[UA→GA4] Fix your key event discrepancies


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It's common to see discrepancies in key events metrics between GA4 and Universal Analytics, and there are several reasons why this can happen. Here are the most common reasons for data discrepancies:

  • Key event window: Key event window settings in Google Ads define how long after a Google Ads touchpoint credit can be attributed to that touchpoint. A difference in settings between UA and GA4 can mean a touchpoint gets attributed credit by one while it doesn't by the other.
  • Key event counting: UA counts one goal key event per session, while GA4 often counts one key event per event. Google Ads counts multiple key events in a given date range. That means UA will only count one key event per session whereas GA4 and Google Ads can count multiple key events per session if there are multiple key event events, which can result in differences in metrics.
    • Fix it: To reduce key event discrepancies, go to your key event summary in Google Ads, find the key event actions imported from GA4 and UA being compared and edit them to make sure that both key events will have the same counting method: 'One key event' or 'Every key event' Learn more About key event counting.
    • To align GA4 counting to UA goals counting, make sure the GA4 key event counting method is set to “Once” per session'.
  • Attribution model settings: Attribution models determine how credit is assigned to different touchpoints in a key event path. Different attribution models can result in different credit allocations across campaigns. Changing attribution settings in Google Ads does not affect the overall amount of key events attributed to Google Ads in your Google Analytics account.
    • Fix it: To reduce key event discrepancies due to this, make sure that the attribution models of the GA4 key event matches the UA key event in the key event summary in Google Ads

Other reasons

  • Auto-tagging: Hard-coded tag firing conditions can affect how and when a tag fires. If data collection is restricted in UA and not in GA4, then user, session, page view, and key event counts can be higher in GA4.
    • Fix it: It's recommended you rely on gtag.js or gtm.js (using GA4 tags) to collect data for GA4 properties. Once tags are implemented, align any tag firing conditions.
  • Site coverage: You may see measurement gaps if the UA tag is implemented on a different set of pages than the GA4 tag, especially if a landing page from a Google Ads ad isn't accurately tagged. If GA4 tags are implemented on more or fewer pages than UA, GA4 will respectively show more or fewer users, sessions, page views, and subsequent key events.
    • Fix it: To minimize discrepancies, use the same tag implementation methods for UA and GA4, such as Google Tag or Google Tag Manager. Consider past settings, such as cross-domain tracking. Use the Tag coverage summary to confirm tag implementation. Use the "Tag coverage" summary to see which pages of your website have the Google tag installed.
  • Filters: In UA, filters are applied at the View level and can affect the amount of key events in Google Ads. GA4 works very differently in this regard: some filters can be recreated in GA4 (for example, internal traffic exclusion), while others require transforming data by modifying existing events (for example, Search and Replace or Custom filters).
  • GA4 key event counting method: UA counts one goal key event per session, while GA4 often counts one key event per event. That means UA will only count one key event per session whereas GA4 can count multiple key events per session if there are multiple key event events, which can result in differences in metrics.
  • URL parameter exclusions: In UA, key events can be configured to exactly match a particular URL. In GA4, key events are defined by events, and there are no URL parameter exclusions. This means that a key event in GA4 could be triggered by a URL with many different versions, as long as the event is fired.
  • Session timeouts: The session timeout setting determines how long a user's activity is considered to be part of a single session. The session counts in your Google Analytics 4 property may be lower than the session counts in your Universal Analytics property because GA4 does not create a new session when the campaign source changes mid session, while Universal Analytics does create a new session under that circumstance.
    • Fix it: It's recommended that you rely on the default settings. If you changed session timeouts in UA, you should adjust this setting in GA4.
  • Consent mode: Consent mode modeling is available in Google Ads, for advertisers who have imported Google Analytics key events from properties implemented using gtag.js or Google Tag Manager. For analytics.js implementations, we don't offer key event modeling in Google Ads imported Google Analytics key events, since the consent state can't be defined accurately without having a gtag.js or Google Tag Manager implementation. If both UA and GA4 rely on tags compatible with consent mode, both can receive key event modeling in Google Ads.
    • Fix it: To compare UA and GA4 key events, you need a consent mode-compatible tag type for both properties and have an advanced implementation to get modeling in Google Ads for both UA and GA4 key events.

You can review this list of key event discrepancies to understand where the differences stem from and how to bring GA4 key event volumes more in line with UA’s.

Next: 5 ways to improve your GA4 data

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