Google began sending emails to GA4 users today announcing that they will be upgrading their GA4 properties’ attribution settings to use the data-driven attribution model on or after January 26, 2022.
You can see the full message in detail below and we’ll explain what this means and what (if anything) you should do about it.
Hello Google Analytics user,
We’re reaching out because your Google Analytics 4 properties are now eligible for cross-channel data-driven attribution. We’ll be upgrading your properties’ attribution settings to the data-driven attribution model on or after January 26, 2022. This change will apply to all of your Google Analytics 4 properties for reporting and measurement purposes. It will not impact your Google Ads campaigns.
Data-driven attribution is a machine learning model that attributes credit for your conversions based on how people search for your business and interact with your ads.
Compared with the last click model, data-driven attribution looks at the entire journey that leads a user to convert and allocates credit to each step in that journey.
You can learn more about how data-driven attribution may benefit your marketing performance and how to customize your attribution settings in Google Analytics 4.
The Google Analytics Team
Everyone! Well, kind of… It applies to you today if your company has an active GA4 property already configured. If you don’t already have a GA4 property, this will apply to you when you create one.
This means that Google is automatically changing the method used for attribution (i.e. how credit is assigned) within your GA4 property on or after January 26, 2022. This DOES NOT impact any Google Ads campaigns. For most organizations, this is a good thing. However, for others it may be problematic.
To provide additional context, let’s review what an attribution model is in GA4. Google states that the attribution model is “used to calculate conversion credit in your reports within [your] Analytics property. Changing the attribution model will apply to both historical and future data. These changes will be reflected in reports with conversion and revenue data. User and session data will be unaffected.”
In simple terms, the attribution model is the decision-making process Google uses to determine what channel gets credit for a conversion. Historically, Google has used the Last Click attribution model for quite some time. However, Last Click is limited in value as buying journeys get more complex and longer. The last channel someone came from should probably not get 100% of the credit, as there were likely many influencing touchpoints along the way.
Google has made a lot of progress, thanks to machine learning, in building an attribution model that assigns credit to channels based on machine learning. In theory, this assigns credit in a more fair and distributed manner across channels, rather than assigning all credit to one channel.
Therefore, Google is pushing this newer method, which is called Cross-channel Data-driven attribution (DDA). You can learn all of the intricate details about Google’s methodology behind DDA here, but here is a simplistic explanation: DDA uses your own data, and applies machine learning to it, culminating with credit assigned to channels by their likely impact on the users conversion. Google also describes it well here: “Compared with the last click model, data-driven attribution looks at the entire journey that leads a user to convert and allocates credit to each step in that journey.”
You should either do nothing (this is likely a good change for many of you!) or you should act before January 26th to ensure the attribution model used with your GA4 properties matches what you want it to.
The good news, in either case, is that you can change the attribution model used for your GA4 property in the future and the change will apply retroactively to your data.
For those of you that are going to use GA4 to chart a new path with your analytics endeavors in the future, and you do not have any preconceived notions / direct choices that have been made about which attribution model you should use, you can let this change happen. DDA is the future of attribution modeling and it’s likely a good change to be made to your property.
If you are actively using GA4 inside your organization, and there are users who do not understand (or haven’t bought into) the change to DDA yet, I recommend that you change the attribution model used to the one you’re currently using and comfortable with (such as last click). Over time, consider moving to DDA, but you should do this with forethought and communication, and shouldn’t let an automatic change confuse your internal GA4 users when their data suddenly changes overnight.
Google is going to continue adding new features and functionality to GA4 with more changes like this one coming. If you have any questions about how you can most effectively use GA4 in your organization, reach out to email@example.com.