4 min read

Why Data Matters Now More Than Ever Before

By Greg Hall

This post is part of the HLM Experts Series, where we highlight the industry expertise of our HLM team members. Click here to see all content created by HLM Experts.

The Shifting Digital Sands of 2023

2023 saw significant changes in the digital marketing landscape, with the mainstream introduction of Artificial Intelligence touching seemingly every aspect of a business's online presence.

The short and long-term impacts of AI are debatable, and even the definition of AI itself is mired in nuance and opinion, but regardless, there were a few tangible changes in 2023 that have impacted the online visibility of nearly every business.

Today we’ll review some of those changes, and show that because of them, having reliable data that guides and informs your investment in digital marketing is more important than ever - if you’re concerned with getting the most ROI possible.

The Switch from Google Analytics to GA4

Google first announced Google Analytics (which we’ll refer to from now on as “UA,” or “Universal Analytics”), in 2012, and quickly became the gold standard for website traffic and analytics data.

Countless digital marketing agencies and marketing managers relied heavily on UA to report on the success of digital marketing efforts and the ROI of investments. Thousands of 3rd-party digital solutions and products relied heavily on integrations with UA as well, with many basing their entire business model around it.

Google officially launched the replacement for UA, called “GA4,” in late 2020. In July of 2023, Google mandated the switch from UA to GA4, officially sunsetting UA and upending a decade of standard industry reporting and data collection.

Google made this change to better prepare for the future of the internet and evolving privacy concerns. After all, when Google announced UA in 2012 and it became widely adopted in 2013, there was no TikTok, many websites weren’t viewable on mobile devices, and online privacy laws like GDPR were at least 4 years away.

Why You Should Care

 

Your marketing manager or digital marketing agency will need to become proficient with this change in data reporting quickly, if they haven’t already done so, to allow for accurate feedback on how well your investment is being spent.

Google’s Helpful Content Update

Online Content was a significant theme of 2023. Google and other tech giants have long been involved with, and have been keeping abreast of, the improvements in AI and Generative Content algorithms.

Having insight into what was coming, Google preemptively made changes to its own search algorithm in an attempt to put more emphasis on website content that provided helpful answers to searchers, and that seemed to be backed by human authorities and experts.

Like most Google search algorithm changes, the 2023 Helpful Content Update was introduced in stages, beginning on September 14th and completing on September 28th.

Again, it’s important to note that this change came late in 2023, so the implications are still being felt by businesses of all kinds across the internet.

Why You Should Care

 

If you’re a business that doesn't believe in blogging or creating good quality, helpful content on a regular basis around the services and products you provide, you'll be left behind by businesses that do.

ChatGPT

It’s impossible to live in the modern digital age and not have heard of ChatGPT.

While the term “AI” can be an amorphous, vague buzzword that is sometimes more hype or fear-mongering than an actual tangible thing, there’s no denying that ChatGPT has already had a significant impact on society.

From students using ChatGPT to write that term paper, to the 2023 Writers Guild of America strike over the concerns of ChatGPT replacing union member jobs, ChatGPT is having a real effect on businesses worldwide.

HLM attended a conference in 2023 during which one of the speakers instructed an audience of Home Services business owners on how to use their “Self-Service Marketing Platform” that was “Powered by AI.” This platform was designed to allow the business owner to auto-generate social media and blog posts, along with static website content and other assets and resources.

As we listened to the responses of the business owners, it became clear these owners truly believed they had found the be-all-end-all solution to their digital marketing needs. All for $150 a month. Sound too good to be true?

There’s no doubt ChatGPT and AI can be useful tools (check out our stance on AI from March of 2023) - but like any good tool, they require a strategic mind and thoughtfulness to be wielded effectively.

Why You Should Care

 

As the online landscape and the business environment become more complicated, business owners need an agency or team that looks at your marketing efforts holistically, sees where AI can fit in as a helpful part of your overall strategy, and constantly assesses and evaluates efforts. That evaluation requires an ability to understand data, and translate those findings into tangible recommendations and tactics, and finally incorporate them into your overall marketing strategy.

Generative AI in Search

Around May of 2023, Google began opening up access to search results that included AI-generated results. If you’re not sure what that looks like, check out the image below. Yes, that’s the result that appeared when we searched Google for “writers guild strikes due to ChatGPT” for the section above (don’t worry, we fact-checked elsewhere!)

Click for Larger Image

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The first implication seen from the image above is that even Google caveats its own search results with the warning that “Generative AI is experimental,” meaning that AI info found in Google search results shouldn’t be blindly trusted.

The second, less obvious implication that is relevant to a business owner is that it’s not incredibly clear how this AI-generated content is being created.

AI, like any computer science algorithm, is still impacted by the concept of “garbage-in-garbage-out,” meaning that if the only info AI has access to is incorrect, then that false or misleading content can be repeated and magnified.

Google’s search results can be compiled from dozens to hundreds of sources online. This becomes even more complicated when introducing AI into the mix.

Why You Should Care

 

With search results being compiled from more sources than ever, it becomes more important to make sure your marketing manager or agency is looking at your entire online presence, to ensure accurate and consistent info about your business is in as many places across the internet as possible. This gives Google more trust in your business, helping you show up in more search results.

Collecting and Interpreting Data is More Important Than Ever

Whether you work with High Level Marketing, another agency, or rely on an in-house marketing team, we firmly believe that the collection of relevant data, and the interpretation of that data into useful, actionable recommendations, will set businesses that excel in digital marketing apart from those that do not. Make sure that in 2024 and beyond, you have confidence that the decisions and investments you're making in your marketing efforts are backed by as much useful data as possible.

Author: Greg Hall

HLM Product Owner

As Product Owner at HLM, Greg is responsible for working with internal and external users to define HLM's technology strategy and product roadmap. Greg has over 13 years experience in digital marketing and product development and is passionate about developing products that solve real problems for business owners.

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