What Google Ads Users Need To Know About GA4

Andy and Lindsey have a great topic: GA4 and some of the impacts it can have as you upgrade from Universal Analytics up to GA4.

Why Upgrade Now

It’s something everybody needs to be doing just to be tracking their analytics. But we want to get a little bit more specific and talk about the impact this is going to have on your Google Ads specifically.

You may have your Google Analytics account integrated with your Google Ads account and doing a number of different things from reporting all the way through to your conversion tracking, letting Google Ads know when a purchase has been made or something happens on your website.

You know you need to upgrade to GA4 soon, you may have gotten the email that your Universal Analytics is automatically going to be upgraded soon. Here are some things you need to be aware of and make sure that you're on top of as we approach July, which is the big cut-off for all of this.

What You Need to Know

This is going to be great for anybody who had their Google Ads set up for them or who had their analytics set up for them. Maybe it came with their website when they first had that made and the developer just set it up.

Have you ever looked at it before?

If not, this is really important to see. Even if you are checking on it and you're looking at Universal Analytics now and you're used to that setup and any reporting pulling from there, it is going to be really important to see how it affects your Google Ads because it will change. In July, it's going to stop working the way you are used to.

So no better time than now to start practicing.

What do we mean by Google Analytics and GA4?

Google Analytics is a free analytics platform from Google and anyone can set it up; anyone can use it for their website. It keeps track of all kinds of information and demographic information from the people visiting your website - what pages are visited and what kind of actions are taken on those pages. It's been the predominant platform for people to use and one of the biggest Google products for a long time now.

Google is now switching over to something called GA4. It's like the new version of Universal Analytics and it tracks things a bit differently. So it's a little bit controversial in that people are really struggling. They're not sure what to do with it, how to use it, and how it compares to Universal Analytics.

So this is why we're talking about it so much.

You may have seen our other videos about GA4 and we're trying to get the word out and get people used to it because what we’re seeing from a lot of clients and a lot of other agencies is a lot of resistance to transferring over until they absolutely have to. Just because it is so different from Universal Analytics. It looks different. It feels different. It tracks things in a totally different way.

But we're also here to tell you it's better to do this now. Just bite the bullet and get it done. Transfer over. Upgrade. Just get in it and start getting used to it because Universal Analytics is going to stop working in July. And if you wait until then, you're missing out on all of the data you could be collecting.

Link the Analytics Tool to Your Google Ads

You want to make sure to link that analytics tool to your Google Ads property and use it for conversion tracking. Anytime somebody makes a purchase on my website, I'm going to tell Google Analytics that so I can see the reporting and see everything I need to see there. I'm also going to send that information from Google Analytics over to Google Ads. So when I run ads, Google knows whether somebody made a purchase or not or whether the ad was successful or not.

The other big thing they're using it for is audiences. So things like remarketing audiences. If you want to run this particular ad and only want to show it to people who have been on your website before, you can go ahead and get that data out of Google Analytics and linked back into your Google Ads account.

Again, if you're using it for either of those two purposes, you're really going to need to do the upgrade to make sure you're properly linking that back to Google Ads so you don't lose any of that data

Is the Upgrade Really Automatic?

You might have seen emails that say your Universal Analytics property is automatically going to upgrade to GA4, and it's important to recognize that they will do some automated pieces. They're going to use the old tag that sends data to Universal Analytics. It operates in a little bit different way, and it just works a little bit differently. So they're going to try to translate that data as best as possible, but it's all going to be in an automated fashion.

You're not going to have the same granularity of data.

It's a little bit unclear to what extent event tracking is going to work. So things like purchases you may have: You may be able to see what pages people were on, but may not see any purchase data, depending on how that works for your particular website. It’s definitely something you don't want to just rely on the automated upgrade from Universal Analytics up to GA4. You want to make sure you are creating a new GA4 property and setting up your tracking. Make sure you're tracking purchases, tracking, add-to-cart, and tracking checkout events in this new GA4 property.

Once you have all of that, you can go ahead and link that new property back to Google Ads and that's where you're going to import some of the audiences or conversions you're now tracking in the new property. It's not enough just to create the new GA4 property. It's important to know that you are going to have to re-link that. There’s not going to just be an automatic way to bring that data back into Google Ads.

I'm imagining a lot of people out there in early July are all of a sudden going to start wondering why they’re not getting any conversions or why their retargeting ad isn't going out to anybody.

That's all based on Google Analytics data.

So it's definitely something to get ahead of and get done now so that come July, once new data stops flowing into Universal Analytics, all of a sudden your ads don't shut off or look like your results are dropping to zero.

Everyone should kind of keep in mind that Google doesn't necessarily want you to hire third-party contractors or people to help with this. So a lot of the messaging they've been giving sounds like it's just going to be taken care of now and they're going to be automatically helping you move over to GA4. But they're not telling you that other component that's so important to your Google Ads account.

So if you had someone set this up on your behalf before, please look into having someone help you this time. Because if you have no idea how to do that, your Google Ads are going to look really different come July and you're not going to like it. Google Ads and Google Analytics are putting out that messaging in their emails and pop-ups within the platform. They're telling you not to worry; that they'll take care of it by automatically transferring when the time comes.

You don't have to worry about it, but we got to worry about it a little bit.

You need to make sure you're getting GA4 properties set up and getting that link back to Google Ads so you have the data to allow your ads to run properly.

What about reporting?

Reporting is another big piece we keep hearing a ton about. When people talk about their resistance to moving over to GA4, it’s also because it just looks so different. When you log into Universal Analytics, they had a lot of reporting right up front on the dashboard.

Now, you really have to create your own reports. You could argue that's great because now you're building out reports that only give you the information that really matters to you, that's really relevant to your business. But it’s not so great in that it's not done for you and it's not immediately there and immediately available.

There's this break or there's this space made for people who could create reports for other people or just give better guidance around that. Because Google's kind of failing us in this area. They're not giving the best guidance on how to do reporting in GA4. There are a lot of people, however, filling in that space with how-tos and on YouTube. Offering it in general with their GA4 upgrade packages.

It's very different and tracks things differently, which is partially why we have not gotten used to it yet. It's not something they unveiled a long time ago and helped get us used to. They haven't really been great about guiding us through it. So it is a bit of a jungle. 

For folks who have been in Google Analytics, you probably have your favorite reports. Every time you pull up Universal Analytics, there's a little tab you click on. It could be a little bit different for every business, but especially in the e-commerce world, most of these things are fairly similar. There are a lot of reports that we've come to rely on.

Every single day I'm in the e-commerce acquisition report, which basically tells me where the traffic came from, and which channels were they from. Were they from paid ads I ran on Google or on Facebook? Were they from organic searches that came in outside of an ad? What's the revenue breakdown across all of those channels? That's really how we measure success.

Another big thing is the funnel report, where you can see across different products or different channels. How often did somebody start a session and then add the item to their cart, then begin to check out? Where's the drop-off at each one of those steps as they move down the purchase journey and ultimately make the purchase?

It's always a great report to let you know where there are areas in your funnel that are leaky, for lack of a better term. Where can you make some improvements?

So those are things that always came out of the box in Universal Analytics.

Is GA4 Better? More Powerful?

It's actually more powerful in a lot of ways. There's more customization available, and more things you can do. You can track different funnels in different ways. Or if you want to segment it out by different types of variables about customers.

However, you have to create it yourself.

They don't give you that baseline out-of-the-box report anymore. That's a big thing you may see as you start to upgrade. If you've been used to looking at your data and asking how Google Ads performing based on the data you’re seeing in Universal Analytics, when you log into GA4 for the first time, you're not going to know where to look.

You'll have to start creating some of those customer reports to make sure you're getting the information you need. Conversion tracking is also not something Google's just going to transfer over from your Universal Analytics account and create those reports for you.

I can see a lot of people moving over in July and wondering where all the stuff they normally look at is. So, there is no time like the present to get your hands dirty, get in there, and get the reports built that you need to start collecting that data and getting used to it before the big switch.

Don't wait.

In July, it's going to be shut off. But especially on the Google Ads side, you can make this transition today, get it going, and be using it right out of the box on the reporting side.

If you’re used to using a specific report and it really fits your business workflow, track the data in both properties for now. You can still look at the old reports you’re used to. But as far as Google Ad linkage, there's no reason not to just start that immediately, because that transition is going to be the same transition whether you do it today or you do it on July 1st. It's better to do it now and not be rushing at the very end.

Wrapping Up

We talked a lot about GA4 and the implications specifically for Google Ads.

The big thing you really have to focus on is making sure you're creating a new GA4 property. Make sure you're tracking your conversion data or any other data from your website that you need to in that property and linking that back to Google Ads.

Start getting comfortable with some of the different reporting and make sure you understand where to find your Google Ads-specific data in this new tool.