The Future of SEO: Depreciating Cookies, GA4 and How to Win at SEO in 2023
There are some significant marketing changes afoot in 2023 relating to third-party cookies, data collection, and Google Analytics 4, leading many to wonder: what is the future of SEO, and how will the changes due to be implemented next year affect digital marketing strategies moving forwards? One thing that we know for certain is that how marketers collect and use data is changing, and that means how strategies are informed, executed and monitored will no doubt shift, making it more difficult to know if you’re winning at SEO.
The demise of third-party cookies
GDPR and data protection have really come to the forefront of internet use as we become more reliant on the online world. For the most part, users haven’t always been aware that websites collect their data and sell it to others. There’s lots of money to be made from data, but there’s a lot of controversy around how people’s information is being used without their knowledge or consent, especially third-party cookies.
Third-party cookies are where companies monitor the sites you visit. For example, Facebook might follow you across multiple other sites and see the websites you interact with. This is typically done to give you more tailored ads, but a lot of people weren’t aware that this was happening. So, in 2019 Firefox started to block third-party cookies, and Safari did the same in 2020. Now, Google is looking to follow suit in 2024 on Chrome. The initial deadline was 2022, then it got extended to 2023, and now it’s been extended once more – but don’t think this extra extension gets you off the hook. The sooner you get prepared for cookie depreciation, the better.
Why? Because, as a marketer, it will be a lot harder for you to curate relevant ads to your audience without having access to where they spend their time online, so the faster you can find a solution, the further ahead you’ll be.
The introduction of GA4
Away from cookies, we have the introduction of Google Analytics 4, also known as GA4. This is the latest version of Google Analytics which is set to replace the existing Universal Analytics, known as UA, in July 2023. The difference with GA4 launching is that, unlike previously, you won’t be able to access historical data on UA once the new platform is rolled out, so if you want to be able to look at data to inform your SEO strategies, you need to get yourself acquainted with GA4 sooner rather than later. Luckily, we’ve already covered everything you need to know about GA4, so you can familiarise yourself in full.
However, in a nutshell, GA4 does have some advantages that can counteract the impact of losing third-party cookies, including:
- Integrated app and web data collection: You can track website and app data side by side on the same platform for the first time
- Increased user privacy: IP addresses and cookies aren’t stored, but Google will use enhanced machine learning to accurately predict user’s next steps
- Better reporting visuals: GA4 uses more sophisticated software and AI to generate more accurate and readable reporting metrics, including visuals
The only problem is, getting used to GA4 isn’t going to be easy since UA has been on the scene for a long time, so you need to be prepared to try hard to get to grips with the new interface, even if it’s confusing at first. Doing so will help you supercharge your SEO campaigns in 2023.
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What is the future of SEO?
Now we know the two main changes coming our way in 2023 SEO-wise, how do you work around them in order to ensure your SEO wins?
Focus on first-party data
Third-party cookies have been the focus of collecting data and getting user insights for a while, but as they get phased out, you will need to look at other ways of collecting data. First-party data is by and large the next best method. It’s arguably more reliable than third-party data, because you’re collecting the data yourself directly from your users rather than sourcing it from other companies (who may well be giving it to your competitors, too).
There are a few ways you can begin to source first-party data for SEO in 2023, including:
- Sign-up/subscribe forms
If you haven’t already done so, it’s not a bad idea to introduce one or two of these methods to your site in 2023. You can find out information such as the area where your users live (this can be used for local SEO), their job title, their age, and what they want to hear about or see. From this, you can really drill down on your SEO efforts and approaches.
Use market research
What better way to understand user intent and decision-making than by directly asking the users? Up until now, it’s been incredibly easy to rely on data that has been either bought or handed over on a virtual plate, but as we move forwards, marketers are going to have to go back to their roots and find the data themselves.
Market research is an invaluable tool and is certainly something to think about investing in as we prepare to lose cookies on Chrome. Think about holding focus groups, doing surveys, and using the ease of social media communication to get a good idea of what your customers want.
In terms of data collection, being directly involved in your approach is where things are headed.
Track the right data
As you begin to use GA4, you’ll see a myriad of smart AI data, much like in UA. The key for 2023 is knowing which data is worth pulling and what can be disregarded. Too many businesses base SEO decisions on data that fits a set narrative, i.e. data that is headed in a positive direction. This can result in campaigns that don’t really deliver. As we move into 2023, harnessing the right data and using it to your advantage is key.
If your KPI is to increase conversions, focus heavily on conversion-related data. You can obviously track conversions themselves, but you can also begin to look at data that affects conversions, such as bounce rate and the average time spent on a page. This can give an indication of something else at play.
Essentially, you need to master the art of reading between the lines. Google specifically is really drilling down on privacy and algorithm changes to try and beat the bots, so you need to engage your human higher thinking brain and infer data to inform strategies.
SEO is largely driven by data but the way data is collected and presented is changing. Overall, 2023 is going to require a much more hands-on approach to data collection and inference, at least, if you want to produce the most accurate strategies that actually resonate with your audience. Implementing GA4 early on and investing in first-party data collection are going to be key.
If you need help with your 2023 SEO strategies, talk to us today. We can provide advice and guidance on how to create top-class strategies, as well as implement robust SEO practices to propel your site to the top of SERPs.
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