Episode 167 contains the notable Digital Marketing News and Updates from the week of June 26 – 30, 2023. And the show notes for this episode was generated using generative AI. And like always, I curated the articles for the show.

1. Time’s Up for Universal Analytics (UA): Embrace Google Analytics 4(GA4) Now – The transition from Universal Analytics (UA) to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) has officially started, marking a significant shift in the digital marketing landscape. With the discontinuation of UA, marketers have to migrate to GA4 to continue measuring their websites and campaigns, unless they opt for an analytics alternative outside of Google.

The phasing out process is happening in stages; despite UA still processing some data, a message now greets users stating: “This property is scheduled to stop processing data very soon. Once this goes into effect, you’ll need a Google Analytics 4 property to measure website performance.” All functioning UA properties are queued for deletion on a rolling basis.

Google has repeatedly advised marketers about this transition, reiterating that GA4 is the company’s next-generation measurement solution. In a statement, Google stressed the urgency for users to switch to GA4, adding that those who use UA data in their Google Ads accounts should migrate their UA property’s Google Ads links to their GA4 property.

The timeline for the UA shutdown is as follows:

  • March 2023: Google auto-created a GA4 property for marketers who didn’t opt out of the automatic property creation option.
  • July 2023: UA ceased processing hits, but marketers could access previously processed data in their UA property until July 2024.
  • July 2024: All access to the UA user interface and API will be terminated.

For guidance on transitioning to GA4, Google has provided a comprehensive ‘Learn how to make the switch‘ guide. Make the switch as soon as possible to avoid interruptions in your web analytics services.

2. Boost Your Campaigns: Import GA4 Conversions to Google Ads Now –  Google is actively encouraging marketers to import their web and app conversions from Google Analytics 4 (GA4) into Google Ads. Those with a linked Google Ads account may have already seen a new recommendation to import conversions. Notifications of this feature will appear at the top of the Advertising snapshot page, on the Home page, or the Insights Hub page.

This streamlined process is a boon for marketers, allowing them to access their web and app conversions directly in Google Ads without needing to switch back to GA4. It paves the way for better bid optimization, which could potentially enhance campaign performance.

Conversions, which indicate the instances when ads lead to sales, are crucial in understanding the success of marketing strategies. Having immediate access to this data empowers marketers to make necessary adjustments to their campaigns – from tweaking keywords to budget allocations and bidding strategies. This can result in improved profitability and reduced costs in Google Ads.

To maximize the benefits and gain accurate insights, marketers should check out Google’s GA4 Recommendations guide. This simple act of importing GA4 conversion data into Google Ads promises to be a game-changer in campaign optimization.

3. New Boundaries: YouTube Revamps Impersonation Policy for Fan Channels – In response to escalating concerns about misrepresentation and impersonation, YouTube is refining its impersonation policy. This change primarily targets “fan channels,” requiring them to clearly state their non-affiliation with the entities they support.

YouTube’s policy update is straightforward: fan channels need to explicitly mention their status in their channel name or handle. The platform aims to ensure viewers can easily discern that such channels do not represent the original creator, artist, or entity they celebrate. The objective is to thwart users who repost others’ content and claim it as their own.

For example, channels self-proclaiming as “fan accounts” while imitating other channels and re-uploading their content will no longer be tolerated. Similarly, channels that copy the name, avatar, or banner of another channel, with only minor changes such as an added space or altered character, will be prohibited under the new rules.

Interestingly, the revised policy stipulates that any violations may lead to immediate account termination. This represents a departure from the previous three-strike penalty system.

The backdrop to this change is a surge in channels re-uploading content from popular creators, masquerading as the original poster to garner a monetizable audience. This trend isn’t exclusive to YouTube; platforms like TikTok and Instagram also see users re-posting popular TV show clips and trending content to maximize audience reach.

With these revamped rules, YouTube aims to clamp down on this behavior, potentially discouraging users from exploiting others’ work. The specifics of how YouTube plans to enforce this change and its subsequent impact on the content ecosystem remain to be seen.

The updated rules are slated to take effect from August 21, 2023. For a more detailed understanding of YouTube’s impersonation policy update, you can refer to their official statement. As content creators or avid followers, let’s be sure to adapt to these changes and continue to support original content!

4. Stepping Up the Game: Microsoft Advertising Overhauls Policies for Better Compliance and User Safety – Microsoft Advertising has undertaken a series of updates to enhance the clarity of its policies, improve enforcement mechanisms, and ensure user protection.

From July 1, 2023, Microsoft will put into action a defined structure for penalties, targeting advertisers who do not adhere to its guidelines. Sanctions will range from disapproval of ad components to immediate suspension of services for severe violations. The new policy aims to better outline the constraints already in place against persistent or egregious breaches.

Among the recent modifications to their regulations, Microsoft will now accept advertisements for vitamins and supplements within their network, provided they refrain from making extravagant health claims. It’s also a mandate that these ads link directly to a product page, rather than an advertorial article or video. In addition, gambling advertisements will be permitted in jurisdictions where such promotion is legal, contingent upon advertisers having the necessary operating licenses.

Changes in gambling ad regulations are slated for Belgium and the Netherlands from July 1, 2023. While Belgium will entirely prohibit gambling advertisements, the Netherlands will restrict ad campaigns to users aged 24 or older.

From August 1, 2023, a series of further restrictions will take effect. Ireland will require gambling advertisements to adopt time-based targeting to avoid visibility between 5:30 AM and 9:00 PM. Meanwhile, advertisements for clinical trials and experimental medical treatments will be globally banned, and adult-oriented advertising will no longer be accepted in Hungary or Poland.

For a more user-friendly approach, Microsoft Advertising is reshuffling its policy pages, grouping similar content and adding explicit examples for better understanding. Information related to MSN, Outlook, and Xbox will now be relocated to a separate help document linked from the policy pages. You can visit the Microsoft Advertising policies website for the most up-to-date information.

Be sure to note that some of these policy changes will only be implemented after July 1, 2023.

5. Unlocking Web Potential: The Power of Semantic HTML in SEO & Accessibility – Google’s John Mueller recently offered valuable insights into the role of semantic HTML in enhancing website content comprehension for search engines. Mueller clarified its influence on SEO, accessibility, and, indirectly, search rankings.

Semantic HTML can be described as the backbone of web content, giving it structure and purpose. Its elements like headings, paragraphs, lists, tables, links, images, articles, sections, asides, and figures help search engines and browsers interpret the page content and its context effectively. Examples of non-semantic elements:

and – Tells nothing about its content. Examples of semantic elements: ,

, and

– Clearly defines its content.

Contrary to popular belief, Mueller points out that semantic HTML, despite facilitating page analysis, is not a direct ranking determinant. He said, “Semantic HTML does help to understand a page. However, it’s not a magical multiplier for making a website rank higher.”

Nevertheless, it’s critical to SEO and accessibility and is a recommended best practice for creating an optimal user experience.

Semantic HTML offers SEO advantages like structuring text with headings, positioning relevant images beside corresponding text, employing table tags for data tabulation, and using anchor links over JavaScript-based links. Mueller further explained that Google’s algorithms are more concerned with clear structure and relationships between elements than the specifics of similar elements.

On the accessibility front, semantic HTML proves to be a game-changer. It assists screen reader software in interpreting web content for visually impaired users, ensures keyboard navigability, enhances the usability of assistive technologies, and promotes responsive web design for various devices. Its adherence to web standards also future-proofs content.

Mueller concludes with a powerful message to website owners, urging them to use semantic HTML. “Please use semantic HTML. It’s not a ranking factor, but it can help our systems to understand your content better.” The clear take-away here is that while semantic HTML might not directly improve your site’s ranking, its importance in offering an inclusive web experience can’t be understated.

6. Adapting to Change: Google Phasing Out Sitemaps Ping Endpoint – Google has announced plans to end support for the Sitemaps ping endpoint by the close of this year. The decision means HTTP ping requests will result in a 404 error. So submitting your Sitemap using an HTTP request such as /ping?sitemap=sitemap_url will no longer work.

The Sitemap protocol defined an unauthenticated REST method for submitting sitemaps to search engines, offering a way of notifying search engines whenever a sitemap was updated. However, Google found, through internal studies and comparisons with other search engines like Bing, that these unauthenticated sitemap submissions have become largely unproductive, with most leading to spam.

Despite this change, sitemaps can still be submitted through Google Search Console and your robots.txt files. Google further recommends using the lastmod element in your sitemap file, ensuring it reflects the actual change date of the page. For example, if your content management system (CMS) changes a minor piece of text in the sidebar or footer, there’s no need to update the lastmod value. However, if there are significant changes to the primary text, structured data, or links, updating the lastmod value is advised.

It’s important to note that Google still doesn’t use changefreq or priority elements for sitemaps.

Regarding SEO implications, Google assured that existing code or plugins using this endpoint won’t affect Google Search, and no changes are required, although the endpoint will no longer serve any useful purpose.

The speed at which your content gets picked up might be marginally affected without ping support, but Google doesn’t foresee this as a major issue. However, those using custom code or a CMS that pings Google with updates might want to remove those pings by the end of the year. It’s also crucial to ensure your lastmod data remains accurate and helpful.

7. Ad Placement Controversy: Is Google Delivering on its Promises? – Recent research by Adalytics, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, suggests that an estimated 80% of ads served across the web by YouTube are infringing upon its own service terms, potentially costing Google billions in refunds and shaking advertisers’ trust.

The study reports that roughly half of the ads paid for by advertisers on YouTube are not being displayed on the platform but are instead shown on other websites and mobile apps via Google’s “Google Video Partners” program. However, these third-party site placements often fail to deliver the promised YouTube ad experience, with ads often being muted, unskippable, and autoplayed off-screen. This breach of agreement has resulted in advertisers paying premium rates for substandard placements.

Adalytics’ analysis spanned ad campaigns from over 1,100 major brands, covering billions of impressions from 2020 to 2023. Ads from established brands like Johnson & Johnson, American Express, and Samsung, as well as government organizations like Medicare, were found on low-quality websites, contradicting Google’s commitment to ensure ad placements on reputable, thoroughly vetted sites. Understandably, this is leading to upset advertisers seeking refunds.

Google, however, has disputed the Adalytics report, labeling its methodology as unreliable. Google asserts that the Google Video Partners network is only a small, separate extension of their ad services, aimed at helping advertisers broaden their campaign reach. Google also emphasizes that advertisers maintain control over their GVP campaigns and can opt out at any time.

Potential fallout from the Adalytics report could have profound implications on Google’s credibility, its advertising revenue, and even provoke further regulatory scrutiny and legal action. If substantiated, these findings could drive transformation in the digital advertising industry, sparking stricter regulations, improved technologies, and more transparent practices. Google, in turn, may need to invest more resources into ad placement screening and monitoring to regain advertiser trust and avert financial losses.

8. Unlock Success in Ads: Deep Dive into Google’s Value-Based Bidding –  Google’s Ads Liaison, Ginny Marvin, recently shared valuable insights about Google Ads’ value-based bidding (VBB), clearing misconceptions and responding to queries in a Twitter thread.

VBB aims to maximize conversion value within your budget and optional return on ad spend (ROAS) target. It particularly suits businesses involved in lead generation, online sales, and even brick-and-mortar stores. The technique focuses on returning a higher total value of conversions, albeit at a lower conversion volume compared to maximum conversion/tCPA bidding.

The use of VBB hinges on correctly setting conversion values, which could be sales revenue, profit margins, or lifetime value, among others. Should you set a ROAS target, it will work towards maximizing conversion value at that target level. It’s recommended to have at least 15 conversions in the past 30 days for most campaign types, especially with tROAS.

If lower-funnel conversions are insufficient, consider optimizing for a higher-funnel conversion action or simplifying campaign structures. Even if the exact value of conversion actions is unknown, proxy values can be used effectively. It’s important to be patient while establishing the right proxy values.

VBB allows for optimization for both value and volume. However, upon switching to tROAS, expect a lower volume as it targets the most valuable customers instead of maximizing conversions. To optimize for new customers, consider using VBB+New Customer Acquisition (NCA) bidding.

To measure tROAS performance, it’s typically suggested to wait 2 weeks or 3 conversion cycles. Remember, Google doesn’t understand the meaning behind your values; they are used to inform decisions to hit targets. Your conversion value data isn’t shared with competitors, and your campaigns will benefit from uploading true conversion values aligned with your business goals.

For lead generation, assigning values to offline conversions should reflect their importance to your business. Profit or other KPI can be optimized using tROAS by importing relevant data to Google Ads. Lower traffic and conversions during tROAS tests are typical, as VBB focuses on maximizing conversion value within budget and ROAS constraints.

Currently, setting negative conversion values for unwanted leads isn’t feasible, but you can use conversion retractions. The VBB features in SA360 are unique and include bidding to proxy or predictive values, GMP stack integration, budget bid strategies, conversion value rules, and custom variable adjustments.

9. Refining Your Reach: Google Ads Rolls Out New Brand Settings – Google Ads is enhancing its platform with the introduction of new brand settings for Search and Performance Max campaigns. These updates are expected to provide advertisers with increased control and precision over their ad targeting, notably involving broad match and brand exclusions.

Google’s new “Brand Restrictions for Search Campaigns” allows advertisers to employ broad match targeting, but with a twist. This setting ensures your broad match only applies to the specific brand traffic you’ve selected. Essentially, your broad match traffic will be served solely on searches related to the brands you select or their associated products. This control enables advertisers to extend their reach and improve performance while sticking to specific brand needs.

Google Ads is also enhancing Performance Max campaigns with “Brand Exclusions.” This feature gives advertisers the power to exclude specific brands from their campaigns, offering added control to avoid unwanted branded queries on Search and Shopping inventory. This functionality even extends to blocking traffic from brand misspellings and brand searches in foreign languages.

To add a brand list to an existing Performance Max campaign, follow the same steps as above, but select “Brand exclusions” instead of “Brand restrictions” in step 4.

These new brand settings are actively being rolled out by Google, which means they may not yet be available for all users. Nevertheless, these changes promise advertisers an improved, more precise control over their ad targeting. 

10. Navigating New Norms: Google Ads Tightens Rules on Third-Party Click Tracking – Google Ads has recently updated its policy, stating that it might disapprove ads using third-party click-tracking services that aren’t officially certified by Google. However, this rule will only apply to accounts that commence using such services after the week of August 28th.

Third-party click-tracking services are tools that advertisers use to monitor and analyze the performance of their online advertising campaigns. These services provide detailed data about every individual who clicks on an advertisement, which is essential for evaluating campaign performance and optimizing future initiatives.

Here are some key functions and benefits of third-party click-tracking services:

  • Performance Analysis: These services help advertisers understand which ads are performing well and which aren’t. By tracking the number of clicks, they provide insights into the effectiveness of various ads.
  • Campaign Optimization: By understanding which ads are receiving more clicks, advertisers can tweak their campaigns accordingly. They can invest more in high-performing ads and modify or discard those that aren’t performing well.
  • Insights into User Behavior: Click tracking can provide insights into user behavior, like which type of ads are more appealing to users, what time users are more likely to click on ads, etc. This data can be crucial in creating more user-focused advertising strategies.
  • Budget Management: With precise tracking, advertisers can ensure that their advertising budget is being used effectively and not being wasted on under-performing ads.
  • ROI Measurement: By analyzing the number of clicks and comparing it with the campaign expenditure, advertisers can calculate their return on investment (ROI) from different ads.
  • A/B Testing: Click tracking services allow advertisers to perform A/B testing. They can create multiple versions of the same ad, see which version gets more clicks, and use this information to create more effective ads in the future.

Some popular third-party click-tracking services include:

  • ClickMeter: ClickMeter offers various tracking services including click, conversion, and audience tracking.
  • Voluum: Known for its real-time analytics and A/B testing capabilities, Voluum is a popular choice for many advertisers.
  • Improvely: This service not only tracks clicks but also identifies and protects against click fraud.
  • LinkTrackr: LinkTrackr offers click tracking with a focus on affiliate marketing and link cloaking.
  • ClickMagick: ClickMagick is another robust click-tracking tool, offering features like real-time stats, A/B testing, and more.

In a nutshell, third-party click-tracking services play a crucial role in optimizing digital advertising strategies, helping businesses to understand their audience better, manage their budgets efficiently, and ultimately, improve their overall advertising performance.

Now according to Google’s new guideline, starting from the week of August 28th, advertisers who intend to use click trackers for the first time must ensure that these are certified click trackers in the Tracking Template feature; otherwise, their ads may face disapproval.

For those who have been utilizing non-certified click trackers before the stated date, Google has given temporary leniency. They can continue to use the Tracking Template feature without any restrictions for now.

Google has released a list of approved click-tracking services. If your service provider isn’t featured on this list, Google recommends that the click tracker service providers apply for their click tracker’s certification. The guidelines outlining the compliance measures to get approved as a certified click tracker by Google are also provided.

In conclusion, this move indicates Google’s ongoing effort to ensure the transparency and legitimacy of ad tracking, aiming to provide advertisers with the most reliable and effective advertising experience.