Making sense of Google Analytics audience data

When working in digital analytics, it's easy to talk about CTRs, CRO, CPAs and CPC, but one of the most important features of any marketing strategy is your audience. Understanding who is coming to your website, and whether that matches your target audience is vital in understanding how best to optimise your off and onsite marketing efforts.

Earlier this year, Google added Demographics and Interest reports to the Audience section of Google Analytics (GA). Now not only can you see how many people are visiting your site, but how old they are, whether they're male or female, what their interests are, and what they're in the market for.


Demographics data on GA is divided into age and gender. You are able to see what proportion of your visitors are male or female, and which age range they fit into. Google will only use top level data to reduce the risk of individuals being identified.

The age data is very colourful (if not a bit vulgar), but very useful. It breaks down the visitors into ages, which you can then see over a time range. This is good to use for things like discovering if a particular campaign has appealed to the certain age of audience.

For example, your latest campaign may be targeting females aged 25-34. For the first time you can now use Google Analytics see if this is driving the right people to your site.


The Interests menu is a bit more exciting. This is when we get down to the juicy stuff. Google Analytics has four main options for you within this menu. The Overview,  the Affinity Categories section, the In-Market Segments section, and the Other Categories section.

Firstly, the Affinity Categories section groups visitors into broad categories such as Technophiles, Movie Lovers and Shutterbugs. These are aimed at aiding brands select audiences to target as potential new customers. Google built them with TV ads in mind, so useful if you're thinking about running a TV ad, or if you're already running TV ads and looking to extend your online presence.

In-market segments indicate whether visitors to you site are actively researching to buy certain products, or whether they're looking around in another industry and just happen across your site. You can use this to see if they are actively in the market for your product. You can delve deeper into the In-market categories to segment further by dimensions such as age, browser and location. These markets are specific, and so Google may not categorise all visits into these groups.

The Other Categories section segments visitors into groups based on the sort of content they consume and how often. GA sorts this data based on a hierarchy, so it's possible that one visit will be counted multiple times. One visit will only be counted once, however in the total at the top.

Example: Other Categories

  • Internet & Telecom

  • Mobile & Wireless

  • Mobile phones


  • Internet & Telecom

  • Internet & Telecom/Mobile & Wireless

  • Internet & Telecom/ Mobile & Wireless/Mobile Phones

The demographic data available can be used to see which audiences visit your site most, which are the highest converting, or which can be best to target. For example, there may be a certain age range or interest group who have a high conversion rate, but a low proportion of visits. This insight can then be used to drive more traffic from this particular audience.

Data can be used to target Google Adwords, and optimise accounts to ensure ad spend is being spent on the most high-value audiences. It can also be used to drive content strategy towards high-value audiences and ensure you are getting the best possible return on your digital marketing efforts.

How does Google obtain this data?

One thing to take into consideration is how Google obtains this data. It's no secret that Google knows a lot about its users. To obtain audience information, Google uses data collected from the Google Display Network partner websites and cookies. The cookie drops a number into the browser whenever someone visits one of the partner sites. Browsers are then associated with a demographic category based on sites visited. Bear in mind though, that the number dropped by the cookie will identify the browser on the computer, not the person per se.

Since the data is from the Google Display Network, it is important to ensure you have changed the website's privacy policy to notify visitors you are using Google Adwords cookies.

Using audience data

Google Analytics audience data can be used in different ways to inform a variety of campaigns. Use it along with other data sources to gain a wider picture of your campaigns and online business.

It's important to know your audience in order to build campaigns and experiences that reach out to them, draw them in and connect them to your brand. Efforts in this area will ensure you can optimise your campaigns and ensure the best returns.

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