2023 Digital Marketing Report

How Click Fraud, New Automation, Inflation, and AI Have Changed the Marketing Landscape

2023 Digital Marketing Report

How Click Fraud, New Automation, Inflation, and AI Have Changed the Marketing Landscape

This year has been one of our best in marketing, primarily due to the challenges we've experienced, overcome, and learned from alongside our clients. 2023 marked a period of significant evolution and breakthroughs in the field, including the rise of AI technologies, the impact of online inflation, shifts in automation practices, and a notable increase in click fraud.

This report will explore the key aspects that have shaped digital marketing this year. We'll provide insights on our results and discuss the advanced strategies implemented at MRKT360 to transform these challenges into growth and success opportunities for our clients.

Report Breakdown

  • Click Fraud Surge and Solutions: The dramatic increase in click fraud posed a significant threat to digital marketing integrity. MRKT360 developed groundbreaking solutions to protect our clients, saving them millions and ensuring the security of their campaigns for those who adopted our strategy.
  • AI’s Transformative Role: AI has changed the game in almost every aspect of digital marketing. MRKT360 has embraced these changes to enhance our clients' marketing strategies.
  • Combatting Forced Automation: In a landscape where automation was excessively pushed, particularly in Google Ads, we discovered ways to optimize it for our clients' benefit. We will discuss how we turned a potential drawback into a strategic advantage.
  • The Shift to Google Analytics 4 (GA4): The transition to GA4 was a challenge, even for Google, and an opportunity that MRKT360 capitalized on. We navigated the changes and found unique solutions for our clients within GA4 by being early adopters.
  • Countering Inflation's Impact on Bids: At the beginning of 2023, inflation dramatically increased bid costs. MRKT360 developed strategies to minimize these effects on our clients’ accounts, ensuring more efficient use of their marketing budgets.
  • Diversifying Services and Platforms: We expanded our range of services and platforms to find better lead sources for our clients.
  • Recap & New Services 2024: This section provides a concise recap of the above, coupled with an introduction to our new services for 2024. These offerings are specifically designed based on our hands-on experience in successfully navigating clients through the digital marketing challenges of the past year.

Our Solution To Combatting Click Fraud

Understanding the Click Fraud Phenomenon

Clicks on advertisements can be classified as good, bad, or useless. While useless clicks can often be eliminated through precise ad targeting, distinguishing bad clicks is more complex.

PPC advertisers who manage to exclude bad clicks protect their investments and inadvertently direct these harmful clicks toward their competition. This approach is a nuanced tool, and MRKT360 has developed many solutions like this to keep our cost per conversion down for our clients.

In 2023, the digital marketing industry faced a problematic challenge: a dramatic surge in click fraud. While this issue has existed for years and is a prevalent problem in certain industries, 2023 saw a massive increase.

Click fraud, where illegitimate clicks drain advertising budgets, became a widespread concern affecting businesses across various industries. At MRKT360, we recognized the urgency of this issue and dedicated our resources to combat it effectively.

Clickfraud comes in many different forms: it can be as simple as your competitor clicking your ads every day to a global network of devices and IPs hired by competitors to try to put you out of business.

These IPs, often mimicking targeted countries, led to a surge in fraudulent clicks on our clients' ads. Google only allows users to block 500 IP addresses or ranges for each campaign, representing a drop in the ocean of IPs used in click fraud.

Here is a clear example of click fraud data from one of our larger accounts. Using Google’s own analytics tools, the graph above shows thousands of Google ads users from OFAC-sanctioned countries like Iran and Russia.

We never targeted OFAC-sanctioned countries for this campaign, and it’s not even allowed by Google because they are sanctioned! This begs the question, why are our clients paying for it? Our solutions were to apply for refunds, tighten targeting, and create automated tools to mitigate such obvious attacks.

Google offers a method to request a refund, which you can find here. However, after submitting these forms for clients for years, we have noticed a significant drop in reimbursements for fraudulent clicks despite seeing no improvement from Google trying to stop invalid clicks.

MRKT360’s Response to Click Fraud

Our response was multifaceted and tailored to the severity and nature of click fraud experienced by each client. We developed and implemented innovative solutions to detect and eliminate fraudulent activities, safeguarding our clients' investments.

Automated Daily Blocking: Designed to stop the bleeding immediately. The threat is constantly evolving, as are our daily strategies to prevent the most advanced click fraud.

Storing and Blocking Malicious Device IDs: We do this for extended periods. Not only does this save our clients money, but it also increases the garbage clicks sent to their competitors by default, which is the best solution.

Proactive Account Management: We trained account managers to spot click fraud and monitor how it evolves in every account. We use techniques learned across industries to minimize all forms of click fraud.

Customized Strategies for Each Client: We have found that every industry has different severities of fraud. Our tools can be applied to any account, but their calibration is tailored based on client needs. We only recommend solutions when the cost of click fraud is greater than the cost of mitigating it.

Using in-house automated tools and strategies that cost us under $100/month, we saved millions of ad spend on a single account.

The Outcome: Protecting Investments and Maintaining Integrity

We take click fraud personally. An attack on our clients is an attack on us. We continue to work with Google to stop these crimes for all users. However, we do not wait for anyone to save our clients' budget.

Through these efforts, MRKT360 safeguarded our clients’ marketing investments from the pervasive issue of click fraud. We saved millions of dollars for our clients and restored integrity to their digital marketing campaigns.

The Rise of AI in Digital Marketing

2023 witnessed an unprecedented leap in the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) within digital marketing. Tools like ChatGPT have revolutionized the entire landscape.

AI's impact is profound – from content creation to customer engagement, predictive analytics, and personalization strategies. At MRKT360, we've embraced this change, integrating AI into our core strategies to enhance our clients’ marketing success.

MRKT360's Approach to AI Integration

Leveraging AI for Enhanced Marketing Strategies: AI multiplied our output five-fold, and we are still expanding our team to train the next gen of AI marketers based on the methods we developed.

Cost-Effective Solutions Through AI: A key advantage of AI in our strategies is its ability to reduce costs by automating routine tasks and providing more accurate data analysis, leading to more efficient marketing spending and improving our clients' ROI.

Staying Ahead of Trends: AI tools allow us to predict and adapt to market trends swiftly. This proactive approach ensured our clients were always ahead, capitalizing on every emerging opportunity.

Balancing AI with Human Creativity and Insight

While we leverage AI for its efficiency and analytical power, we also recognize the irreplaceable value of human creativity and insight. Our team blends AI capabilities with human expertise to create balanced, innovative, and effective marketing strategies that resonate with audiences.

The Impact of AI on Our Clients

Our clients have experienced tangible improvements from our AI-driven strategies, including higher engagement rates, better conversion metrics, and more efficient campaign management. AI hasn't just changed the game; it has elevated it, allowing us to deliver unparalleled value to our clients.

Navigating the Challenges of Forced Automation

The Double-Edged Sword of Automation

Google Ads' new automation philosophy is to make Google ads available to everyone at any skill level. This is great, but those accustomed to paying a certain lead price were surprised by the cost per lead price post-Covid.

Most users figured it was inflation. However, as we looked into our clients' accounts, we saw new automation turned on without our knowledge and our clients' consent.

We consistently see from accounts we have taken over that it is a bad idea to let the owner of any lead auction fully automate your bids. There is a clear conflict of interest.

Disclaimer: This is not a real Google ads pop-up, but we wish everyone got this costly notification.

These settings are on by default on Google Ads; they do not work well on most accounts.

MRKT360's Strategy for Optimizing Automation

Our market insights show that this is affecting every competitor, too. We refuse to let our clients pay a premium for leads, even if it's the industry norm. By increasing things like ad relevance, landing page relevance, and a tailored automated marketing strategy, we find the same leads for less every day.

The Result: Balanced and Effective Automation

Through our strategic use of automation, we achieved a balance that maximized efficiency without sacrificing the quality and effectiveness of our clients' marketing campaigns. Our approach led to more consistent and cost-effective results.

Identifying and Correcting Over-Automation: Simple Yes and No checklist for acceptable automation from day one. We only permit automation when it decreases the marketing cost for clients, and we only count measurable results.

Customized Solutions: Recognizing that each client has unique needs, we tailored our strategies to align with their goals. This meant leveraging automation only where it was helpful and scaling back since a hands-on approach was always necessary.

Educating Clients on Automation Risks & Rewards: We believe in empowering our clients with knowledge. Educating them about the potential pitfalls of automation enabled them to make more informed decisions about their marketing strategies.

The Shift to Google Analytics 4 (GA4)

The Transition to a New Era of Analytics

During our initial test of the new GA4 Analytics platform 24 months ago, we were initially not impressed with it compared to UA analytics. The inability to transfer data was a real incentive to switch faster, but our clients held on to the very end.

All our clients have been migrated with enhanced features that we have built on top of GA4 to improve reporting across all online marketing channels.

Despite being a reporting system for all website traffic, almost all GA4 support is tied to Google Ads. We use Google Analytics for everything because we always compare data sets to verify the effectiveness of our marketing efforts on any marketing platform.

We found that most Googlers, marketers, and clients were unprepared for the shift to GA4. We often found it easier to research our own solutions than to rely on Google Support, we ended up sharing our findings with Google in order to build on the reporting and marketing tools we created using GA4.

MRKT360's Proactive Approach to GA4

  • Early Adoption for Competitive Advantage: We didn't just adapt to GA4; we embraced it early on and worked with Google to improve it based on frequently requested features by our clients. This proactive approach allowed us to explore GA4's potential while others were still adjusting, giving our clients a significant edge in analytics capabilities. Surprisingly, properly connecting Google Analytics to Google ads continues to be problematic after switching to GA4. Since 2022, we have properly configured hundreds of GA4 accounts to keep our clients on the road to success. The green checkmark above is “earned, and not given by Google” for connecting a Google tag with GA4 and Google ads. We like to tell our account managers this because not even senior marketers will get it on the first try despite following the right steps.
  • Uncovering Hidden Opportunities in GA4: As we delved into GA4, we discovered features and insights unavailable in Universal Analytics. These newfound capabilities offered our clients enhanced data analysis and more informed decision-making.
  • Seamless Transition and Data Optimization: Transitioning to GA4 involved more than just adopting a new tool. Our team ensured this transition was seamless for our clients, minimizing disruptions and maximizing GA4's potential.

Combating Challenges in the New Analytics Environment

A Steep Learning Curve: We anticipated this forced shift to GA4 two years ago, so we started working on implementing GA4 on accounts that MRKT360 owns from the day it was released. Navigating GA4 has its challenges, primarily due to a user interface that obscures many valuable features. Once you uncover everything, you start seeing improvements made over UA.

Problems With Setup After Release & Lack of Support: We have faced and fixed several integration issues with Google products. They can break in the first week, even when things are set up correctly. Our team approaches situations with a healthy skepticism of standard procedures and communications, primarily because effective solutions are unavailable through Google's official support channels. Our top priority remains our clients, so we consistently find innovative ways to adapt and tailor GA4 configurations to meet their needs and ensure success.

The Outcome: Advanced Analytics for Strategic Success

Under MRKT360's guidance, the shift to GA4 has resulted in more sophisticated analytics and strategic insights for our clients. These advancements have translated into more effective marketing strategies, optimized ad spend, and a stronger ROI.

Addressing Market Inflation and Its Impact on Bidding

The inflation is best seen in larger accounts managed by MRKT360, the graph displays the general increase in cost-per-click prices across most accounts during the pandemic. 2019 also saw the first moves by Google to turn on automation for accounts by default. We deactivated or optimized most of the automation, reducing the cost per click by half on average.

Tackling the Inflation Challenge in Digital Marketing

The digital marketing landscape was significantly impacted by market inflation this year, notably affecting bid costs in online advertising. This rise in costs posed a challenge for businesses striving to maintain effective and efficient digital marketing campaigns.

At MRKT360, we recognized this challenge early on and developed strategies to counteract its effects, ensuring our clients could continue to achieve their marketing goals without inflating their budgets.

MRKT360’s Strategies for Minimizing Inflation Impact

Most marketing agencies focus on reach, clicks, and impressions, while we focus on results and the value our clients put on them. We trained our systems to find conversions that measure actual revenue and are optimized to maximize conversions by lowering ad costs. We not only measure results, but we find the results that fund our clients’ business growth.

  • Cost-Effective Bidding Tactics: Our systems are trained to find conversions that measure actual revenue and are optimized to maximize conversions by lowering ad costs.
  • Smart Tagging Solutions: Many clients have come to us for custom tagging solutions, not just for GA4 but for Microsoft Ads, Facebook Ads, and TikTok ads. Our mastery of Google's tag manager has allowed us to integrate multiple systems and optimize our tagging strategy to avoid slowing down client websites. By default, Facebook only allows one conversion per campaign and does not allow shared budgets. However, most clients need to optimize campaigns for multiple goals. Our solution decreased the cost per conversion and trained our PPC models to find the exact leads our client was looking for.
  • Innovative Lead Generation Approaches: Understanding that inflation affected different industries differently, we tailored our lead generation strategies to each client’s specific needs, ensuring the most cost-effective methods were employed.
  • Automated Fraud Prevention: Our continued efforts in combating click fraud played a significant role in cost management. By reducing fraudulent clicks, we ensured our clients' budgets were spent on genuine, valuable user interactions, mitigating inflation's impact.

The Outcome: Effective Marketing in an Inflated Economy

Through our strategic approach to handling inflation and its impact on digital marketing, MRKT360 successfully navigated these challenges in 2023. Our clients benefited from optimized bid strategies, effective use of analytics, and a holistic approach to campaign management, ensuring their marketing efforts remained fruitful even in an inflated market.

Diversifying Services and Platforms

Expanding Beyond Google: Embracing a Multi-Platform Strategy

In 2023, MRKT360 recognized the necessity of diversifying our digital marketing strategies across various platforms.

While Google remained a dominant player in the market, the emergence of ChatGPT and shifts in the industry highlighted the importance of exploring alternatives like Microsoft, Facebook, and TikTok. This strategy offered our clients better quality leads and mitigated risks associated with over-reliance on a single platform.

Mrkt360’s Approach to Platform Diversification

  • Prioritizing Multiple Platforms: We responded to the market's shift towards platforms like Microsoft, Facebook, and TikTok, where we noticed a significant improvement in the quality of leads and cost per conversion. This diversification allowed our clients to tap into different audiences and leverage each platform's strengths. Microsoft has built its own version of Google ads for Bing called Microsoft Ads, which features tools that make it easier for existing PPC users to migrate their existing campaigns to it. We have found that it must be configured properly to avoid redundant verifications on Microsoft Ads. We also found their customer service to be the best in the industry. We foresee them becoming a major search marketing player after their $10 billion investment in Open AI.
    Facebook Ads worked very well for certain industries, and we have seen much improvement in their platform over the years. It is still much less user-friendly and “ban-happy” compared to Google Ads. We have developed the right tools to deal with Facebook and have the right contacts as Meta Partners.
  • Customized Strategies for Each Platform: Recognizing that each platform has its own set of rules and audience behaviours, we developed tailored strategies that maximized effectiveness and ROI on each platform.
  • Addressing Platform-Specific Challenges: We helped our clients navigate the complexities of setting up and managing accounts on platforms like Microsoft, ensuring they could capitalize on these opportunities without the hassle.

The Result: A More Robust and Resilient Marketing Approach

By expanding our services across multiple platforms, Mrkt360 provided our clients a more robust and resilient marketing approach. This diversification allowed them to reach a wider audience and protected them from the volatility of relying on a single platform.

Navigating Taxation and Budget Management

In 2023, every major marketing platform in Canada started to charge HST with new tax policies, which we found unjustified and unnecessary. These policies led to additional charges for advertisers, impacting their budgets.

We informed clients about these tax changes and their potential impact on advertising expenses. The solution involved adding our clients’ tax IDs to their accounts, as shown below, which helped avoid unwarranted charges under the new tax policies.

You can access Google’s VAT ID walkthrough here.

Step 1: Go to Billing Settings and click on Payer Details.

Step 2: Click on “Canada tax info.”

Step 3: Click “Manage tax info” and add tax ID.

Recap & New Services 2024

2023 has been a landmark year in the evolution of digital marketing, marked by significant challenges and groundbreaking opportunities.

At Mrkt360, we've navigated these changes with strategic foresight, innovative solutions, and a commitment to our client's success. This report has highlighted our journey through the year, demonstrating how we've turned challenges into success.

Summarizing Our Approach and Achievements

  • Combating Click Fraud: Our advanced techniques saved clients millions of dollars by eliminating fraud clicks, reinforcing the value of vigilant and proactive account management.
  • Leveraging AI and Analytics: We harnessed the power of AI and the advanced capabilities of GA4, offering our clients enhanced insights and more effective marketing strategies.
  • Optimizing Automation: By strategically managing automation in platforms like Google Ads, we prevented inefficiencies and controlled costs, ensuring automation worked in our clients’ favour.
  • Diversifying Platforms: Expanding our focus to include platforms like Microsoft, Facebook, and TikTok, we tapped into new sources of quality leads and more cost-effective marketing opportunities.
  • Agency Expertise in a Complex Landscape: As a knowledgeable agency, our role became essential in 2023. We provided crucial guidance to clients on navigating automated systems, adapting to new taxation policies, and understanding the complexities of contemporary digital marketing.

Introducing the New 2024 Account Management Packages

Tailored for the upcoming year’s unique challenges, these packages offer custom-made strategies and solutions for dynamic and effective account management.

Account Management with Fraud Protection: Building upon our success in combatting click fraud, we’re introducing enhanced account management with integrated fraud protection, further safeguarding your marketing investments.

GA4 Migration/Installation Services: As Google Analytics 4 becomes the new standard, we offer expert migration and installation services to ensure a seamless transition and maximization of GA4’s advanced features.

Smart Budget Distribution (Multiplatform): Our new service strategically allocates budgets across multiple advertising platforms, including Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and TikTok, optimizing your spending and enhancing campaign effectiveness across diverse channels.

Looking Ahead: Partner with Mrkt360 for Continued Success

As we look to the future, the digital marketing landscape will continue to evolve, presenting new challenges and opportunities. Partnering with an experienced and proactive agency like Mrkt360 will be vital to navigating these changes successfully.

If you are ready to elevate your digital marketing strategy and stay ahead of the curve, book a free consultation with Mrkt360 today.

Let’s discuss how we can apply the insights and strategies from this report to your business, ensuring your digital marketing efforts are efficient, effective, and ahead of the competition.

Join us in shaping the future of digital marketing. With Mrkt360, your business will be at the forefront of digital marketing trends, ensuring that it leads rather than adapts.