lockdowns? The headline is this: Boomers are motivated to spend. Business Insider describes a generation that’s been vaccinated, is resuming travel, and with no young children at home, is eager to spend the money they saved during the past year. Research from ad EGC Group shows that Boomers are increasing their spend levels by 10-to-15 percent in 2021. And brands from Mercedes-Benz to candles maker Glasshouse Fragrances are taking note, increasing their outreach to this group by 30 to 40 percent.

Of course some advertisers might still be reluctant to divert precious resources to the Boomer cohort. Their logic — that resources need to go to reaching younger generations — is not uncommon. And yet marketing to Boomers can be a win/win. Baby Boomers not only have the spending power, they also stand to share their brand experiences with children and grandchildren.

“Give the boomer a reason to love your brand,” Steven Seghers, CEO of Hooray Agency, says. “The boomer generation brings other generations with them.”

Tips for Marketing to Baby Boomers

 How does a brand connect with the Baby Boomer audience? Some recommendations:

  • While Boomers are more tech-savvy than they are sometimes given credit for, make sure that your digital outreach addresses Boomer needs. Many Boomers wear glasses and have a harder time reading small text, for example. On your website, pay attention to font size, visual contrast, and button sizes, all of which an inform the usability of your site.
  • Finally, don’t jettison phone support options. Live chat is a popular support tool for Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z , but many Boomers still prefer interactions where they can express themselves verbally — and go hear another human voice. Prominently displaying a phone number on your site (and including a link that can easily work on mobile so that users can make their call with one click) speaks volumes about your dedication to an easy, reliable consumer experience.

Contact True Interactive

Interested in making inroads with the powerful Boomer demographic? Contact us. We can help.

Photo by Marcus Aurelius from Pexels

How Google Insights Helps Advertisers Make Better Decisions

How Google Insights Helps Advertisers Make Better Decisions

Analytics

One of the many challenges businesses have faced in 2020 is customizing marketing campaigns for changing consumer behavior. Who could have predicted that during the pandemic we’d see a surge in people interested in puzzles and puppies, or that a Netflix miniseries would have inspired an intense interest in chess? For years, many businesses have relied on keyword search tools to anticipate consumer preferences based on their searches. But Google recently launched something better: the Google Insights Page.

The Insights page, in beta, makes it easier for a business to explore emerging trends based on Google trending topics. Google cites the example of how an outdoor retailer might see insights on the rising demand for tents during times when consumers gear up for more outdoor adventures. Over the same period, a vacation rental company might see a surge in demand for cabins.

This function might sound familiar to you if you use Google Trends to research trending topics that people are searching on Google. But Google Trends is a manual, standalone tool. Google Insights goes much further by offering more functionality to a business. As Google notes on its Help page, Google curates Insights for your business based on your account performance and searches across Google for the products and services you show ads for.

Insights update daily. A business can check back frequently for new insights that may appear. Per Google:

  • Get insights tailored to your business: the Insights page looks for trends across Google that are relevant to the products and services that you advertise.
  • Understand your performance: drill into each insight to more detailed information about your account’s performance and new areas of potential opportunity.
  • Act on recommendations: Insights are integrated with account Recommendations, making it easy to take action.

Search trend insights help you to understand the search interest for products and services relevant to your business. You can use search trends to respond to shifts in search demand by identifying potential growth opportunities for your business.

Insights not only tells you what is trending but it also tells you how those trends will affect your performance – such as how many clicks you can expect to get from your current keyword coverage. You cannot get that kind of reporting from search tools such as Moz or SEMRush.

At True Interactive, we’re already using Insights for our clients, such as in higher education, an industry that is rapidly changing during the pandemic. Here’s a screenshot that shows the level of detail in the reporting we get from the tool:

Google Trends dashboard

In the above example, I didn’t need to do a manual search to see what types of topics are trending in the education space. Insights told me. In addition, Google Insights suggested how we might want to adapt our keyword bid strategy accordingly.

Using Google Insights with Explanations

Insights can be especially useful when you combine it with other Google ad tools. For instance, consider how you might use Insights along with Explanations, which helps you understand changes in your ad performance based on variables such as your campaign settings and auction activity. Let’s say Explanations tells me that impressions are falling for a particular brand campaign. Digging deeper, I might realize I added some negative keywords that are excluding some searches. When I look at Insights, I might further see that they keyword I excluded is related to a trending search. This data is like a red flag telling me I need to re-evaluate my decision to exclude that keyword.

Insights should prove to be an even more valuable tool when Google rolls it out more widely. Responding to advertisers with this tool is especially helpful now because there are limitations on what we can do in a world of automated bid strategies. It’s nice to have more data to support human decision making.

For more information about insights, read this useful article from Search Engine Roundtable.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. We have the inside scoop on new ad tools such as Insights. Read about some of our client work here.

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

How Google’s New Ground Rules for Search Term Reporting Affect Advertisers

How Google’s New Ground Rules for Search Term Reporting Affect Advertisers

Google

If it seems to you that Google is reporting fewer search terms in your keyword reports, you are not alone. As discussed in Search Engine Land, Google is revising search term reports “to only include terms that were searched by a significant number of users.” As a result, advertisers have access to fewer search terms when evaluating keyword performance. And lack of visibility is a problem.

Here’s how advertisers are affected: lack of visibility into keyword performance makes it more difficult for advertisers to optimize campaigns, especially when using manual bid strategies. That’s because advertisers lose valuable insights into how people are searching. Without that insight, advertisers struggle to add negative keywords to block irrelevant traffic and improve traffic relevancy — which ultimately can make controlling costs per conversion more difficult.

The new ground rules also lack transparency. Google has not explained what the criteria for a specific search term to be deemed as one being “searched by a significant number of users.”

Taking a Closer Look

The change means that advertisers and their agency partners cannot see all the search terms that match their keywords. As a result, it’s impossible for anyone planning keyword spending to have a complete view of how people search — which means keyword planning is less efficient and more costly.

We have seen the negative impact of this change in our own client work. Here are two examples:

  • On one of our campaigns, thanks to this update, we have lost visibility into search terms that account for 47 percent of month-to-date clicks. If this doesn’t sound significant, consider that in highly competitive verticals with relatively high cost per clicks, advertisers may lose visibility into search terms that drive 44 percent of month-to-date spend, just as it happened for our client.
  • In another campaign, we have lost visibility into search terms that account for 53 percent of month-to-date clicks. In other words, we cannot see search terms that drive 51 percent of month-to-date spend for our client.

When an advertiser cannot see which search terms correspond to its keyword spend, then the risk for inefficiency is unacceptably high. Unfortunately, advertisers end up paying for irrelevant search terms, which means paying for terms that are not converting. The visibility fog is not so damaging for advertisers whose cost-per-click spend is low, say, $1 CPC. But for an advertiser paying, say $50 per click, the resulting inefficiency is very high.

Why Is Google Limiting Keyword Visibility?

Why is Google doing this? Well, Google’s official stance is that it all comes down to user privacy. As Google told Search Engine Land:

In order to maintain our standards of privacy and strengthen our protections around user data, we have made changes to our Search Terms Report to only include terms that a significant number of users searched for. We’re continuing to invest in new and efficient ways to share insights that enable advertisers to make critical business decisions.

While Google’s primary purpose may be to protect privacy, this change may result in greater ad spend as budgets are increased in order to make lead goals – which means more revenue for Google. Having visibility into search terms means a more targeted spend for advertisers, and less money for Google. But when an advertiser lacks visibility, the advertiser may spend money needlessly on terms that are irrelevant to the product or service that is being advertised. An inefficient spend means more money for Google resulting from wasted dollars.

We reached out to Google to share our concerns. If you are seeing similar results, you may want to provide your feedback to Google as well.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Walmart Takes Aim at Amazon, Facebook, and Google with Online Advertising

Walmart Takes Aim at Amazon, Facebook, and Google with Online Advertising

Advertising Amazon Facebook Google

When Walmart recently announced that it was joining Microsoft in a bid for TikTok, the news had many people scratching their heads. But the bid makes perfect sense in context of Walmart’s growing online advertising business, an aspect of the Walmart empire that is beginning to catch more attention among brands. Read on to learn more.

The Growth of Walmart Advertising

You might not know it, but Walmart operates its own digital advertising business under Walmart Media Group. Under CEO Doug McMillon, Walmart Media Group has been building an advertising business to compete with Amazon, Google, and Facebook (the Big Three of online advertising). As reported in The Wall Street Journal, “deep-pocketed companies with large amounts of data on their customers are in the best position to mount a challenge” to these competitors.

Walmart feels ready to play in that sandbox. The retail behemoth aims to tap into its own trove of shopper data (about purchases made both online and in brick-and-mortar stores), and sell advertising services to businesses with products in Walmart stores and across the entire digital world, on sites including Walmart.com. As Steve Bratspies, the chief merchandising officer for Walmart U.S., has noted, data can give advertisers a leg up by providing insight into what a consumer might really want and need.

For example, as noted in The Wall Street Journal, a customer might buy a bicycle in a Walmart store, then subsequently see ads for bike helmets on platforms like Facebook. The ads would direct the shopper back to Walmart.com to make the purchase. It’s a win/win, with consumer needs being anticipated and met, and brands making the connection to a motivated shopper.

Walmart’s Advertising Services

How does Walmart propose to make those connections? The retailer currently offers advertisers services such as:

  • Sponsored Products ads, which consumers encounter when they are browsing Walmart.com. These ads can take many forms:
    • A brand’s products can get premium placement on the first page of a shopper’s search results.
    • An advertiser’s logo might appear, along with a custom headline, at the top of relevant search results.
    • Products can appear as part of a product carousel of relevant alternate purchase options.
    • Items can be highlighted in a “Buy Box” as the most relevant alternate purchase option on a product detail page.

Walmart Sponsored Product Ad

  • Visually compelling display ads, which keep a brand in the forefront:
    • Across Walmart’s digital properties. Content and advertising can be seamlessly merged on Walmart.com, pickup and delivery, and Walmart apps.
    • Offsite, across the web and social channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. As noted earlier, relevant ads will re-engage customers and send them back to Walmart for products.

Walmart Display Ad

Where Does TikTok Fit into All This?

Walmart’s motivation for acquiring TikTok probably has much to do with digital ad dollars. As Mark Sullivan of Fast Company points out, TikTok is a prime space for digital advertising. And Walmart clearly recognizes that, sharing in a statement that TikTok might represent “an important way for us to reach and serve omnichannel customers as well as grow our third-party marketplace and advertising businesses.”

Sullivan elaborates:

TikTok is itself in the early stages of selling ads on its app, and it has data on people’s video content choices, but it lacks data on the things people buy. If Walmart owned TikTok it could use its ecommerce user data to help advertisers put ads in front of the right TikTok users. And Walmart could be the exclusive seller of targeted ad space on TikTok.

One advertising industry insider told me that a brand—say a car company—might use a cookie to capture data on a consumer that came to its site to look at cars, then use Walmart’s ad-tech to show an ad to that same consumer on TikTok.

If Walmart had an ownership stake in TikTok, Walmart could connect its advertisers with TikTok’s young demographic, too. And let’s face it — TikTok is hot. In early August 2020, the video-sharing social networking service reported about 100 million monthly active U.S. users, a figure that is up nearly 800 percent from January 2018. Walmart clearly sees the opportunities inherent in connecting its brands with that audience.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.