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During this week’s PPCChat session, host Julie F Bacchini was joined by Brie Anderson to discuss about “Google Analytics 4.” Here is the screencap of the entire discussion where experts talked about recent changes in Google Analytics 4 and more.

Q1: How would you characterize your working relationship with Google Analytics 4?

Personally, I think I’ll go with“Oh it has me working alright…@brie_e_anderson

An unhealthy relationship I can’t leave/wish I could go back to my ex but I can’t? @revaminkoff

I am trying hard to fully embrace it. But GA4 sure doesn’t make that easy! @NeptuneMoon

I’ve used it since it released in gosh what was it 2018? I was fascinated by the fact that pageviews weren’t the primary event, and how that could have all of us rethink how we measure and track online. @ferkungamaboobo

For the most part I ignore it in favour of Google Ads tracking. @Pete_Bowen

Thankfully non-existent. but I oversee a PPC community that has daily issues with it. @TheMarketingAnu

My biggest headache with GA4 as an in-house growth exec is the disparity btw the data especially in conversions/key events. @GraceUdogwu  

I just don’t know how to help my clients because the product is so different. It feels like there’s a new item every day, and when my clients ask for advice, I don’t know what to say to them. @JuliaVyse

I try my best to learn ignore it. @arnolditdepends

I feel like GA4 is recently similar to Google Ads where things appear or move and you never really know if it’s always been like that, if it was a UA thing you’re thinking of or if it’s changed. Just go with the flow and hope for the best. @Meriem

I could never get management or clients to buy into that vision though – we’re still stuck in the tyranny of these low-level events and pages as the core lens that we view user interaction through. @ferkungamaboobo

@ferkungamaboobo Yeah, I think Google skipped the “Bringing the clients up to speed” part. @revaminkoff

@revaminkoff @ferkungamaboobo I’m just impressed that you had clients that would go into Analytics by themselves! Lol, hard to find those folks. @brie_e_anderson

Love/hate.It’s still a learning curve for me, but I got the basics (ok more than the basics) down by now. But why does everything have to change all the time? @BorisBeceric

GA4 reminds me of my Russian swim instructor that is responsible for my fear of sharks/swimming in dark water. He would have us swim the length of the pool holding our breath and if we failed…”the sharks would get us”.Did I become a good swimmer? Sure. Do I LIKE swimming? Absolutely not.GA4 took comfortable marketers who were in the habit of reporting workflows, and dropped us into the deep end of “choose your own adventure”. Some thrive because they knew what they wanted and could articulate it. Others flailed about in tech fright/indecision. But the biggest issue is the ones who needed the really cool tools (SMBs and B2B) often got blocked by thresholding. @navahf

@brie_e_anderson @ferkungamaboobo While there are some that do go into GA4 on their own, either way it’s imperative that they understand the new form of measurement and that there are certain metrics we just can’t report on any more — that’s the piece I think Google skipped. @revaminkoff

My thought is it has potential. It is hard to believe they produced a product that is worse than the original. @StephaniePPCPro

Well, they don’t — that’s the thing. But if you hear for 20 years that “ok you got 1200 visitors to your site this month” as the main top-line metric that everything else flows from — and then all of a sudden you say “this thing everything was based on actually is full of fraud and junk oopsie whoopsie” it is a hard sell. @ferkungamaboobo

 @BorisBeceric just keep swimming…just keep swimming XDIn all seriousness I actually like GA4, but I understand why folks are frustrated. @navahf

Let’s be real too… Google is historically terrible at rolling things out. Particularly when said things represent a gigantic departure from what came before.This all could have been done so much better. But part of me thinks they actually don’t want to be the world’s free analytics keeper anymore too. @NeptuneMoon

And like, I think it’s hard from an industry perspective that “we know its junk internally but the graphs are all up and to the right, please give us more money” — I dunno. It’s like how the IAB actively fights against fraud protection. We as practitioners have a vested interest in doing sleights of hand with analytics. @ferkungamaboobo

I’m embracing the change, but I have my struggles like all others. My goal is to be an absolute pro within the next month so I grow past all the headaches. I’d rather have my limitations set clear than to continue wading through the unknown. @teabeeshell

@NeptuneMoon I 100% think this – especially with the stuff about only storing the data for so long and deprecating UA relatively quickly. @revaminkoff

Right @revaminkoff ? If they really wanted to be a analytics provider they would have built capabilities to compare your old UA data with GA4 data. Do not underestimate Google’s desire to not get drowned in privacy regulations or lawsuits. @NeptuneMoon

I think the real challenge is that we taught clients that numbers are real – like, yeah, I’ve reported 1000 leads per month from ads using an agreed-upon metric of leads — but both I and the client knew that number wasn’t “leads” it was “this action as determined by us to be a reasonable proxy” @ferkungamaboobo

But that gets elided into something it’s not if you try to de-jargonify things @ferkungamaboobo

CF “impressions” vs “viewable impressions” @ferkungamaboobo

or comparing CPV in YouTube to CPV in Facebook @ferkungamaboobo

I’d argue the “reasonable proxy” part is very new. Particularly for advertisers who have been advertising for years.Google flat out reported conversions as real, tangible things until very recently. That is HARD to get clients to move off of. @NeptuneMoon

My thinking is that it’s on us as the experts in the room to temper expectations — all a conversion was in 2010 was a line of javascript firing. Nothing to do with what actually happened. Will never forget when I fired a dummy event on every page and the client was amazed at how our CRO dropped bounce rate so much! @ferkungamaboobo

Which let us do the real work of lowering CPL but the client was so focused on that number because another expert said it was “the best metric to track user experience” @ferkungamaboobo

Q2: Let’s talk about the recent changes in Google Analytics 4 that are designed to address discrepancies between Google Ads & GA4.

@brie_e_anderson – can you walk us through what this means on a practical level?And if you all have questions about this, ask them in this thread!

My understanding is that at the end of the day, this all just came down to vernacular and naming conventions. Well, that and they value people who spend money with them over the actual success of our clients sometimes…@brie_e_anderson

We’ll now have two data sources as “Key Events” and “Conversions”, but how does that solve the data discrepancies? @arnolditdepends

I think of it like this. Google Ads wants you to bid on mid-funnel events because more of those events happen than low funnel, right? Makes sense because technically they NEED data to run the ads. But this idea wasn’t reflected in GA4, we just had “conversions” which most folks used as the ultimate event to happen. So, to sure things up a bit, in most places in GA4, we will have “key events” The only place this is different is in the advertising section – which you ONLY get access to when you connect to a Google Ads account (annoying) & technically this data should match up with what you see in Google Ads. @brie_e_anderson

I feel (emphasis on “feel” vs “know”) this is an attempt to get us to be better about syncing in offline conversions and opting into sharing of data to improve models so they can do a better job of tracking/reporting at the level we’re used to. @navahf

I think it’s really kind of confusing but may ultimately push more folks to “use” Google Ads (at least connect to it) because that’s the only place clients will see conversions. @brie_e_anderson

I’m eager for the alignment. Beyond that, it’s effectively a nothing burger (naming conventions only) that may add to the general confusion around GA4. @teabeeshell

When you say that you only get access to the advertising section when you connect Google Ads, do you mean the entire advertising tab (eg where the Model Comparison Tool is)? @AmethystMurphy

There is also little to no communication between product teams at Google which does not help any of this. @NeptuneMoon

@AmethystMurphy EXACTLY that. And as someone with a lot of SEO clients, it’s very annoying. @brie_e_anderson

[GA4] Get started with Advertising – Analytics Help ( @brie_e_anderson

@brie_e_anderson is there anything specific PPC managers should be doing, or not doing, in their GA4 configurations with this change? @NeptuneMoon

So honestly, I’m not overly surprised to see something like this come about.There have been a lot of terminology changes in GA4 that are seemingly attempting to help folks “pin-point” attribution, which is odd considering that it’s getting harding to do this…. But we now have like 4 types of “attribution?

  • Session
  • first user
  • “key event”
  • conversion

like… SO confusing. @brie_e_anderson

Honestly, I don’t see any change here. The only thing is to make sure you’re connected to Google Ads so you can get your reports  @brie_e_anderson

Well, I also think that the shift away from “conversions” to “key events” is also in response to/anticipation of data loss.Which is wild because the Ads ecosystem is still conversion-driven, especially with automated bidding strategies. But there too, advertisers are being slowly moved to include more actions in their “conversion” process. @NeptuneMoon

Primary vs Secondary conversion action deja Vu. @navahf

My biggest recommendation though, is to not get your clients worked up about it. These are technically the SAME metric, just called different things in different places for no reason other than to make PPC folks “feel better” about data potentially matching. If your clients don’t get into GA4, I’d just keep reporting as normal (using the same verbiage) and put a small disclaimer at the bottom of your reports attempting to explain the difference of the term the client will see in GA4 SHOULD they go into the platform. @brie_e_anderson

Q3: What are your most pressing Google Analytics 4 questions for @brie_e_anderson

We’re talking a lot about Google – can you share any paid social things to be aware of on the GA4 front? @navahf

How meaningful is “thresholding” in terms of reporting accuracy. I appreciate that Google A) wants to conserve server bandwidth and foster a better UX (lower load times), and B) claims to protect privacy and therefore throttles full data. Is there a meaningful divergence in data? Anything to do to avoid this process, even at the expense of report load times? @teabeeshell

Moving GA behind an opt-in cookie experience is going to significantly deteriate our ability to track and count users. What’s the risk with not conforming to the cookie consent approach beyond losing the ability to do retargeting? Where do you think the industry is going in terms of user tracking? @NicolasGarfinkel

Consent Mode V2… @Meriem

Ohhh yeah, the biggest thing is that the fbclid, etc no longer being recognized in GA4 so needing to move to more of a manual UTM tagging practice if need be.(trying to find the documentation now) @brie_e_anderson

Also if you know that conversion actions are messed up in Google Ads would you carry over the actions to GA4 for parity, or use GA4 as an excuse to rip up everything and start over (a few OLD accounts have asked me this, and I’d love your opinion)? @navahf

The clids went away with ios17. Big sad @navahf

Do you still trust GA4 as the source of truth?/recommend still using it that way? @revaminkoff

What are you advising clients to do in light of the 14 month data retention limit and deprecation of UA – how are you setting people up to pull year-over-year reports? @revaminkoff

@teabeeshell do you have a site A LOT or A LITTLE traffic? Thresholding is different in those two situations. Generally, if you don’t have enough data, that’s when you get thresholding – this is for privacy reasons.  It happens for one of two reasons; 1 your site isn’t gathering enough data (this doesn’t happen often in my experience)  or 2 you have TOO MANY custom dimensions being collected Too much data is just because.. well it’s too much for Google to share with a standard account and you likely need to look into GA360. @revaminkoff

This exact scenario is most of B2B. lots of little actions, very few but lucrative main actions. @JuliaVyse

What are your thoughts on healthcare sites running GA4 (or Ads with the Google Tag installed) regarding HIPAA compliance? Do you advice them to remove it altogether, or have you found alternative HIPAA-compliant implementations? @DavidVeldt

@NicolasGarfinkel this is a great question. We do lose a chunk of data when implementing cookie banners and such. However, when done correctly, most people should only see about a 10 – 15% difference because the number of places and industries that actually REQUIRE that level of compliance is pretty slim. But when GA4 came out, the very first press release covered what they were doing to prepare for a cookieless future (which is actually a lot) and that was back in 2020. If you had GA4 setup then, the modeling should be close to kicking in and you should be okay-ish when the time comes. @brie_e_anderson

But the biggest thing to remember about GA, like most analytics platforms, it that it has ALWAYS reported on sampled data to a point. And most platforms do! The idea is to get you close enough to be able to make decisions, right? Unless you go through your log files and build out your own analytics system, you’re never going to have 100% perfect data (and even then you’ll likely still be off). It’s always best to cross-reference with other tools and DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH!!!! @brie_e_anderson

Is the 10-15% antidotal or do you have any studies around that? Just curious because that seems really low for an opt-in experience. @NicolasGarfinkel

Bounce rates are pretty high in PPC too so I have to imagine anyone who is bouncing isn’t interacting with our cookie banner @NicolasGarfinkel

@navahf Oh, I’ve scrapped the events setup in GAds for most clients lol. But, mostly because most sites had severely outdated tracking to begin with (not just with Google Ads). Usually, I have clients either use the conversions from GA4 imported into GAds OR we build out the setup in GTM and then the exact same trigger is used for the GAds tag as well. @brie_e_anderson

I only ask because there’s quite a few folks who say they’re seeing consent opt-in at the ~30% rate which would be a massive drop in tracking. Edit: I would rather lose the ability to do retargeting at the expense of losing 50-70% of my user analytics by not using consent mode., @NicolasGarfinkel

@revaminkoff huge point! the deadline for UA data is coming up quick!!! you can see my thoughts here @brie_e_anderson

@brie_e_anderson are you aware of any changes being made to the import of GA4 conversions into Google Ads, starting March 15? GA4 still tracks normal amount of conversions, all being attributed to Google / CPC. However, the import into Google Ads shows >30% less conversions -> GAds reports 600 whereas GA4 attributes 900 to Google / CPC. @ThatSearchGuyNL

This is what I mean when I say the product teams at Google are not working together. Your advice @brie_e_anderson to use the GA4 data to pull back into Google Ads is not at all what G Ads tells you to do. Then last year they announced the Universal Google Tag (way to make that confusing) and certain Google product teams are pushing using the singular tag. It is a confusing mess even for people who are really trying to use the best or cleanest methods for data flow…@NeptuneMoon


my number is from experience, to be fair. Though, most all of those sites had massive PPC budgets as well (but they also had good organic numbers as well).It’s definitely possible to lose that much traffic, but again, it can be largely avoided (at this point in time) by only using the banner when absolutely necessary. This can be done using the big names like Cookiebot or onetrustBut yeah, to your point, if it isn’t an absolute MUST don’t use the retargeting feature  But most folks want it. @brie_e_anderson

Also seeing the Google Ads Tag and the GA4 data not matching for the same event, as per what I think @ThatSearchGuyNL is saying – wishing there was a good way around that. @revaminkoff

Are there any reasons you would advise against pulling raw GA4 data into BigQuery? @AmethystMurphy

@AmethystMurphy Against? No, not really. But most folks won’t know how to use it, or use it wisely (which can get costly) @brie_e_anderson

In a previous role we pulled GA data into BQ and 100% what Brianna said. 99% of the relevant teams had no idea how to use the data properly. @NicolasGarfinkel

And it actually led to people calculating metrics wrong/differently and a big mess that way. Everyone reporting different metrics in different ways to leadership @NicolasGarfinkel

@NeptuneMoon yeah… well… I’ve never had a good experience with a Google ads advocate or whatever they are called these days lol. But to be fair, I’m not a PPCer by trade! So that should definitely be taken into consideration. @brie_e_anderson

I find myself having to register some “default” event parameters as custom dimensions in GA4 (things like form_id, link_text, search_term) so I can see them in Looker Studio and when I click on each event in the GA4 event report. Am I the only one that does this? Why do I have to use my custom dimension slots for standard event parameters? @adamGorecki

@ThatSearchGuyNL odd, haven’t looked into so I can’t speak from experience, but I’d start here –[…]tics:~:text=the%20data%20in-,Analytics,-%3F @brie_e_anderson

Also, how often are you using custom event names instead of the ones that Google provides (such as generate_lead)? @adamGorecki

Do you have an effective way for GA4 to differentiate between Google paid search ads and display ads? @NateLouis

@NateLouis campaign name? @adamGorecki

@adamGorecki that is an odd thing in GA4. not sure why have to register those because they are automatically collected and can be seen in Explore, just not reports. @brie_e_anderson

IMHO, GA4 wasn’t thought through. It was rushed out to satisfy privacy lawsuits… and 3 years later, here we are…@adamGorecki

@NateLouis  you can pass campaign type through as a parameter. @NicolasGarfinkel

@adamGorecki user/traffic acquisition level or on source/medium level. everything seems to always get lumped back to Google/CPC. @NateLouis @NicolasGarfinkel

@NateLouis That’s because both display and search campaigns are CPC and are on Google so a source medium of Google/CPC is correct for both. You have to drill down more and look at the Session Campaign. @adamGorecki

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