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What is Cross-Network in GA4?

Updated: Jun 14

Cross-network in GA4 groups data from multi-network campaigns (e.g. Performance Max), simplifying analysis and improving marketing insights.


Google Analytics 4 (GA4) introduces a set of features designed for the modern web, with cross-network tracking standing out for its ability to consolidate user interactions across platforms into a single narrative. This capability moves beyond traditional analytics, offering businesses a unified view of how users engage with their content, whether through websites, mobile apps, or other digital environments.


The core of cross-network tracking is its potential to refine marketing strategies and user experience design. By providing a comprehensive picture of user journeys, GA4 enables marketers to tailor their outreach and content more effectively, ensuring consistency and personalisation across all touch points.


This article will cover the essentials of cross-network in GA4, focusing on its impact, setup, and the insights it can unlock. While detailed GA4 guides are available on Google’s support pages, here, we aim to offer clear, actionable information to help you leverage cross-network tracking for deeper user engagement and strategic planning.

Understanding Cross-Network in GA4


Google Analytics 4 introduces cross-network tracking as a solution to a common challenge: understanding user behaviour across different platforms and devices. This section breaks down what cross-network tracking is and why it matters.



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What is Cross-Network Traffic in GA4?

Cross-network traffic in GA4 refers to traffic coming from multiple digital platforms and devices (i.e. Performance Max, Shopping, Discovery and Demand Gen campaigns), offering a unified view of the customer journey to provide deeper insights into user behaviour and preferences.



A screenshot from Google Analytics 4 (GA4) with a list of traffic by default channel groupings with a ring highlighting cross-network traffic


Definition and Significance

Cross-network tracking allows businesses to see how users interact with their brand across various digital environments. This unified perspective is crucial for recognising patterns, preferences, and pain points in the user journey, which, in turn, informs more effective marketing and product development strategies.


How does cross-network work in GA4?

In GA4, cross-network tracking is achieved through a combination of user ID and event data collection from websites, apps, and other digital platforms. By assigning a unique ID to each user and tracking their interactions as events, GA4 can stitch together a comprehensive view of the user journey across networks.

For a deeper dive into setting up cross-network tracking in GA4, refer to Google’s official setup guide.


Why does cross-network matter in GA4?

The insights gained from cross-network tracking can dramatically enhance marketing efforts. Knowing how users move between devices and platforms helps businesses refine their targeting, create more cohesive user experiences, and optimise their digital presence to meet users where they are most active.


For case studies and success stories utilising cross-network data, Google’s Analytics Help Center offers a range of resources that illustrate the power of integrated data analysis.


The Importance of Cross-Network Analysis

In the realm of digital analytics, understanding the holistic user journey is key to crafting strategies that resonate on every level. Here’s why cross-network analysis in GA4 is a cornerstone for modern digital marketing and user experience design.


Enhanced Marketing Strategies

Cross-network analysis allows marketers to see beyond isolated interactions, offering a bird's eye view of the customer journey across all digital touchpoints. This visibility enables more precise targeting and personalisation, driving higher engagement and conversion rates by delivering the right message on the right platform at the right time.


Accurate User Behaviour Insights

By tracking how users move between devices and platforms, businesses can gain accurate insights into user behavior, preferences, and potential friction points. This information is crucial for designing user experiences that are not only seamless across devices but also deeply aligned with user needs and expectations.


Optimised Budget Allocation

Understanding the impact of each platform on the user journey helps businesses allocate their marketing budgets more effectively. Cross-network analysis identifies which channels contribute most to conversion goals, allowing for optimisation of spend to maximise ROI.


Improved Product Development

Insights from cross-network data can inform product development, highlighting features or services that users desire. Businesses can use this data to prioritise development efforts, ensuring they’re always ahead of the curve in meeting user needs.

For further reading on leveraging cross-network analysis for business growth, marketing blogs such as HubSpot and Moz regularly feature expert advice and case studies.


Setting Up Cross-Network Tracking in GA4

Implementing cross-network tracking in GA4 is straightforward but requires careful planning. Here’s a simplified guide to get you started, with a note that detailed instructions are available in GA4’s documentation.


  1. Unified User ID Implementation: Ensure that a consistent user ID is used across all platforms and devices. This ID is pivotal for tracking user interactions as a single journey.

  2. Event Tracking Configuration: Define and implement event tracking across your digital platforms. These events should capture meaningful interactions that reflect user engagement and journey progress.

  3. Data Stream Setup: In GA4, set up data streams for each digital platform (website, mobile app, etc.). This setup is crucial for collecting and analysing data across networks.

  4. Cross-Platform Reporting: Utilise GA4’s reporting features to analyse cross-network data. Custom reports can be created to focus on specific aspects of the user journey, from acquisition through conversion.


Google’s GA4 setup documentation provides comprehensive steps and best practices for implementing cross-network tracking.


Interpreting Cross-Network Data

Once cross-network tracking is in place, interpreting the data to extract actionable insights is the next step. Key focuses should include:

  • User Journey Mapping: Use the collected data to map user journeys, identifying common pathways and key interaction points across platforms.

  • Conversion Path Analysis: Analyse the paths leading to conversions, identifying which channels and touch points are most effective in driving user actions.

  • Behavioural Segmentation: Segment users based on their behaviour across networks to tailor marketing and UX strategies more effectively.


What are the default channel groupings in GA4?

As provided by Google Analytics Help, here are the other default channel groupings and how they're defined:

Affiliates

Affiliates is the channel by which users arrive at your site/app via links on affiliate sites.

Audio

Audio is the channel by which users arrive at your site/app via ads on audio platforms (e.g., podcast platforms).

Cross-network

Cross-network is the channel by which users arrive at your site/app via ads that appear on a variety of networks (e.g., Search and Display).

Direct

Direct is the channel by which users arrive at your site/app via a saved link or by entering your URL.

Display

Display is the channel by which users arrive at your site/app via display ads, including ads on the Google Display Network.

Email

Email is the channel by which users arrive at your site/app via links in email.

Mobile Push Notifications

Mobile Push Notifications is the channel by which users arrive at your site/app via links in mobile-device messages when they're not actively using the app.

Organic Search

Organic Search is the channel by which users arrive at your site/app via non-ad links in organic-search results.

Organic Shopping

Organic Shopping is the channel by which users arrive at your site/app via non-ad links on shopping sites like Amazon or ebay.

Organic Social

Organic Social is the channel by which users arrive at your site/app via non-ad links on social sites like Facebook or Twitter.

Organic Video

Organic Video is the channel by which users arrive at your site/app via non-ad links on video sites like YouTube, TikTok, or Vimeo.

Paid Other

Paid Other is the channel by which users arrive at your site/app via ads, but not through an ad identified as Search, Social, Shopping, or Video.

Paid Search

Paid Search is the channel by which users arrive at your site/app via ads on search-engine sites like Bing, Baidu, or Google.

Paid Shopping

Paid Shopping is the channel by which users arrive at your site/app via paid ads on shopping sites like Amazon or ebay or on individual retailer sites.

Paid Social

Paid Social is the channel by which users arrive at your site/app via ads on social sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Paid Video

Paid Video is the channel by which users arrive at your site/app via ads on video sites like TikTok, Vimeo, and YouTube.

Referral

Referral is the channel by which users arrive at your site via non-ad links on other sites/apps (e.g., blogs, news sites).

SMS

SMS is the channel by which users arrive at your site/app via links from text messages.




Interested in learning more? Resources like Google’s Analytics Academy offer valuable learning materials.



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