With ever-increasing frequency, our clients seek to gain a deeper understanding of their customer’s complete journey to conversion. In this day and age, just about every customer journey includes multiple devices – at a minimum a desktop computer and a mobile device. Understanding the complete path customers take to conversion allows our clients to better apply their marketing dollars to key revenue driving activities based on device. Being able to stitch together this journey can be challenging, but the new Google Signals feature of Google Analytics can make gaining these insights much easier.

Google is in the process of rolling out Google Signals to all Standard and GA360 Accounts. Once it is available on your Account, there are several great reasons to enable it.

  1. You don’t need to have User-ID Enabled Views in order to access these Cross-Device Reports
  2. You can gauge more accurately how many unique visitors are coming to your site
  3. You can perform Cross Device Remarketing to users who have turned on Ads Personalization

You can explore the Cross Device Reports in the Google Analytics demo account.

Activating Google Signals

If you account has been enabled for Google Signals, you can activate it by going to your left-hand sidebar and selecting “Audience.” Towards the bottom of the list is “Cross-Device *BETA”. Click into any of the reports and you will find this page.

Step 1 of Activating Google Signals

Hitting “Continue” brings you to the authorization page. You may need to review and update your privacy policy, as this does share user data with Google. You may activate Signals on an account or per-property basis.

Step 2 of Activating Google Signals

How does Google Signals work?

When a user is logged into their Google account, Google is aware of that user’s activity since it is tied to their account. Ads can also be personalized for these users based on their activity across the web. This feature is known as Ads personalization. For users who are signed into multiple devices using a singular Google login, ads are personalized based on the information in their Ads Personalization profile.

For users who are not signed in, ad settings are saved to the unique device or browser. These settings aren’t retained if a user returns on a new device, clears their cookies, or resets their Advertising ID.

In light of GDPR and ePrivacy concerns, it’s important to note that Google Signals is entirely non-personally identifiable. Data will be withheld from the reports in GA if there is not enough to ensure anonymity.

According to Google, “Because of the large volume of data generated by uses who have turned on Ads Personalization, Google is able to estimate from that data the cross-device behavior of your entire user base… The Cross Device reports include only aggregated data. No data for individual users is ever exposed.”

By default, Google’s signed-in data will expire after 26 months. If the Data Retention Setting is set to a short time-frame, the signed-in data will expire at the end of that shorter time frame.

But what about User-ID Tracking and Cross Device Reporting?

Up until the launch of Google Signals, Cross Device Reporting was only available in User-ID Enabled Views. Tracking User ID is a prerequisite to setting these Views up.

Using User ID tracking requires persisting a non-personally identifiable value tied to one unique user. Generally, companies will use the value generated when a user logs into a system. When a user is recognized across multiple devices, a more accurate picture is given of how many unique users visit the site. (See this E-Nor blog post for more information on advanced session stitching).

E-Nor generally recommends User ID Tracking for sites with authentication. However, the implementation work involved may make it unfeasible for organizations with limited technical resources.

Enabling Google Signals allows sites to see how users interact across multiple devices and browsers without requiring technical resources.

In the Cross-Device Reports, users are deduplicated across multiple devices. For example: if Amy first visits on Mobile on Monday and then visits on Desktop on Tuesday, she is considered a New User on Mobile and a Returning Visitor on Desktop. Data from the Cross-Device Reports should not be compared directly to other reports in Google Analytics, as deduplication across devices is not performed. Other reports would show two unique, new visitors on each device.

Cross-Device Reports

There are four reports in the Cross-Device section of GA (Audience –> Cross Device)

  1. Device Overlap
  2. Device Paths
  3. Channels
  4. Acquisition Device

Your site’s traffic volume will impact the appearance of these reports. If your site receives a low volume of traffic or the majority of traffic comes from only one device category, the data you see in these reports will be limited.

Device Overlap Report

The Device Overlap report shows you the number of Users by device category over the designated period of time. In the above example, the majority of users were Desktop-Only and there are not very many users who are on multiple devices. However, Users who visit on Desktop and Mobile have a significantly higher amount of Revenue per User and total Revenue driven.

Use Case: Based on this data, the Google Merchandise Store might decide that retargeting users on Mobile devices is important, as a user who has visited already on Desktop might drive more revenue.

Device Paths Report

The Device Paths Report will show you the average number of touches per device prior to conversion. By default, this report displays data for the last 5 device interactions with at least 1 transition.

Using the dropdown highlighted in blue, you can review the data of Device Category with another layer like Campaign, Channel, or Medium.

Use Case: The Google Merchandise Store could apply the segment “Device Category + Campaign” and notice that a particular campaign is driving the most engagement on Tablet. Perhaps the rest of their campaigns don’t generally perform well on Tablet, so it is a under-budgeted tactic. A remarketing audience could be created for users on Tablet for this particular campaign, which could drive even more revenue!

Channels Report

At this time, the Cross- Device Channels Report provides minimal unique insights into Channel Behavior which you ca’t find in the other Channel reports. However, if you do not have User ID Tracking enabled already, sessions will not be deduplicated across multiple channels.

One thing to note is that these reports use a Last-Non-Direct-Click attribution model, so you can expect to see fewer conversions attributed to Direct in these reports.

Use Case: The Google Merchandise Store recently launched a promotion for the new Pixel 3 Phone and is targeting users on desktop and mobile devices. They also created a goal in GA to support this launch. They are curious to see how many conversions are being attributed to their Paid Search campaigns, which they know are typically a user’s first-touch to the site. Using the Channels Report, they can see the number of conversions attributed to their Paid Search campaign. As a note, they could also use the Device Paths Report for a more granular view of the number of touches per, device per campaign.

Acquisition Device Report

The Acquisition Device Report gives insight into the number of conversions per device when it is the originating device. The column “Revenue from Other Devices” indicates if that device is a high or low revenue-driver.

Use Case: The Google Merchandise Store learns that Desktop is a strong revenue-driver when a user visits the site from Desktop first. They may create a Prospecting campaign targeted at Desktop visitors.

Is Google Signals Worth It?

Cross-device reporting is a hot topic right now and many organizations are interested in understanding the full user journey. Since Google Signals will be available to all Google Analytics accounts in the near future and it does not require additional technical implementation, it is probably worth it for your business. If you do enable it and realize your site’s volume is too low for you to gain insights from the data, Google Signals can always be disabled.

Contact E-Nor today to learn more about Google Signals.