It’s been an interesting time in the world of Google in October 2020. For us SEOs, involved in the digital marketing of your websites, the significant Google announcements both happened on the same day – Wednesday 14th October.
The first big fanfare from Google was the release of Analytics 4. GA4 is the latest iteration of Google Analytics, and is really a rebrand of the App + Web property which was released last year.
Until the middle of last year, there were analytics for either web (Google Analytics) or apps (Firebase). Then on 31st July 2019 the Mountain View search giant announced a unified tool in its App + Web property of Google Analytics. We saw cross-platform analysis through a more flexible event-based model to understand how people engaged with both apps and websites together.
Just over a year later, we’re now looking at GA4, which is supposed to rely heavily on Artificial Intelligence (AI) to “surface” helpful insights, as the vernacular seems to be these days.
Despite being out for two weeks now, the once-beta analytics tool is still being touted to existing customers in official Google emails.
GA4 is also the default property for new Analytics accounts so any new sites you set up will push you to GA4. You’ll see lots of new reporting categories and the change from a “tracking ID” to a “measurement ID”. That’s a subtle but massively important nuance because nobody likes being tracked but we’re OK being measured, right?
Another change of note is the lack of IP filtering – how can you only track, sorry, measure legitimate visits and not staff checking their own website?
Should I upgrade to Analytics 4?
Google are actively prompting users to upgrade, so there is a push by the search engine to get us all onto the new property. However, just like Urchin Stats, Google Analytics tags, Universal Analytics, there may very well be some delay in getting the world onto GA4.
There are lots of handy features in the new GA4 but we’re also seeing a much-changed toolset, so migrating fully right now is jumping in at the deep end. It might well be worth switching on a lesser website and seeing how you get on. Either that, or wait for our results – we’re conducting limited testing to see what the differences are between current and new Analytics.
Watch this space…
OK, so one of the big issues we’re seeing is the aggressive push for all new accounts to be GA4. Be very careful when you set up a new Analytics account, and look for the (almost hidden) options to also have your regular UA account created. We’ve noticed that SEMrush doesn’t appear to work with GA4 hence UA tags are the number one choice for now.
Indexing Requests Suspended
All this talk of Analytics is one thing, but the best tool [IMO – Ed] is actually Google Search Console. GSC or what was once called Webmaster Tools.
Why is GSC better than Analytics? Well, the one thing we really love about GSC is the abundance of keyword data that isn’t all there in GA. Keyword “not provided” is so frustrating.
However, another prime feature is the URL inspection tool. Whenever we conduct SEO work on a single page in a client website, we inspect the URL afterwards to see when it was last indexed.
Right next to this result is the “Request indexing” button which we like to click and ensure that the latest version of an up-to-date, freshly-SEO’d page is crawled and indexed in the search engine.
The problem right now, and it has been an issue since 14th October, is that the tool is suspended. We cannot manually submit any URLs for crawling and so rely on Google’s automated crawl rates.
Anecdotally, our head of digital once ran a 10,000 page website which relied heavily on new content being submitted and the search engines knowing that the website had been updated. When he left that role and the good habit of regular updates and submissions was neglected by the new owners, the website ranking and traffic crashed. The site lost 50% of its traffic overnight.
Was that a result of not keeping the site in the eyes of Webmaster Tools or just a coincidence? We’ll leave that up to you.
But ultimately, this is a bit of a pain at the moment, because it’s an important part of our digital marketing workflow. Right now, all our good work in SEO is not being submitted. We’re at the mercy of automation. It’s not so bad with a site that’s regularly maintained but for new websites, our latest updates are important.
Google will be keeping us posted. [Or we’ll be looking at GSC like we do every day, just willing for that function to be restored – Ed]
UPDATE: Tuesday 8th December and indexing requests are still not available. Sigh.
Google in October 2020 has been challenging, but we carry on doing the best SEO. Hampshire, nationally and internationally, we do global and local SEO.