As Google moves away from cookie-based tracking, Google Signals fills in the gaps. In doing so, it also offers quite a few upgrades to previous analytical capabilities.
In a situation like this you might ask yourself, should I enable Google Signals?
After all, you get to track users and their behavior on a whole new level with the new and improved capabilities.
But it also means you will need to put up consent banners and make other adjustments to comply with data privacy.
Dig in to find out whether or not this option is for you.
What is Google Signals?
Google Signals is one of the four identity spaces used in Google Analytics 4.
It consists of the session data of the users who visit your website or app through devices in which they have signed into their Google accounts.
Let us unpack this statement.
Sessions begin when a user first opens your app or views a page on your website. All the actions taken during a session are marked as events.
It expires after 30 minutes of inactivity.
Google collects a bunch of predefined user dimensions, including;
When you enable Google Signals, the data streams populate all the relevant user information into GA4.
How does that translate for you?
In the form of a deduplicated user count, meaning the same user visiting from three different devices is counted as one.
And that is only one of the many impressive things Signals could do.
Let us find out what else it could do to resolve your analytics woes.
Why Should I Enable Google Signals?
We understand that Signals ties up the information of its signed-in (and ad personalization enabling) users with the information about your site or app visitors.
Cool. But what’s in it for you?
Cross Platform Reporting
Google Analytics 4 records data for three platforms Web, iOS, and Android.
When you enable both Google Signals and User ID, GA4 connects the dots for you. When the same credentials are used to log into two or three different devices, Analytics can recognize it as the same user.
Since User ID allows you to connect your own identifiers with GA4, it can also tell more accurately about the user behavior.
You find when the user first visits your website or app (acquisition), comes back to interact (engagement), and finally, when it converts (monetization or otherwise).
Through cross-platform reporting, GA4 informs you on;
- Devices used (mobile, tablet, personal computer)
- User behavior (interaction, engagement, conversion)
- Acquisition on one device
- Engagement on another few
- Conversion on any one of the devices
Remarketing with Google Analytics
With a better understanding of your user behavior, you can engage them better through remarketing efforts.
All you need to do is create audiences that best suit your business, enable Google Signals, and link your Analytics to Google Ads.
As soon as your users meet the audience criteria, GA4 populates their data into Google Ads (within a day for new users).
And voila, you can now target them for remarketing campaigns based on the products or services they showed interest in.
You can only target users who enable ad personalization for cross-device remarketing
Advertising Reporting Features
You are in a better position to find out how successful your ad campaigns have been, thanks to Google Signals and User ID giving a better estimate of users and their behavior.
You can learn in great depth about the channels and touchdown points of the users in the Advertising Reports section.
You also have the opportunity to discover what and how things worked out for you with the attribution models.
There are four types of Advertising reports;
- Advertising Snapshot - Overview of the advertising reports
- Default Channels Report - Bar graph and tabular data about the channels (direct, organic, paid) driving conversions
- Model Comparison Report - Tabular representations of the data-driven and paid channel models to assess the conversion credit lies
- Conversion Path Report - You find the early, middle, and final conversion touch points on your website or app according to the default channel, medium, source, or campaign
Demographics and Interests
Google has access to a great deal of information about its users, enhanced further by ad personalization allowed by its signed-in users.
You also collect user information through the primary cookies to be fed into the Analytics.
Combine all these datasets, and you get a great deal of demographic and interest information about your users.
It comprises of two sets of information;
- Dimensions - information like age bracket, gender, location, language, interests
- Metrics - information like engagement rate/sessions/time, conversions
To find the demographics and interests information, go to Reports, and scroll down to User Attributes. You will see both the overview and detailed report card here.
To ensure data privacy GA4 reveals only the aggregate demographic and interest data in reports. But it is held back when data thresholding applies due to low user flow
How to Activate Google Signals?
Now that you know how enabling signals could up your game, it is time you learned how to do it in Google Analytics 4.
To enable Google Signals in GA4, you should have Editor access for the required property. Follow the path as follows: Google Analytics > Admin > Property > Data Settings > Data Collection > Enable Google Signals (toggle it on).
Disabling Google Signals will remove your access to cross-platform reports, demographics and interests reports, advertising reports, and remarketing lists generated based on GA4 data.
The historical data nonetheless remains available.
What are the Limitations of Using Google Signals?
Despite all its benefits, Google Signals does pose some challenges.
To ensure data privacy GA4 implements a couple of measures. One of them is data thresholding.
It refers to withholding specific information like detailed demographic information when the users fall below its minimal threshold.
Why? Because personally identifiable information such as city and IP addresses could enable websites and apps to identify individual users.
If your website receives fewer visitors, Google Signals might not be the thing for you.
If you want to know more about data thresholding in GA4, find it here.
BigQuery is a popular tool for scalable data analysis that can use Google Analytics 4 to run analysis.
Once again, to ensure data privacy GA4 does not transfer Google Signals data to BigQuery. And it has implications for the user count.
Remember Google Signals gives a more accurate user count?
It does so by deduplicating the user counts from the individual users. As a result, your user numbers in BigQuery could be higher than those reported in GA4.
Does Google Signals Comply With Privacy Regulations?
Google Analytics 4 maintains that it is only an analytics service provider and is only responsible for the information it collects.
Its clients (websites and apps) are responsible for the information they supply to it.
So far, GA4 is EU and US Data Privacy Framework compliant and is working on compliance with UK and Spanish laws.
You can find about Google Analytics 4 Compliance with GDPR here.
That said, Google Signals offers you considerable control over Data Privacy. It implements measures such as;
- Data Anonymization - it collects aggregate data (age bracket of the user instead of exact age) from first-party cookies and app instances.
By default pseudonymous IP address and a random app identifier are collected. Where legally required, IP addresses for international data are anonymized before being transmitted to the US.
- User consent for ad personalization - Google Signals needs (Web and app) users to enable ad personalization to be functional. They can opt out at any time to prevent it from collecting their data.
- Limiting Data Sharing - Information collected within Signals is only shared for GA4 services. The only other exception is when clients choose data sharing or link it to Google products.
As a Marketing Data Analyst, you should enable Google Signals to gain access to far more sophisticated reports and advertisement options.
These include access to a better user count and the ability to track their interactions through the conversion funnel via Cross-Device Tracking.
You also learn about their touchdowns along the conversion path via the Advertising Reporting feature.
And finally, enabling Google Signals offers you access to a detailed demographics and interests report about your users.
But with all the pros of Google Signals, it has some cons.
First, it is unsuitable for sites or apps with fewer visitors. Second, GA4 does not share Google Signals data with BigQuery.
So, there could be a difference between the user count of the two.
That said, each business is different with a unique set of marketing and compliance requirements deciding whether or not Google Signals is needed.
Want to learn whether your current GA4 parameters are collecting the right information? Check out our Analytics Audit Checklist here.