Should you enable Google signals? Why should you (or not), and what effect does it have on your GA4 data? Find the answers in edition 8 of our GA4 help series.
What are Google signals?
First thing first… if you don’t know what is Google signals is, here is the official definition from the horse’s mouth:
“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 Google Ads.”
In other words, it helps you better understand user behaviour and interactions across different devices (such as desktop, mobile, and tablet) based on who has signed in to Google services like Google Search, YouTube, and Gmail.
When users sign in to their Google accounts on multiple devices, Google signals can aggregate data and provide insights into how users engage with your website or app across these devices. Cool, huh? It's certainly an upgrade from Universal Analytics, and for websites which are accessed by the same people across different devices could be influential in improving the accuracy of insights and decision making.
Google signals and reporting identity thresholds
If you have enabled Google signals for your GA4 property and have either a "Blended" or "Observed" reporting identity setup, you might have noticed these threshold icons on top of your GA4 reports:
If you want to know more about how the reporting identity configuration and Google signals interact with each other you should definitely have a look at this edition 2 of our GA4 series.
Google thresholds can be quite annoying when reporting on your GA4 data since it’s “hiding” rows with small numbers displayed in the report (even though that data is still available somewhere in the background).
Why does Google signals incur thresholding?
Well, the official reason from Google is to prevent GA4 users (people like us) identifying individual users based on Google signals data. The fear is that segmenting data down to specific conditions could reveal a single user and turn the anonymous into someone identifiable (PII & GDPR!) We experienced similar restrictions with Facebook advertising many years ago, but let’s be honest, how could we be able to identify those specific users? And why would we? Unfortunately, we can’t really do much about it since it’s how GA4 works…
Google update: exclude Google signals data from reports
A few weeks ago, Google released an update that allowed GA4 users to turn off Google signals for Reports and Explorations reports. In other words, this means that we are now able to use Google signals data for audience intelligence only and can share that data with Google Ads for any remarketing strategy and other optimisation, but it doesn't have to have an impact on your reports anymore! Previously it was all or nothing, so it's handy we now have a half-way option.
If you want to make this change for you own GA4 property, you can find this option in Admin > Data Setting > Data Collection. Then toggle off the "include Google signals in reporting identity" (see below).
To prevent potential data thresholding in the future, refrain from enabling Google signals unless you intend to utilise remarketing features or demographic reports in Google Analytics. However, if you have already activated Google signals, remember that you have the flexibility to switch the reporting identity to device-based at your convenience, with no impact on the data you've gathered.
I hope this was helpful to understand how you can quickly review your GA4 settings to remove the data threshold from your GA4 reports. Thanks for reading and stay tuned... because more GA4 tips are on their way!
If you missed our previous tips and tricks blogs, there is a quick summary below or visit our GA4 Help Library.