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Using ‘Signals’ Data Collection in Google Analytics

Google signals has been a feature in Google Analytics for several years and will continue to apply in the new Google Analytics 4 platform. So what is it, and should you use it?

Google signals are session data from websites or apps that Google can associate with users who have either signed in to their Google accounts, or 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, and so can add an additional level of information for marketers.

If you’ve not yet enabled Google signals in Analytics, you will receive a notification with relevant reports that the option is available to be activated. Alternatively you can turn this on – in Google Analytics 4 it can be found in Admin / Property / Data Settings / Data Collection where the enable button can be switched on. When you activate Google signals, you are subject to the policy requirements for Google Analytics Advertising Features and you are required to notify your visitors by disclosing this information in your privacy policy.

The Google information that’s used as part of the signals tracking may include end user location, search history, YouTube history and data from sites that partner with Google. It is used to provide aggregated and anonymised insights into users’ cross device behaviours.

When you activate Google signals, these other Google Analytics features are also implemented:

* Cross Platform reporting: Connect data about devices and activities from different sessions using your User-ID or Google-signals data so you can get an understanding of user behaviour at each step of the conversion process, from initial contact to conversion and beyond.

With the addition of Google-signals data, Google Analytics improves the accuracy of user counts in reporting, and uses cross-platform audience criteria to evaluate users who do not have a user ID. However, for your reports to include Google-signals data you need a monthly average of 500 users per day per property.

* Remarketing with Google Analytics: You can create remarketing audiences from your Google Analytics data, and share those audiences with your linked advertising accounts. When you activate Google signals, audiences that you create in Google Analytics and publish to Google Ads can serve ads in Cross Device-eligible remarketing campaigns to Google users who have turned on Ads Personalization.

* Advertising Reporting Features: Google Analytics collects information per your tracking-code configuration, as well as Google-signals data and any Google advertising cookies that are present.

* Demographics and Interests: Google Analytics collects additional information about demographics and interests from Device Advertising IDs and from users who are signed in to their Google accounts and who have turned on Ads Personalization.

When users turn on Ads Personalization in their Google accounts, Google is able to develop a holistic view of how those users interact with an online property from multiple browsers and multiple devices. For example, you can see how users browse products on your site from a phone, and later return to complete purchases from a tablet or laptop.

By default, Google signed-in data expires after 26 months, although you can set this to a shorter period, if required, in the Analytics Data Retention settings (Admin / Property / Data Settings / Data Retention).

The Cross Platform reports include only aggregated data. No data for individual users is ever exposed. Also the data collected under Google signals is not used or shared for any purpose other than to provide the Google Analytics service unless you enable Data Sharing settings or opt to link with Google products.

For more information about using Google signals in Analytics, or about Ads Personalization, please get in touch.