Using Demographics and Interests reports in Google Analytics

Want to find out how to build audiences based on visitor demographics and interests? Google Analytics is a great place to start.

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Nailing down exactly who is interested in your products and services is a huge challenge for businesses. While you may have a target demographic in mind, it could be that they aren’t actually your best customers. So, how can you utilise Google Analytics to ensure you are reaching the right customers, on the right platforms, via the right channels?

Before we get started…

It’s worth noting that Google Analytics Demographics and Interests reports are not able to provide data on all of your visitors. This can be for a number of reasons:

  • Data is collected by cookies, which are often blocked (by extensions like Ad Blocker), or deleted by users when they clear cookies
  • Google uses thresholds to ensure that individuals cannot be identified to ensure compliance with privacy laws
  • For large websites, Google will apply Data Sampling to deliver demographic data based on a sample set rather than all data in the account to ensure the report can be processed quickly

This will of course, to some extent, affect the accuracy of the data it collects. Bear this in mind, and if you can, collect user demographic data from a range of sources.

Setting up Google Analytics to get the Demographics and Interest reports

First things first. To be able to see the Demographics and Interests report, there are a few steps you have to complete.

What you’ll need:

  • A Google Ads account
  • Edit permissions in Google Analytics
  • To be able to update your website’s privacy policy

Step one

Login into Google Analytics, and navigate to the Audiences tab. On the drop-down, select ‘Demographics’. You will then be prompted to enable the report.

If successful, you’ll see a confirmation message informing you that data will be available shortly.

Step two

Navigate to the Admin area of Google Analytics, head to Properties, then Tracking Info > Data Collection.

Here, enable both features.

Step three

Now you’ll need to ensure that the privacy policy on your website informs users about the data that Google Analytics is collecting about them. This is super important – so make sure you complete this step!

What needs to be included can be found here.

Step four

Wait. There is no point in diving into this data immediately. It will take time to gather information about your website visitors, and making assumptions is exactly what we are trying to avoid doing!

What’s in these reports, then?

While you are waiting for the reports to populate with lots of lovely data, take this opportunity to ensure you understand all of the information so you can leverage it effectively.

Demographics

The Demographics report is all fairly self-explanatory.

This report allows you to see website visitors broken down by:

  • Age
  • Gender

demographic overview google analytics

Unless you are a business targeting a very specific demographic (i.e makeup for mature skin, in which case at a glance, you’d want to see over 45s, and women making up the majority of the graphs, and if you don’t there’s a problem), this data on it’s own is not particularly useful.

However, by adding one or the other as a secondary dimension, we can see more granular data that does add value.

gender and age demographic secondary dimension applied

In this example, at first glance you may think that women aged 55-64 are the best demographic to target. However, when we look at who converts best, it’s women aged 45-54. In fact, women aged 55-64 have a lower conversion rate than all other age/gender groups in the top 10 when sorting by number of visitors!

What can we learn from this?

While the majority of visitors are from women aged 55-64 group, we may need to refine the marketing strategy to drive more traffic from demographics that are more likely to convert.

This means:

  • Looking at the websites targeted to better converting gender/age groups, and using display advertising/editorial/advertorial to reach them (you can do this by creating an advanced segment in Google Analytics that includes only the target gender/age groups, and looking at the referral traffic report to find the sites already sending traffic, and use this information to look for similar sites)
  • Using the same advanced segments to look at user behaviour by gender/age groups across your site and seeing which pages drive the most engagement/conversions (these top performing pages can then be used as landing pages for paid search, especially remarketing)
  • Using Google Ads/social media ads to run campaigns to increase brand awareness among better converting gender/age groups
  • Reducing paid media spend on women aged 55-64 (i.e through reduced bid modifiers in Google Ads)
    Attending or running events that will appeal to better converting gender/age groups – if you’re contacted by a company wanting you to exhibit, make sure your key demographics will be in attendance

Interests reports

The Interests report can be used to build a picture of what else the people who are interested in your products and services do online. This report is broken down into three reports, which can be located in Audience > Interests.

interest report category overview all

  • Affinity Categories: This report shows general interests of users who have visited your site (i.e. hobbies and activities they enjoy), is very high in the funnel (the start of the purchase process), and is, therefore, best used for raising brand awareness
  • In-Market Segments: This is the next level of interest categories. This includes users who are showing purchase intent and so can be utilised to reach those who are in the consideration phase (for example, they may be narrowing down who they are ready to buy from)
  • Other Categories: This groups users based on what else they are browsing

Again, on its own, this data is far too broad to glean much useful. You may assume that the best interests to target are those looking at the in-market segment ‘Travel/Hotels & Accommodations’ and tailor your strategy to advertise on travel sites, and create a category on your blog covering popular holiday destinations. However, once we start applying demographic segments, that can all change.

What can we learn from this?

Using the advanced segment for the best converting demographic, ‘Women 45-54’ we can compare this to all users, and other demographics.

We can now see this demographic is more heavily weighted toward home decor and home improvements than all users, which may explain why they convert better than other demographics for this particular business.

But it’s important to not just look at this top-level data.

Let’s take a look at how the best converting demographic (women 45-54) compares with the demographic with the highest number of visitors (women 55-64) in the Affinity report categories:

From this, we can see the general interests of women from both age groups are similar, but that the younger audience is showing more purchasing power with conversion rates almost double across the board of the top Affinity categories.

So, while it’s worthwhile still investing in women aged 55-64, marketing spend could be adjusted accordingly (i.e. test pushing 25% more Google Ads budget toward women aged 45-54, and reducing by 25% for women aged 55-64) who show an interest in the top five shared Affinity categories to see how this impacts conversions.

This same principle can be applied to the other reports (In-market segments and Other categories), too.

Knowing this, you can begin to build a better understanding of the customers who are likely to purchase from your business, target them with more relevant content, and increase ROI.

Or can you?

Google itself declared that ‘Demographics are dead’ despite the fact that it still gives advertisers the option of using them for targeting.

Google is not really saying to do away with demographic targeting altogether. But it is saying to be smarter when it comes to being reliant on this information alone. Audiences are far more likely to convert when they show intent – rather than basing them on broad assumptions.

71% of people prefer to see adverts that are tailored to their personal interests and shopping habits

Source: https://www.adlucent.com/blog/2016/71-of-consumers-prefer-personalized-ads

To give you an example, as a woman in my 30s, I may be shown advertising from a shoe shop selling super glam high heels. Joke’s on you though, advertiser, even though I’m an Essex girl, I can’t walk in them and will, therefore, never buy them. I don’t care how nice they are. Result? Wasted ad spend.

Now, if they look at the In-Market segments in their Interests report, they would see there are a number of women, in their 30s like me, who have absolutely no interest in things like being Fashionistas or Beauty Mavens. And they’ll probably see that those who do show more of an interest in those things convert way better. With that in mind, they should focus the spend there, instead of broadly targeting women aged 25-34.

While not perfect, data in the Google Analytics Demographics and Interests reports can help you build audiences to be targeted with more tailored marketing messaging. Creating audiences of your most valuable customers based on their demographic and interests can be a great way to work out where best to focus spend and resources.

But don’t rush ahead and put all your eggs in one basket. Test which audience combinations work best for your business, and consider excluding those that don’t.

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