Sep 24, 2015

How to Identify Your Audience in Google Analytics

One of the developing features of Google Analytics is its ability to examine the browsing behaviour of users and identify their age range and gender. This tool, known as Demographics and User Information, means that you can find out more about the people who visit your site, and you can make tweaks accordingly.

The difference between the type of customer that comes into your physical store and the type of customer that buys from you online can be profound. For example, your knitwear store may be presented in a style that matches the female 65+ demographic, but your website stats show that 75% of all new visitors are, in fact, males in the 25-34 age range.

What are the limitations?

If your website is only receiving a low number of sessions (which, if you’re a small-medium business in Australia, is very likely), there might not be enough data to apply to your audience. Google Analytics has its own thresholds which are specific to each site, but essentially, if you receive 1000 visits and only 40 of those were from men, Google will withhold the gender data so as not to allow identification of the individuals.

Further, most demographic information is only applicable to a certain percentage (in our experience, about 50%) of your total user base. When the numbers are high enough (and this is up to you to decide), you can extrapolate out the information you have to the rest of your user base. For example, if your site had 2000 sessions, Google Analytics would only be presenting data for 1000 sessions – but we could be fairly safe to say that if those 50% were mostly women between 25-54 years, then the other 50% are as well.

How does it work?

Firstly, you have to enable Advertising Features within the property, and Demographics and Interests Reports within the view. You also need to insert an extra line of code in your Google Analytics (Universal) tracking code. This alerts Google Analytics to the fact that you want them to report on demographics and interests.

The demographics information is collected by Google using a combination of their advertising network and information shared on social networking sites or Google profiles. With the Google Display Network, a user’s browser will store cookies from the sites they’ve visited. The browser is then assigned a number that identifies it as a particular age range, gender, having specific interests, etc. But this is assigned to the browser itself, not the user per se. Thus, shared computers (like family PCs) will likely present as somewhat unusual in its demographics. But Google can also refine this information based on social networks (for example, if you’re logged into Facebook) or your Google account itself, which both request age and gender details on sign-up.

How to set up Google Analytics Demographics

N.B. You must be using Universal Analytics

1. Log in to your Google Analytics account

2. Navigate to your site

3. Click Admin

4. Under Property > Tracking Info > Data Collection, find the Advertising Reporting Features toggle and turn to On.

Google Analytics Advertising Report Features - On

5. Click Save

6. Under Property > Property Settings, find the Enable Demographics and Interest Reports toggle and turn it to On.

Google Analytics Enable Demographics and Interest Reports
7. Click Save

You will need to add a line of code to your Analtyics tracking code (in your header).

8. Add the bolded line of code:
ga('create', 'UA-XXXXXX-X', 'auto');
ga(‘require’, ‘displayfeatures’);
ga('send', 'pageview')

9. Upload your code

10. In Google Analytics, go to Reporting > Audience > Demographics > Overview

11. Under Demographics and Interest Reports, click Enable.

Google Analytics Enable Reporting

You’ll receive a message saying Congratulations! You have successfully enabled the Demographic Reports:

Google Analytics Demographics Reports Enabled
Allow for at least 24 hours for the data to start being collected.

How to view demographic data

In Google Analytics, navigate to Audience > Demographics > Overview. You’ll see a bar chart showing the age ranges and a pie graph showing the gender split of your users. One important bit to note is the text in the top right of each graph which shows what percentage of the total sessions the data represents.

Google Analytics Demographics Overview

You can delve deeper into the data by examining each element separately. Clicking the Age or Gender items displays a table that demonstrates the number of sessions, bounce rate, session duration, and conversion rate for each age group or gender.

You can also segment the data further and really focus your research. Using the device segment and secondary dimensions, you can see how many women between the ages of 35-44 visited your site on a mobile.

Step 1. Select your segment

Google Analytics Segment the Data

Step 2. Apply a secondary dimension

Set your secondary dimension
Step 3. Identify your audience

Identify your audience

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