If you got this email from Google recently, or seen the blue notification bar at the top of Google Analytics, here’s what is changing and how it affects your website.

The big problem in modern online marketing is that most users have multiple devices, and the device they interact with the advert on is not the same as the one they convert on:

[Google’s] research shows that six in ten internet users start shopping on one device but continue or finish on a different one.

Facebook has been helping advertisers track conversion across devices for a few years  – because most Facebook ads are served on their mobile app, when most conversion happens on larger screens. So Google has been forced to play catch-up. Here’s the message from the Google Analytics header:

Starting May 15, 2017, all properties using Remarketing with Google Analytics will be enhanced to take advantage of new cross-device functionality. This is an important update to your remarketing settings, which may relate to your privacy policy.

The change was announced last September but has only just rolled out.

So you can remarket to users on a different device to the one on which they visited your site when:

  • You build a retargeting audience in Google Analytics
  • You have opted in to remarketing tracking in Google Analytics
  • Users are logged into Google on more than one device
  • Users have allowed Google to link their web and app browsing history with their Google account
  • Users have allowed Google account to personalise ads they see across the web

This may seem like a hard-to-reach audience, but Google has two secret weapons: Gmail (used by over 1 billion people and 75% of those on mobile) and Chrome (now the default web browser for desktop, and growing in mobile). So there are many cases where Google knows which devices are linked to a user.

What is not changing is how Google counts users in Google Analytics. Unless you are tracking registered users, a ‘user’ in Google Analytics will still refer to one device (tablet, mobile or laptop / desktop computer).

 

Could Google use their account information to make Google Analytics cross-device user tracking better?

Yes, they could; but Google has always been careful to keep their own data about users (the actions users take on Google.com) separate from the data individual websites capture in Google Analytics (the actions users take on mywebsite.com). The former is owned by Google, and protected by a privacy agreement that exists between Google and the user, and the latter is owned by the website adding the tracking code but stored and processed by Google Analytics.

Blurring those two would create a legal minefield for Google, which is why they stress the word ‘temporary’ in their explanation of cross-device audiences:

In order to support this feature, Google Analytics will collect these users’ Google-authenticated identifiers, which are Google’s personal data, and temporarily join them to your Google Analytics data in order to populate your audiences.

 

How can I make use of the new cross-device retargeting?

The first step is to create a remarketing audience from a segment of your website visitors that are already engaged. This could be users who have viewed a product, users who have viewed the pricing page or users who have viewed more than a certain number of pages.

For more help on setting up the right goals to power the remarketing audience, please contact us.