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The Imminent Disappearance of Google Signals

 

If you need a quick refresh on what Google signals are, Google itself can help:

“Google Signals are session data from sites and apps that Google associates with users who have signed in to their Google accounts, and who have turned on Ads Personalization. This association of data with these signed-in users is used to enable cross-device reporting, cross-device remarketing, and cross-device conversion export to Ads.”

Towards the end of last year, Google Analytics users and admins were hit by an unexpected notification: the fast-approaching termination of Google signals. They’re set to be removed from the reporting identity on February 12th, which, as early Valentine’s treats go, is more than a little spicy.

But if there’s anything Google loves more than minimalism, it’s obfuscation, so you’re not alone if you were mildly confused by their wording on their removal. The data-mining monopolist assured its users that Analytics would “still collect signals, when enabled, to be used in demographics and interests reporting.” But what use would they have outside of reporting? Talk about mixed signals.

When signals are removed from cross-device reporting, GA4 will omit data from signed-in, consented users from your reports – specifically demographic and interest-based data. Which means their discontinuation can only be a detriment to reporting accuracy. Where, then, is Google’s incentive?

In the absence of a definitive explanation, we can only speculate. Many analysts have expressed frustrations with signals over the years; while they’re better for attribution, they’re worse for granularity. This is because connecting the same user between multiple devices will reduce the sample size of your dataset, increasing the chances of automatic thresholding being applied to protect anonymity.

But including signals in reports was always optional, easily avoided by switching your reporting identity – so to say that their removal serves as a benefit to the user doesn’t quite hold up to scrutiny.

It’s worth pointing out that, although signals will no longer be factored into reports, they’ll still support audiences and conversions, so will still serve as a vital ingredient of remarketing and conversion export into Google Ads. Plus, culling signals comes with no downsides to Google – although they’ll be showing less data, they’ll still be collecting it, and hence able to bring it back into the fold for future GA4 features.

If you’re interested in how the termination of signals will affect your GA4 specifically, fire us a quick email at hello@digitalbenchmark.co.uk. What have you got to lose? Well, reporting accuracy, that’s what.

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