“The harder it is to measure something, the more valuable that information is to your organization.”
I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the sentiment presented by Northwestern Professor Rachel Davis Mersey during this week’s discussion of audience segmentation on Northwestern’s ongoing Content Strategy MOOC.
Amazingly, with Google Analytics’ recent demographic improvements, this more challenging, more detailed information is easier than ever to view. The challenge is more in implementation. Here’s how to set it up.
Google Analytics Demographics
Prior to the inclusion of Demographics, Google Analytics was great for traffic source data, visitor behavior, and general site performance. But personal details about visitors skewed towards technical details like browser type, mobile device, or network domain.
The most personal bit of data came in the form of geography, with Google Analytics telling you exactly where on earth your site visitors were coming from. I suppose with this, if you really wanted, you could reverse-stalk your way to a general understanding of your visitors’ location.
According to Google, the Demographics & Interests Report unveils the following:
- Overview (overview of traffic by age and gender)
- Age (traffic by age ranges)
- Gender (traffic by gender)
- Overview (overview of traffic by affinity and other categories)
- Affinity Categories (behavior by affinity categories)
- In-Market Categories (behavior by in-market categories)
- Other Categories (behavior by other interest categories)
This is the biggest development in understanding your online customer or blog visitor since Saving Private Ryan.
How To Implement Demographics and Interests Reports
Ok, ok, before I geek out some more over the incredible depth of persona-building this information allows, let’s discuss how to implement.
Unlike most Google Analytics’ segments, you actually have to alter your code slightly to see demographics data. Google has some decent material on making these modifications, but in several cases it can get confusing.
In particular, if you’re using Yoast’s Google Analytics for WordPress, it can be unclear how you add these suggested display network modifications.
Fortunately, this Video from Justin McClelland makes it very easy.
100% of the credit to Justin on the quick solution there. After several hours trying various complicated coding workarounds and one system of pulleys and levers, I implemented Justin’s technique and had results in under 12 hours.
And again, if you’re just straight hard-coding these changes yourself, you’ll want to use this easy to follow Google guide.
Using Demographics Data in Google Analytics
For the average human, seeing Google get their Big Brother on like this is somewhere between creepy and dastardly. But for the marketer, it’s an amazing opportunity to understand your online customer in a way you couldn’t before.
As you’d expect, Gender and Age estimates from Google are straight forward. In two days of data, my comic book blog has seen the vast majority of traffic from males between the age of 25-34. Or, in other words, exactly who you’d expect.
It’s not until you start looking at the affinity and interests segments that this information gets crazy useful.
For example, from the aforementioned comic book blog, check out Google’s two-day breakdown of visitor characteristics:
A couple thoughts here:
1) It’s cool to see how spot on this information is. Of course my loyal legions are die hard comic book fans and would enjoy superhero films and video games.
2) There are a couple interests that I immediately recognize as missed opportunities on my site right now. The first is online video, of which I have very little. If I know that my target visitor is frequently interested in this type of material, maybe that’s something to consider a lot more seriously in my future content. And second, I never talk about roleplaying games. I’m not even sure if that’s not a sex thing. Could be a good type of content to have another writer provide on the site.
In short, this is one of the cooler things to happen to Google Analytics in my time as a professional dweeb. It can help with everything from ad targeting to persona creation. Google even has some useful ideas for how to use this data themselves.
So go ahead and implement and let’s hear what you think – how do you plan to use this data?