Mastering the GA4 Transition: Essential Strategies for Affiliate Marketers

Mastering the GA4 Transition: Essential Strategies for Affiliate Marketers

With the transition from Universal Analytics (UA) to Google Analytics 4 (GA4), the affiliate marketing industry faces significant challenges. We have looked into how major affiliate networks like Rakuten, Tradedoubler, Awin, CJ, TradeTracker and Kwanko position themselves on GA4 and what strategies and best practices they recommend. GA4 introduces new features and changes that affect data tracking and attribution. This transition is particularly relevant for affiliate marketers as it requires new strategies and adjustments to maintain accurate and reliable data.

Impact of GA4 on Affiliate Marketing

The switch to GA4 has fundamentally changed affiliate marketing. The new data-driven attribution model and event-based tracking lead to discrepancies in capturing affiliate traffic and conversions.

"GA4 opens up the possibility of taking conversion tracking capabilities to a new level. Instead of fearing the limitations, opportunities should be seized to modernize analytical approaches to gain even more precise insights into customer behavior. Cross-platform tracking and GDPR compliance are just some of the advantages." - Fabian Hübner (CTO advanced store)
"Fundamentally, Google Analytics remains just an onsite analysis tool and, in my view, does not replace multi-channel tracking. Therefore, it is not suitable for evaluating success in affiliate marketing." - Marc Majewski (CEO advanced store)

Key Facts from the Perspective of Affiliate Networks

Changes in Attribution Models: GA4 uses a data-driven attribution model by default, differing from UA’s last indirect click model. This change can reduce the number of conversions attributed to affiliates as the attribution is now distributed differently.

Event-Based Tracking: GA4 treats separate events within a 30-minute session as a single interaction, unlike UA, which could split sessions based on new UTM parameters. This can result in fewer recorded sessions and conversions.

Conversion Windows and Channel Definitions: GA4 has a 30-day attribution window, which may differ from the settings of affiliate networks. Differences in channel definitions and data delays can further complicate tracking accuracy.

Recommendations for Affiliate Marketers

To master the challenges of the GA4 transition, affiliate marketers should implement the following strategies:

1. Use Standardized UTM Parameters: Consistent UTM parameters (e.g., utm_source=Kwanko, utm_medium=Affiliation, utm_campaign=Publisher_ID) help ensure tracking accuracy.

2. Synchronous Tag Firing: Marketing tags should be aligned with conversion events to ensure precise data capture.

3. Custom Dimensions for Conversion Analysis: Implement custom dimensions to track transaction IDs and analyze conversion sources accurately.

4. Exclude Unwanted Referring Domains: Exclude domains like payment gateways from conversion analysis to avoid data skewing.

5. Adopt Last-Click Attribution: Switch to last-click attribution to align more closely with traditional affiliate tracking models.

Important Differences and Their Effects

Session Attribution: GA4 attributes sessions to the first click source, while conversions depend on the chosen attribution model.

Tracking Adjustments: The transition to GA4 requires adjustments in tracking methodologies to mitigate discrepancies and improve data accuracy.


The transition to GA4 has brought significant changes to affiliate marketing. New attribution models and event-based tracking necessitate strategic adjustments to ensure accurate data and conversion attribution. By implementing standardized UTM parameters, synchronizing tags, and introducing custom dimensions, marketers can mitigate the impact of these changes. These strategies help maintain accurate data and optimize the effectiveness of affiliate marketing campaigns during the GA4 transition.

For more detailed insights and recommendations, check out the full articles from Rakuten Advertising, Tradedoubler, Awin, CJ Affiliate, TradeTracker and Kwanko.

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