Google Signals Enables Cross Device Reporting for Higher Education Google Analytics

Carnegie Higher Ed Oct 23, 2018 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

What is Google Signals?

Google Signals is a Google Analytics feature that enables cross-device reporting and targeting based on actual and modeled website visitor data. This data is only collected when a user is signed in to their Google account and has Ads Personalization turned on. This level of connected reporting allows for the visualization, analysis, and utilization of cross-device website interactions as users visit from any (or all) of their devices.

The connectivity of this data now allows for the analysis of user behavior that was only previously guessed or inferred from siloed device usage behavior reports.

New Cross Device reports

By enabling Google Signals, you’ll gain access to a new group of reports called Cross Device (located in the Audience group of reports.) There are four new reports unlocked (three of which are important to higher ed marketers):


  • Device Overlap: This report visualizes the combination of devices that users utilized to engage with your content and convert on your website.

Cross Device report for Device Overlap

  • Tip for higher ed marketers: Select individual Goals to understand which devices most impact enrollment funnel conversion points like RFIs, event registrations, application starts, and application completions. 
  • Device Paths: This report visualizes the sequence of devices that users utilized to engage with your content and convert on your website.

Cross Device report for Device Paths

  • Tip for higher ed marketers: By default, the “Device Category” dropdown is set to show only the device; however, you can choose to combine device plus another dimension in each path step. This will allow you to better understand marketing campaign and device details at each step of the enrollment funnel. This additional dimension is currently limited to Source, Medium, Campaign, Channel, and OS. 
  • Acquisition Device: This report visualizes the attribution of Goals using Goal Values to the originating devices for tracked conversions.

Cross Device report for acquisition Device

Tip for higher ed marketers: Setting Goal Values is important in order to get the most insight out of this report. Unfortunately, establishing Goal Values is not a common practice among higher education marketers—so start now! The most common usage of Goal Values is as a weighted system, where the Goal Value is more representative of the importance of a specific Goal step in the enrollment funnel has toward revenue. For example, a General RFI Submission Goal may only receive a value of $1 (one credit), an Attend Admission Event Goal may receive a value of $2 (two credits), a Start Application Goal may receive a value of $3 (three credits), and so on. This method can be aligned with your CRM lead scoring systems.

Other benefits of Google Signals

Google Signals is a feature of Google Analytics that falls into a group called “Advertising Features.” The most commonly known feature in this group is Audiences (used to build Remarketing Lists for the Ads platforms.) By enabling Google Signals, there are other data benefits, including:

  • Additional data collection for Advertising Reporting and Demographics & Interests Reports
  • Audiences can serve ads in cross-device-eligible remarketing campaigns.

Google Signals FAQs for higher ed marketers

Should I enable Google Signals for my higher education website?

Yes. Access alone to the Cross Device reports should be enough of a selling point for any institution. This is the “missing link” in understanding your users in a multi-device world, where media consumption happens on more than one device at a time and students utilize multiple devices throughout their journey to enrollment.

Do I need to change Data Privacy Policies and Opt-ins for Google Signals?

Yes. Adhere to these policy requirements for Google Analytics Advertising Features. Also, read our post on GDPR for higher ed analytics. Of course, check with legal, IT, and anyone else who is involved in your website privacy policy process to ensure institutional requirements are also met.

Why do I need to enable Data Sharing Settings in Google Analytics?

Without this sharing enabled, Google Signals will not work. Signals reaches beyond Google Analytics to connect signed-in user devices across many different Google properties (YouTube, Ads, etc.). Data Sharing Settings can be found in the Account Settings of the GA Admin. For Google Signals, you only need to enable the ability to share data with “Google products & services.” Again, check with legal and everyone else to ensure that enabling this is within the policies of your institution (or amend them so it is).

Higher ed analytics for Gen Z

Google Signals is the next step in Analytics features that will allow institutions to better understand the behaviors of their next generation of students: Gen Z. Gen Zers are the product of an already multi-device household where smart TVs, game consoles, laptops, desktops, smartphones, tablets, and voice assistants can all play a role in the college application process. Being able to understand the combination, sequence, and attribution for each of these devices will enable higher education marketers to reach the right students at the right time on the right device.

If you want to tune your Google Analytics for higher ed, we’re here to help. Also, follow our Google Analytics experts on Twitter: @matthewdiehl, @courtney_bit, and @thebruman

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