Successful GA4 Google Ads Integration – 11 Steps

Google ads on a blue background.

Your Google Ads account used to work hand-in-glove with Universal Analytics. You were able to get quick insights and refine your marketing campaigns to drive profit.

But now, with the arrival of GA4, everything seems up in the air again.

Google’s move to shut down Universal Analytics might seem like a major inconvenience, especially when you’ve just got comfortable with this platform and you were driving results for your company. It’s just natural to get frustrated by the thought of having to learn a new system. And what’s worse, GA4 appears to be far more complex than its predecessor.

Where do you even start? You want to perform a GA4 Google Ads integration, but the learning curve appears steep. You don’t have much time to spare learning how to do it. And everyone from your team expects quick results. The pressure is real – it feels like you’ve already lost the game…

But I can assure you there’s no need to fear the transition. It leads to greater opportunities. GA4, with its advanced features, can bring your advertising success to new heights. It will open up a whole new world of chances for tracking your customer’s behavior across various platforms and devices and tailoring your campaigns according to those insights. The insights you’ll get from GA4 Google ads integration will be of enormous value to your whole team. Everyone will love you.

As a Google Analytics consultant, I’ve helped many marketers like you connect GA4 to Google Ads. And in this article, I’ll guide you step-by-step through the process of linking GA4 to Google Ads. I’ll also show you how to import GA4 goals into Google Ads, import GA4 conversions into Google Ads, find Google Ads data in GA4, and troubleshoot and fix potential data gaps.

Just by following simple steps, you’ll be ready to empower your ads campaigns and make them profitable again.

Table of Contents:
  • 6 Reasons To Link GA4 to Google Ads
  • Permissions You’ll Need Before Linking GA4 and Google Ads
  • 11 Simple Steps For a GA4 Google Ads Integration
  • What To Do After Linking GA4 and Google Ads
  • The Easiest Way To Find Google Ads Data In GA4
  • Potential Reasons For Google Ads and GA4 Data Gaps
  • How To Solve Google Ads and GA4 Data Gaps
  • Need Expert Help With Setting Up Your Google Analytics 4?

6 Reasons To Link GA4 to Google Ads

If you’re a heavy user of both platforms, GA4 Google Ads integration allows you to capitalize on the strengths of both platforms to drive your business forward. Here is why you’ll love it:

  • Enhanced Performance Monitoring: Linking GA4 to Google Ads provides a comprehensive view of your campaign performance and visitor interactions, aiding in better decision-making. You’ll gain a clearer picture of website visitors coming from Google Ads.
  • Simplified Data Analysis: When connected, GA4 and Google Ads form a centralized data hub. This makes data analysis faster and more efficient, even for team members not well-versed in Google Ads. You can leverage GA4 custom dimensions to start tracking any action visitors take on your website.
  • Optimized Conversions: Importing GA4 conversions into Google Ads offers a unified perspective of your conversion data. You’ll be able to optimize reporting and refine bidding strategies for maximum ROI.
  • Precise Audience Targeting: Once you connect GA4 to Google Ads, you can create and import GA4 audiences. This will help you make your Google Ads remarketing campaigns much more successful. Through firsthand data available in GA4, you can reach a high-intent audience, ensuring your marketing efforts target the users most likely to convert.
  • Detailed Conversion Paths: The integration paints a clearer picture of your customer’s journey from clicking on a Google ad to conversion, allowing you to better optimize the customer experience and improve your Google Ads Quality Score.
  • Upselling Opportunities: Understanding pre and post-conversion user behavior on your site can inform upselling strategies, maximizing the value of your customer base.

There are many other Google Analytics 4 benefits. While it may take time to get used to this platform after switching from Universal Analytics, it’s worth every second. Thanks to the high level of customization Google Analytics 4 provides, you can draw valuable insights for your PPC campaigns.

Permissions You’ll Need Before We Begin

There’s no need to rush. Before you start the GA4 Google Ads integration process, ensure you have the necessary permissions in both GA4 and Google Ads. This way, you won’t get stuck in the middle of the journey.

  • In GA4, you’ll need either Editor or Admin permissions for the property where you want to import Google Ads data. These roles allow you to manage property settings, including linking with Google Ads.
  • In Google Ads, the Google Account you’ll be using should have Admin access. This level of access ensures you can make substantial changes, such as linking to your GA4 property.

If you have these permissions, you’re ready to jump to the next phase.

11 Simple Steps For a GA4 Google Ads Integration

If you’re like me, you always like to get things done in the most efficient manner. Here is how to link GA4 to Google Ads in 11 simple steps:

  1. Access the GA4 Admin Panel: Start by going to your GA4 account and clicking on ‘Admin.’
  2. Select the GA4 Property: Each account in Google Analytics can have multiple properties. Choose the property you want to link with Google Ads. It’s vital to ensure you’re in the correct account and property before moving on.
  3. Navigate to Google Ads Linking: Under the ‘Product Linking’ section, you’ll find the ‘Google Ads Linking’ option. Click on that.
  4. Click ‘Link’: After the new screen appears, click the ‘Link’ button to initiate the process.
  5. Choose Google Ads Accounts: Now, click ‘Choose Google Ads accounts.’ Here, select the Google Ads accounts you wish to link with your GA4 property.
  6. Confirm Your Choice: After selecting, click ‘Confirm.’ Ensure you have the necessary permissions for the accounts you’re trying to link.
  7. Move to the Next Stage: Once confirmed, click ‘Next.’
  8. Enable Personalized Advertising and Auto-Tagging: On this screen, make sure ‘Enable Personalized Advertising’ is turned on. Then, expand the ‘Enable Auto-Tagging’ option and choose whether to enable it or leave your current settings.
  9. Proceed to the Next Stage: After making your choices, click ‘Next’ again.
  10. Review Your Settings: Here, you’ll get a chance to review your settings. Ensure everything is set up as you want.
  11. Submit to Complete the Process: Once you’re happy with your settings, click ‘Submit.’ This final step links your Google Ads account with your selected GA4 property.

And there you have it. Your GA4 Google Ads integration is complete! This process connects your GA4 and Google Ads accounts, enabling them to share valuable data and make your digital marketing efforts more effective.

Can You Link GA4 In Google Ads Interface?

Yes, you can link GA4 and Google Ads directly from the Google Ads interface. While it’s not necessary if you’ve already connected the accounts via GA4, some users might find this method more convenient. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Access Tools & Settings: Log in to your Google Ads account and navigate to the ‘Tools & Settings’ tab at the top of your dashboard.
  2. Find Linked Accounts: Under ‘Setup’, you’ll see an option labeled ‘Linked Accounts.’ Click on this to proceed.
  3. Choose Google Analytics (GA4) & Firebase: Once you’re in the ‘Linked Accounts’ section, look for ‘Google Analytics (GA4) & Firebase’. Click ‘Details’ adjacent to it.
  4. Link the Accounts: You’ll see a list of all accessible GA4 accounts. Find the one you want to link and click ‘Link’ under the ‘Actions’ column next to the desired account.
  5. Import GA4 Audiences: A prompt will appear asking if you want to import GA4 audiences into Google Ads. Check the box if you do, then click ‘Link.’

And that’s it! You have successfully linked GA4 to your Google Ads directly from the Google Ads interface. This change will be reflected in the ‘Status’ column of your Google Ads account, confirming the successful connection.

What To Do After Linking The Two Platforms

After successfully linking your GA4 and Google Ads accounts, there are a few steps you should take to fully leverage the integration.

You’ll start getting insightful data within 48 hours. And you’ll be able to view Google Ads data in your GA4 reports.

But to make the most of GA4 Google Ads integration, I recommend the following:

  1. Import Conversions: This step is crucial for your bidding strategies and visualizing your Analytics conversions in Google Ads. Follow these steps:
  • Sign in to your Google Ads account.
  • Click on Tools and Settings at the top right.
  • Navigate to Measurement > Conversions.
  • Click the “+ New conversion action” button in the top left.
  • Click on Import, then select Google Analytics 4 properties and hit Continue.
  • Choose the conversion events you want to import, then click “Import and continue.”
  • Finally, click on Done.
  1. Add Audiences to Campaigns or Ad Groups: This action is primarily intended for remarketing purposes. Adding audiences to campaigns or ad groups in Google Ads enables you to serve personalized ads to users based on their behavior data collected in GA4.
  2. Activate Google Signals: To further refine your remarketing and reporting capabilities, it is recommended to activate Google Signals. Google Signals tracks cross-device behavior, giving you a more comprehensive view of how users interact with your content.

Remember, linking GA4 and Google Ads is only the first step. These follow-up actions are necessary to maximize the performance of your advertising and remarketing campaigns.

The Easiest Way To Find Google Ads Data In GA4

Completing GA4 Google Ads integration won’t mean much without locating your Google Ads data in GA4. By doing so, you can draw meaningful insights about customer behavior, which can inform future marketing strategies. But if you’re struggling to find this data, let me show you the quickest way:

  1. Acquisition Overview: Navigate to Acquisition → Overview and scroll down slightly until you see the ‘View Google Ads campaigns’ card. This feature allows you to view reports by Session or Engaged sessions only. Clicking this card will lead to a comprehensive report, which includes Google Ads metrics such as Clicks, Cost, Cost per click, and Return on Ad Spend. For more metrics, remember to scroll horizontally. This page also allows you to select different Google Ads dimensions, including ad group name, keyword text, query, and more.
  2. User Acquisition Report: Alternatively, you can go to Acquisition → User acquisition report and select Google Ads dimensions. However, this method doesn’t show ad-related metrics.
  3. Traffic Acquisition Report: Or you can check out Acquisition → Traffic acquisition report and select the Session campaign dimension. But this method includes other campaigns tagged with UTMs and doesn’t provide Google Ads-specific metrics.
  4. Explorations: If you want a more personalized analysis, you can create your explorations for Google Ads in the ‘Explorations’ tab. Here, you can add important metrics and apply any segments for more detailed customer behavior analysis. This approach can be beneficial if you’re conducting A/B testing in Google Analytics 4 and need more insights.

Deciding between these methods depends on your specific needs. But for most users seeking comprehensive, easy-to-understand insights, the Acquisition Overview approach should suffice. Use these web analytics techniques to improve your ad performance and bidding strategies.

Potential Reasons For Google Ads and GA4 Data Gaps

If you notice that the data between your Google Analytics 4 and Google Ads doesn’t quite match, don’t panic. This is not unusual, and it can happen due to various reasons specific to each business account. Let me show you potential data gaps and teach you how to resolve them:

The Two Tools Use Different Attribution Models:

Google Ads and GA4 use different attribution models and lookback windows, which could lead to data discrepancies. Google Ads uses the last-non-direct-click attribution model, while GA4 uses a data-driven attribution model. Hence, Google Ads sometimes shows more conversions than Google Analytics 4. Google is currently developing a ‘Conversion differences’ report in GA4 to display discrepancies based on different attribution models.

GA4 And Google Ads Prioritize Different Metrics:

Google Ads and GA4 not only focus on different key metrics but also measure similar concepts in distinct ways, leading to potential discrepancies. For instance, Google Ads primarily focuses on metrics related to clicks and ad impressions. On the other hand, GA4 places a greater emphasis on sessions, engaged sessions, and views.

What’s worth noting here is that the definition of ‘session’ in GA4 significantly differs from its predecessor, Universal Analytics. In GA4, a ‘session’ is a group of user interactions with your website that take place within a given time frame. It includes multiple ‘events’ such as page views, social interactions, and e-commerce transactions.

For example, a GA4 dimension like ‘next page path,’ which is session-related, will not correspond directly with a similar dimension in Google Ads or Universal Analytics because GA4 measures sessions differently.

This could mean that if a user clicks on an ad three times, leading to three separate interactions or ‘events’ with your website, Google Ads will count this as three clicks. However, GA4 might consider all these interactions as part of one ‘session,’ especially if they happen within a short time frame.

The silver lining here is that GA4 offers extensive customization. You can define and measure the most relevant dimensions to your business needs. So, while you might see differences in data initially, you can align your GA4 measurements more closely with your Google Ads data by customizing your GA4 dimensions and events. This allows you to recreate and even enhance the insights you’re used to seeing in Google Ads or Universal Analytics in GA4.

This is an essential factor to remember when performing a UA to GA4 migration.

UTM Tagging:

If you disable Auto-Tagging or incorrectly manually tag URLs, data may be incorrectly attributed or not attributed to your Google Ads campaigns.

To solve this, you must ensure UTM tagging is correct and Auto-Tagging is enabled.

Data Sampling Duration:

GA4 may sample large datasets or long-term data, meaning you won’t see all the data for analysis.

How To Solve Google Ads and GA4 Data Gaps

I’ve found that the best way to prevent this is to reduce the duration or export data to BigQuery for a more detailed analysis.

Missing / Faulty Tracking:

Incorrect tracking on one platform or missing tracking on a particular landing page can lead to data gaps. Issues with GA4 cross-domain tracking can also cause session breaks, leading to more data in Google Ads and incorrect data in GA4.

Different Time Zones:

Inconsistent time zones can cause data synchronization issues. Simply aligning the time zones in both tools should resolve this.

Visitors Use Ad-blockers:

Users who have ad-blockers enabled can impact data collection, potentially causing gaps. If ad-blockers are inconsistently activated, you’ll only get partial data.

You don’t have many options here. Perhaps the only solution is educating users about turning off ad-blockers for accurate data collection. Try explaining how the data you collect helps you improve user experience and present them with better offers.

Need Expert Help With Setting Up Your Google Analytics 4?

Google Analytics 4 might seem a bit overwhelming at first, especially when trying to integrate it with Google Ads. Trust me, I’ve been there. It’s not just a simple upgrade from Universal Analytics but an entirely new, more robust platform.

As someone who has navigated the complexities of GA4 and learned its capabilities, I’ve seen firsthand how it allows tracking users across platforms and devices, providing rich, comprehensive data. And when you successfully sync this data with Google Ads, you start seeing your marketing campaigns in a whole new light.

But let’s be honest. Learning and fully utilizing GA4 can be a challenge. It usually takes more than 40 hours of careful studying and implementation to set up GA4 in the way that best suits your business. If you don’t have that much spare time, I’m here to help you get ahead of the learning curve. As a digital marketing agency owner who has already walked this path, I’d love to share my insights and guide you through the process.

So, if you’re ready to unlock the potential of GA4 and transform your approach to Google Ads conversion tracking, feel free to schedule a call with me. I’m genuinely looking forward to helping you on this journey and seeing your business thrive.

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