Google Analytics – what’s in the latest update and how could it affect your marketing?

Updated: Sep 15

When Google Analytics 4 was released in 2020, consent mode was the big news. With consumers taking an increased interest in their online privacy and having more privacy tools at their disposal due to UK and EU GDPR regulations - marketers are having to find new ways to gauge campaign success, especially now further updates are being rolled out.


In this post we’ll discuss:

  • consent mode: what it is and how it analyzes human behavioural data

  • whether ‘users’ should remain our most tracked metric

  • if marketers should focus on search engine optimization (SEO) as opposed to pay-per-click (PPC)

What is Consent Mode?

With new privacy-safe solutions, Google is helping advertisers preserve marketing measurement while respecting user consent choices. This includes using machine learning to model conversions in Google Ads, so you can continue to optimize performance in a privacy-safe way when observed conversion data is not available.

Russell Ketchum, Google Analytics, June 2021


In essence, Google is introducing conversion modelling. They claim that this will help marketers:

...preserve online measurement capabilities, using a privacy-first approach

Henrique de Freitas, Product Manager, Google, April 2021


In our recent blog post about the iOS 15 update, we examined the new privacy tools being rolled out by Apple. Until now, the default setting has been to ‘opt-out’ of tracking cookies. iOS 15 empowers the user by requiring them to ‘opt-in’ instead. If Android was to follow suit in the future, this could lead to serious changes in how we measure and use data.

Without cookies, advertisers experience a gap in their measurement and lose visibility into user paths on their site…when a user doesn’t consent to ads cookies or analytics cookies, Consent Mode automatically adjusts the relevant Google tags’ behaviour to not read or write cookies for advertising or analytics purposes. This enables advertisers to respect user choice while helping them still capture some campaign insights

Google Support, August 2021

Man using laptop with digital marketing written on screen

How do the changes affect the way you monitor your PPC campaigns?


As marketers, we are used to analyzing data. That’s how we plan, gauge success and adjust. By using Google Analytics (GA), we can instantly discover how many users visited a website directly from a campaign. In future, however, the total number of users we see in the dashboard will not be actual click-through users: it will be a number generated by Google based on modelled conversions - and we’ll still have to pay our ‘per click’ cost.


Google Analytics statistic on Consent Mode. More than 70% of ad lick to conversion journeys are lost due to user consent choices

Henrique de Freitas, Product Manager Google, April 2021

The average person sees around 10,000 ads every day

whoofey.com, April 2021


Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. YouTube. The average user is bombarded with adverts whenever they’re online. Being exposed to around 10,000 adverts every day demonstrates how proficient people are becoming at avoiding them. In fact, in research published in February 2021, average click-through rates were at a figure of just 1.55%.

In Q1 2020, median CTR for ads on Google Search decreased from 2.5% to 1.55%. CTR remains lower than we observed in 2019, down 44% year over year.
Key Takeaways CTR decreased by 38% since Q4 2019 CTR decreased by 44% year over year since Q1 2019

Dave Chaffey, Smart Insights, Feb 2021


If people are naturally avoiding adverts, it leads us to question just how accurate a conversion modelling system will be, at least while it’s still learning.


GA’s market share is around 50%, and Google Tag Manager is around 20%. The vast competition which makes up the remaining 30% includes Facebook Pixel, the third-largest Web Analytics provider at under 10% (Enlyft 2021).


GA dominates this marketplace which is why is essential to understand how these latest changes could affect the way you analyze your PPC campaigns.


Quote saying pay per click written on white paper on green desk

Pay-Per-Click (PPC)


Like all advertising, it’s essential to keep your copy fresh. Running the same advert over and over can lead to burnout and less chance that a user will click. You need to alternate content especially by format - image, GIF, video etc and find out what works best for your audience. It's essential to test, adjust, test, adjust to keep your campaigns effective. As above, PPC only works when your campaigns are running. When switched off or budget is exhausted, they’re not seen and therefore not clicked.


PPC can also prove expensive, especially if you’ve got broad keywords or phrases.

(In 2020) the most expensive Google Ad keyword with a CPC of $58.64 was “business services”

Statistics courtesy of 99firms.com

Handwritten piece of paper with SEO in the centre and surrounding arrows pointing to individual metrics

SEO


Perfecting your SEO is a task for life. It’s a never-ending job to keep content fresh and relevant to your target audience. To appear high up in web searches, you need to adhere to ranking factors, of which Google has around 200 (and counting). Discover a comprehensive list.


In a nutshell, these include:

  • backlink factors

  • page-level and site-level factors

  • special Google algorithm rules

  • webspam factors (on- and off-site)

  • brand signals

  • user interaction

Brian Dean, backlinko.com, Jan 2021


Could the changes affect the way marketers monitor campaign metrics?


Marketers have often focussed on the number of users, but should these updates to GA change our mindset, and the metrics we use to report on a campaign’s success?


Behaviour


Should we be analyzing behaviour as much, if not more so, than audience?

There is so much data to consider once a user has landed on a webpage.


How long do they stay for?

Are your bounce rates below industry average?

Which pages do they visit?

And what is the average time spent on each page?

What's their customer journey around the website?

Where do they click on the page?

What content do they engage with the most?

Which pages do they exit from?


Conversions


Has the visitor engaged with your brand?

Have they signed up for a newsletter?

Have they downloaded content?

Do you consider a multi-click user to be a conversion?


These are a snippet of ways we can analyze data away from a simple ‘number of users’ statistic. If our current marketing demonstrates that we’re getting clicks, but no engagement, then we can change our strategy accordingly.


SEO vs. PPC

Asking which is better between SEO and PPC is like asking whether it’s better to eat with a fork or spoon — it depends.

Corinne McGinly, HubSpot

Top Tips

  • SEO is always there; it’s a constant

  • PPC advertising only works when your ads are running

  • In the long run, SEO is an effective way of marketing and a cost-effective one. People trust Google Search

However, constantly refreshing and updating SEO can be very time-consuming.