Getting to know the inner workings of your users is something that every marketeer has dreamt of for a very long time. Even though Google Analytics doesn’t necessarily tell the future it can at least help you understand some of it. And one of the thing Google Analytics can help you get a better understanding of is your site’s most valuable asset; your visitors.
Within the Audience section in Google Analytics there are two subsets of data we are going to have a closer look at today, to get a better understanding of where the data in the demographics and interest reports come from, and how we can use it to our advantage.
But first we need to understand where this data come from, because the demographic data is not collected via ga.js or analytics.js, which are the libraries used to send data from your site to Google Analytics using the Classic or Universal approach, respectively.
So, where does the demographic data come from?
For web traffic, the data for demographics and interest derives from Google’s DoubleClick Network, or rather its cookie. When it comes to tracking mobile users, GA is using anonymous identifiers found in the phones, such as IDFA for iOS or the Advertising ID for Android enabled devices.
And in order to start collecting this data, you have to Enable Demographics Reports in Google Analytics, which is beyond the scope of this article. You basically just have to change the tracking code used on your pages to use a DoubleClick tracker instead of the GA dito, but once you enable the reports you’ll get all the information you need.
This is how Google says that they are determining its demographics data.
When someone visits a website that has partnered with the Google Display Network, Google stores a number in their browsers (using a “cookie”) to remember their visits. This number uniquely identifies a web browser on a specific computer, not a specific person. Browsers may be associated with a demographic category, such as gender, age range, or parental status, based on the sites that were visited.
In addition, some sites might provide us with demographic information that people share on certain websites, such as social networking sites. We may also use demographics derived from Google profiles.
If you’re using GTM, it is a walk in the park since all you have to is to check a box in the Tag. But don’t forget that you probably need to update your Terms of Service if you opt in to use Google Analytics Advertising Features.
What data will be available to you?
Opening up for this dataset you will start getting five pre-defined dimensions in Google Analytics populated with data.
- Age – will groups users into six sections; 18-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64 and 65+
- Gender – Pretty straight forward; it will identify users are male or female
- Affinity Categories – A broad identifier that groups users based on lifestyle to give you an understanding of how to reach potential customers and make them aware of your brand.
- In-Market Segments – This will group users based what the users are in market to buy.
- Other Categories – The name tell us that this is a bucket of users we can’t really define, which is very far from the truth. This category can provide a very granular and detailed view of your users.
Google Analytics Demographics Standard Reports
If you navigate to Audience -> Demographics you will be presented with the Demographics Overview that will show you the percentage of sessions (default) on your site during the selected time frame grouped by Age Group and Gender.
This quick glance shows us that last month, almost 80% of my users to this site was between the age 25-44 and that ~80% was male. We haven’t even begun diving into the data yet, but I’m already starting to learn something about my visitors.
I must admit that I’m not surprised about the age grouping, but somewhat surprised about the gender differences. Apparently, there are way to few women working with Google Tag Manager. Well, at least looking at my own subset of small data :)
You can change the key metric above, and look at these instead in order to see if you can make any conclusions; % New Sessions, Avg. Session Duration, Bounce Rate or Pages per Session.
Do users between the age 25-34 consume more content than users between 45-54? Any differences based on gender?
This standard report will give you the ABC (Acquisition, Behaviour, Conversions) broken down by the age groups defined by Google Analytics. It will also give you the possibility to drill down into each specific age group looking at gender and the broken down more by interest.
This can be very valuable data to those that create the content for your site, wether it’d be you or an entire team of content writers elsewhere. By starting to understand if you have more male than female readers, and if they are young of age or been around for a while, you can tailor not only the content but also the complete experience based on that.
The Gender Report (that sounds like a movie, by the way) takes the same subset of data but gives you a gender centric view of your visitors instead. You will have the possibility to drill down on one specific gender and then look at age groups instead. And just as with the Age Report, you can drill down even further looking at Other Categories/Interest.
This is a dimension I would use when I need to know how different genders navigate on the site in general, and probably in specific sections in particular.
What do male users on my site digg, since it’s an e-commerce selling cosmetics for women?
It’s all about finding the right question, and let the data answer your question. Let’s take the question above as an example. If I have an e-commerce site that sells cosmetics for women, what do male users consume on that site? That will probably help me understand what are the most common products guys are buying for their wives/girlfriends.
Can we build upon that knowledge?
The Interest Categories
This is where the really interesting part begins. And these things are not new at all, it’s dated back to 2013. Yet I run across numerous accounts every month that still hasn’t implemented the changed tracking code in order to collect these kind of intelligence.
The affinity categories will give you a broad overview over the general lifestyle based on the visitors visits to other sites. As seen on the screenshot above you’ll note that most of my visitors are categorized as Technophiles (people into tech, duh!) and then a lot of TV and Movie lovers. It seems like people that visit this site tend to watch a lot of movies as well. Good to know if I ever wanted to catch you attention with an ad somewhere, right?
Worth noticing here is that a single session can be attributed to more than one interest category, which is pretty obvious looking at the 1,448 sessions above distributed over at least 4,822 categories (only top 5). This means that a Technophile can also be a Shutterbug and a Business Professional.
This report will give you an overview over what your visitors are in market to buy or what they usually buy. Google themselves defines it as “In-Market Segments identifies users in terms of their product-purchase interests”.
Their browser behaviour will show you what kind of products or services they are inclined to buy. As seen from my figures I can see that my visitors (you guys) are in for business relates services mostly, ranging from web design, development, marketing and also SEO & SEM Services.
Knowing that many visitors that come here are interested in Google Analytics and/or Google Tag Manager, that makes sense to me.
I could almost have guessed this; but now I know.
At first glance it’s easy to look past this category, but in reality it is the most important one since it provides you with the most granular data of all the reports. It will allow you to segment users not found in the other categories, and is also the categories used in AdWords when you want to target specific users there.
This will show you what the visitor(s) usually consume on the web, and it will also take into consideration how often they read about it. Based on my data, I can – once again – see that that you guys read a lot about IT/Web Services/Design & Development. I could never have guessed! ;)
Worth noticing is that data is not available for every single user to your site, but only those that have opted in sharing their data with Google’s network. And if the segment is very small it might be removed due to a threshold not being met, in order to secure anonymity for your visitors.
Not it’s up to you to make sure that you are optimizing your site and content based on what you know about your visitors.