Join 17K+ subscribers

TPE #86: new GA4 & Google Ads tracking updates

Mar 25, 2024

Read time: 3 minutes

GM, Miles here with issue #86 of The PPC Edge (getting closer to #100!!) :).

Last week, Google announced they are rolling out new changes to streamline the conversion data between GA4 and Google Ads (link at the bottom).

Initially, I thought this would help solve the data discrepancy issues between GA4 and Google Ads data.

But after studying the announcement, I feel like Google is just renaming a few things that have nothing to do with solving actual data discrepancies.

Anyway, let's just dive right in so I can show you what I'm talking about!

 

Google Ads and GA4 conversion tracking data never match up.

Since the beginning of time, Google Ads and Google Analytics have shown data discrepancies (meaning: the data is never 100% the same).

These differences can be caused by:

  • Conversion delays.
  • Conversion Tag setup.
  • Customer conversion time.
  • Lookback windows in Google Ads.
  • Conversion count settings.
  • (Engaged) View-through conversions.
  • Cross-device conversions.
  • Conversion Modeling.
  • Invalid traffic.
  • Attribution settings.

It's not uncommon to see differences of up to 40%.

Here's an example of one of Bob's accounts with a 17% difference in tracked conversions (in favor of the Google Ads Tag):

 

 
 

 

Our advice up until this point has been to use Google Ads Conversion Tracking (with the Google Ads Tag) for your primary conversions, and to use GA4 imports as your secondary conversions (as a backup).

But last week, Google announced they will be rolling out a new update that promises to streamline conversion data between Google Ads and GA4.

Will that make GA4 the superior tracking option?

Let's find out.

 

New update: "making conversions consistent across Google Ads and Analytics".

In last week's announcement, Google mentioned they are working on "making conversions consistent across Google Ads and Analytics":

 
 

 

My initial response: "AWESOME, this will surely help solve the data discrepancy issues!"

But after studying the announcement for 2 hours, I realized it's not as exciting as I thought. Let me explain why.

 

What does this update contain?

Here's the update in a nutshell:

  • Google wants to streamline conversion tracking between GA4 and Google Ads. (good)
  • “Key Events” will replace conversions in GA4. (confusing)
  • If you have a Google Ads account linked to GA4, you’ll see “Conversions” which is synced between the two platforms. (confusing)
  • We’ll see better support for Enhanced Conversions in GA4. (good)
  • It will be easier to pass consent choices to GA4 with Consent Mode. (good)

 

The role of "Key Events" and "Conversions" in GA4.

All old conversions in GA4 will be renamed to "Key Events".

For example: "conversion rate" would become "key event rate".

And "newsletter signup conversions" would become "newsletter signup key events".

  

Those are Fila shoes, not Nike shoes. - Imgflip
  

If you have Google Ads and GA4 linked to each other, you will also see reports with "Conversions".

These will only apply to Google Ads conversions that are imported back into GA4.

 

This doesn't solve the data discrepancy issue...

This DOES streamline the conversion data between Google Ads and GA4, but only because Google Ads conversions are imported back into GA4 as "conversions", and everything else will be labeled as "Key Events".

This doesn't solve any of the data discrepancy issues.

It only means your reported conversions in Google Ads will now be visible in GA4 as "conversions".

That's pretty decent, but in no way does it solve data discrepancies.

There will still be two different data sources: "Key Events" and "Conversions", and they WILL continue to show discrepancies.

 

So is GA4 the superior tracking solution compared to the Google Ads Tag?

The short answer (for now) is: NO.

The Google Ads Tag will still be superior to imported conversions from GA4, and here's why:

  • GA4 has limited cross-device tracking capabilities.
  • GA4 doesn't support view-through conversions.
  • GA4 has limited functionality for Offline Conversion Tracking.
  • GA4 has limited functionality for advanced tracking features that enhance your dataset (like New vs. Returning Customer Data, Cart Data and more).

 

Our advice remains the same (for now): it’s best to import GA4 conversions for observation and back-up purposes and use the Google Ads Tag for your primary conversion tracking.

Granted: GA4 tracking is getting better (especially since they are now starting to integrate Enhanced Conversions), but we're not there yet.

 

 Here's the link to the full announcement. 

Make it a habit to study these types of announcements because they contain a LOT of golden nuggets that will deepen your understanding of the PPC game, giving you an HUGE competitive edge over people who just read headlines.

 

I hope this issue was useful, and if I missed anything — please reply and feel free to correct me. Tracking is incredibly difficult and it's easy to miss important details.

That's all for today — see you next week :).

Cheers,

Miles (& Bob)



And whenever you're ready, here's how we can help you further:


1. Upgrade your Google Ads skills in 4 short weeks
with our most advanced training program to date.
Sign up for the January '24 Google Ads Masterclass (1.300+ students).


2. Join our global community of world-class Google Ads Specialists
:
Stay up to date with all developments, get trained by us all year round, and learn & grow together with like-minded PPCers.
Become a member of The PPC Hub (575+ members).


3. Alternatively, you might like one of these self-paced products:

  • Conversion Tracking Mastery:
    Master Google Ads Conversion Tracking and unlock your biggest edge for 2023 and beyond (700+ students).
  • Performance Max Mastery:
    Learn how to launch, optimize & scale pMax campaigns (2.400+ students).
  • Google Ads Audit Templates:
    Get the exact templates we use to audit Google Ads accounts.
    Reduce wasted ad spend and find growth opportunities, fast (700+ students).​

Receive 1 advanced Google Ads strategy every Monday morning

Subscribe to 'The PPC Edge' newsletter. Every Monday morning, you'll get 1 actionable tip to scale your campaigns to the next level and stay ahead of your competition.

Your information is safe with us. We will never sell it, for any reason.