Google Signals in GA4: What is it and why you should activate it

Due to the integration of Google Signals and Google Analytics 4 (GA4), your GA4 reports can help Google to identify which users visit your site multiple times across various devices (only if they have ad personalisation enabled).

Although we were first introduced to Google Signals in 2018, the launch of GA4 in October 2020 was important for 2 main reasons:

In this article, you will learn more about:

What is Google Signals?

Google Signals is a product of Google that enables tracking and reporting across multiple devices. With the integration of Google Analytics, Signals helps you to understand how users interact with your website across multiple devices.

By enabling Signals, you can take advantage of advertising and reporting features across different devices.

What can I do with Google Signals?

Below, we have compiled a list of what you can do with the insights available to you when Google Signals is activated:

As a result of modern customer journeys becoming more complex, it’s important that we have systems that allow us to track users across multiple devices and sessions.

The addition of cookieless browsing means that we need to enhance the methods that we have that rely less on the use of personal data.

Limitations of data collected by Google Signals

Although Google Signals is very useful for marketers, it does come with its limitations. For example, data collected by Google Signals cannot be:

Data from users who have Ads Personalisation turned on

Google can develop a holistic view of how users with Ads Personalisation turned on to interact with online properties from various browsers and devices. For example, you are able to see the interaction of a user browsing products on their mobile, and then returning to complete the purchase on a computer or alternative device.

Google is able to estimate this cross-device behaviour due to the large number of data gathered from users who have Ads Personalisation turned on.

When would you use Google Signals?

There are various cases where it would be beneficial to use Google Signals, so we have created a table to show some examples of when and why it would be useful.

As a…I want to…To be able to…
MarketerRemarket to users across multiple devicesProvide ads that are highly relevant to users based on cross-device usage
MarketerReport and understand our cross-device marketing performanceOptimise our ad spend based on cross-device usage
PublisherReport on cross-device user numbersMore accurately report on actual users instead of overall devices
PublisherUnderstand the customer journey across devices by analysing user-based reportsOptimise user experience across the full customer journey using all used devices
PublisherUnderstand groups of users based on the combinations of different devices that they useBetter focus resources on the most valuable group of users

How to activate Google signals

You will need to activate Google Signals if you want to report on cross-device user journeys or remarket to signed-in Google users. 

Note: In order to activate Google Signals, you will need the Editor role for the relevant property.

Activate Google Signals in Google Analytics | Kanuka Digital
  1. Select the properties in which you want to activate Google Signals.
  2. Press ACTIVATE to immediately activate Google Signals.
  3. Alternatively, press DECIDE LATER to activate at a later stage.

How to enable Google Signals in GA4

Although activating Google Signals in GA4 is very similar to the previous section, GA4 doesn’t follow the exact same process. Much like before, you will need the Editor role for the relevant property.

  1. In the Google Signals data collection is allowed in X of Y regions section, press Settings.
  2. Toggle on or off for the settings for each region that you want to allow or disallow the collection of Signals data.
  3. Apply.

If data collection for a region is disabled, historical data collected is maintained by Google Analytics. However, additional data will not be collected from the moment that the region data collection is disabled. 

Does Google Signals and Ads Personalisation affect GDPR?

Signals use aggregate data, which means that personal data is completely anonymous. Therefore, you don’t need to worry about Google Signals affecting GDPR. This being said, there are some privacy considerations that you should be aware of. 

Once you activate Google Signals, you agree with Google that you have the necessary privacy disclosures in place. This ensures that users are aware and consent to their data being stored for advertising purposes. This relates to another set of privacy regulations called Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.

Important: Data retention collected through Google Signals is limited to 26 months.

Next steps

The shifts in privacy have led marketers to feel a level of uncertainty about the future. However, Google is shifting in a direction which embraces privacy without degrading the value of our work as marketers.

We recommend that you fully embrace user privacy where possible – request permission, collect the minimum amount of data necessary, purge it when you’re done, and clearly communicate what you’re doing with the data.

Get in touch

We are experts in SEO and PPC, so if you have any further questions about Google Signals and the services we offer, get in touch.

Drop us a line on 01785 279985

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