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Category: Digital Analytics

Thinking of Integrating Google Optimize with Google Analytics 4? Here’s What to Expect.

May 11, 2022

sun iconALERT: Google just announced it’s sunsetting Google Optimize. Here is what you need to know to be prepared!

In October 2020, Google launched the next generation of Google Analytics, Google Analytics 4 (GA4). GA4 introduces many new features, including a heavy emphasis on events and a completely new integration with Google Optimize.

With Google’s latest announcement that Universal Analytics 360 will no longer process data starting October 1, 2023, there is no better time than now to prepare for the switch. And as you transition, you’ll want to ensure that you integrate Google Optimize with GA4 properly, so you can take advantage of the detailed reporting that the native integration offers.

The straightforward native Google Optimize and GA4 integration allows for deeper analysis within GA4, allowing you to dig into your test’s performance and how it impacted user behavior across your site or app.

While we often review test data within Google Optimize, taking advantage of the confidence calculations Optimize automatically runs, our deeper analysis often takes place within an analytics tool. The straightforward native Google Optimize and GA4 integration allows for deeper analysis within GA4, allowing you to dig into your test’s performance and how it impacted user behavior across your site or app. But first, let’s take a look at what’s different about the Google Optimize and GA4 integration, which I’ll detail below.

What’s New With the Google Optimize-GA4 Integration

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Unsurprisingly, like GA4, the native integration introduces several changes that you should be aware of before proceeding. Here’s what you can expect once you’ve completed the integration.

The native integration is seamless.

Since Google Optimize and GA4 are in the same ecosystem, connecting the two is a breeze. To join the two platforms, check out this article in the Optimize Resource Hub that highlights what you’ll need before you begin and how to link the two properly. Beyond this simple setup we recommend configuring two additional Custom Dimensions in GA4, read on to find out what data they should capture and why!

Google Optimize can use GA4 audiences.

Previously only available to Universal Analytics 360 customers, you can now use GA4 audiences in your experiments.

There are new limitations to running simultaneous experiments.

With Universal Analytics, you can run up to 24 simultaneous experiments per view. However, this has been reduced to just ten concurrent experiments when Optimize is linked to GA4. If you’re looking to run more experiments than this concurrently then exploring an enterprise level testing solution beyond Optimize may be worthwhile.

Fewer experiment objectives are available.

Traditionally, a host of different objectives were available in Universal Analytics, including:

  • Pageviews
  • Session duration
  • Bounces
  • Transactions
  • Revenue
  • AdSense impressions
  • AdSense Ads Clicked
  • AdSense revenue
  • Analytics goals

Currently, only four objectives are available for use in GA4:

  • Purchases
  • Purchase revenue
  • Pageviews
  • Conversion objectives

It’s also important to consider that you must define revenue-based objectives in US dollars.

While there are a limited range of objectives available in Optimize when linked to GA4, deeper analysis across a range of objectives can be done within GA4 itself. There’s no limit to the number, or type, of objectives you can review in GA4 itself, while pulling in Optimize Experiment and Variant ID so that you can review these objectives for each group within your experiment.

Variant impressions are handled differently.

When you activate a Google Optimize experiment, default optimize_personalization_impression and experiment_impression events populate in the GA4 reports. On the other hand, Universal Analytics uses a non-interactive event to report user impressions in an experiment variation.

Experience durations are shortened.

The duration of an experiment has been reduced from 90 days with Universal Analytics to just 35 days with GA4. It’s relatively rare that we look to run experiments longer than 35 days, so the 35 day limit in Optimize isn’t a huge problem for us in terms of experimentation.

AMP experiments are unavailable.

AMP experiments are possible with Universal Analytics properties, but this feature isn’t available with GA4 properties.

Reporting has changed.

With this integration and the updated hit-based GA4 data model, you can expect a few differences in reporting:

  • With GA4, you can now generate reports on individual users across many sessions, while you can only report on individual sessions with the Universal Analytics integration.
  • Real-time reporting isn’t an option for the GA4 integration.

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There are no experiment dimensions in GA4 by default.

In Universal Analytics, experiment data automatically populated custom dimensions such as ‘Experiment ID with Variant’. In GA4 these dimensions aren’t available or populated by default. However, setting up new custom dimensions in GA4 so you can easily access experiment data in GA4 reports is relatively straightforward.

As noted above, Google Optimize automatically triggers default optimize_personalization_impression and experiment_impression GA4 events when users see an experiment. These events have useful event parameters attached including experiment_id and variant_id. You can easily expose these parameters in GA4 as custom dimensions by configuring event-scoped custom dimensions in the Custom Definitions portion of GA4. We definitely recommend taking this step so that you can easily see which users have viewed which variant within your experiment in GA4 reports.

Latency times have increased.

The Google Optimize-GA4 integration introduces lengthier lag times between interactions on the site and when the data is visible in Optimize:

  • After launching an experiment, impression counts can take up to 12 hours to populate, while you can view active user counts within minutes with Universal Analytics properties.
  • GA4 audiences can take as many as 30 hours compared to just a few hours with Universal Analytics.

Final experiment results are available sooner.

With the Google Optimize-GA4 integration, you can view the final test results up to 24 hours after an experiment concludes, down from 72 hours with the Universal Analytics integration.

You can target Google Ads accounts.

When you’ve linked Google Optimize and GA4, you can target your experiences at your Google Ads accounts, campaigns, ad groups, and keywords.

You can only export Optimize report data, but Analytics data isn’t available.

Universal Analytics enables you to export Optimize reports and Analytics data, but you’re limited to exporting Optimize reports with GA4.

Integrate Google Optimize and GA4 Today

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We believe there is more to come from the Google Optimize and GA4 integration. As updates continue to be made to GA4, we expect to see updates to the scope of the integration. We recommend setting up a GA4 property soon to ensure it starts collecting data. This way, you’ll have some historic data within GA4 to work with when Universal Analytics stops collecting data later in 2023.

If you’re nervous about switching all your Google Optimize reporting to GA4, you can hold off until nearer the time Universal Analytics retires. However, we recommend making the change relatively soon so you can get familiar with how to report on tests from GA4. If you do this you’ll be well-prepared ahead of the Universal Analytics end date, so you can rest easy knowing you’re ready to take advantage of everything the integration offers.

We recommend setting up a GA4 property soon to ensure it starts collecting data. This way, you’ll have some historic data within GA4 to work with when Universal Analytics stops collecting data later in 2023.

If your organization would like assistance integrating Google Optimize and GA4, or if you’re interested in learning how you can use the tools to take your experimentation program to the next level, be sure to connect with us today. Our experts will guide you towards crafting an extraordinary digital experience that is sure to delight your users.

Josh Morrow
About the Author

Josh Morrow is a Senior Conversion Optimization Strategist at Blast Analytics. He has extensive experience in helping enhance their customer experience through strategic a/b testing, personalization, user experience design, and conversion-focused copywriting.

Connect with Josh on LinkedIn. Josh Morrow has written on the Blast Digital Customer Experience and Analytics Blog.

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