Using Google Analytics To Build Your Audience

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An article containing Google Analytics in the title looks intimidating, I know. One that boldly states Google Analytics personas looks even scarier. But bear with me for a second here. What if I told you that you could use data you already have about your website visitors to create your customer avatars?

In the next 2,000 words (or so), I’m going to show you how Google Analytics can help identify your ideal customers and build your perfect audience.

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First, we’ll have a look at what customer avatars are and why they are so important for any business niche strategy, then we’ll focus on what information you’d need to have to start building yours. Finally, we’ll show you how to find this information in your Google Analytics account and create the perfect Google Analytics personas.

What is a Buyer Persona & Why You Must Have It

  1. One of the many benefits of using Google Analytics is it provides a detailed overview of your website’s ‘Audience.’ On the ‘ Reporting ’ section of the platform, imaged on the right, it provides insights for direction as to who you should be focusing on, where, and how for your marketing efforts to further understand your best online customers.
  2. Google Analytics is one of the most used and trusted platforms on the Internet. It can provide you with a wide range of data to help you understand your audience. It’s through this understanding that can then help you develop strategies to succeed.

As a marketer, you know all too well how important it is to build personas. You can call them customer avatars or buyer personas (and we will, in this article) but it won’t change what they are. They are fictional representations of our ideal customers and their main purpose is to segment your audience into buckets.

Having them handy will help to inform of how to direct your marketing initiatives. And when I say all, I mean – literally – all of them. Selling a product does not only involveswhat you are offering but also – and perhaps, more importantly – who you are offering it to.

Most marketing focuses on the product itself, its features and benefits. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll need that along the way. But what is essential when you get started to build your brand story is to understand who your ideal customers are and make them the center of all your communication efforts.

Making your customer the hero of your brand story has many benefits, including the fact that when you’re writing it, you will be telling their story. It will stop being just a description of something you are selling but it will resonate with them and ellicit an emotional connection. When the connection is made, action will follow.

You Need Avatars, Like, Right Now

Marketing is all about communication, right? Every piece of content that will come from your brand will be impacted by your knowledge of your audience. Not convinced yet? Here is a list of the essential assets you’re going to write to market your product and – guess what? – all of that will change according to the audience who will receive it.

Using Google Analytics To Build Your Audience Insights

  • Blog posts, videos and podcasts. When choosing the topics of your blog posts, videos, and podcasts, you’re looking for something that can interest, excite and engage your audience. If your content doesn’t resonate, chances are your potential customers will move over.
  • Social Media. Content is out there, on the internet. That’s not enough, sadly. You need to find your audience and that involves finding out which channel they are mainly on. But also when and how frequently you should post on social to engage with them.
  • Advertising. It’s not only about targeting, I know. But once you’ve identified the channels your potential customers hang out, targeting them will let you find them and, in the long run, avoid you wasting money with paid traffic.
  • Lead Magnets. Yay! Your potential customer is excited about your product or services. Now they get to your landing page and are ready to take the next step and leave you their contacts… but only if it’s relevant to them!
  • Email marketing segmentation. Although you cannot foresee which campaigns will get you the most opens and clicks, you can certainly identify which segments of your audience are likely to be more responsive to a specific email campaign depending on their needs.
  • Your (next) product. When you are aware of the needs your product is able to solve, you can go further the line and tackle these needs more in-depth. You’ll be able to direct your product development into solving real pain points and get even more of your ideal customers to convert.
  • Any content you write. Which one? You name it! Is it an email or the text in your product description page? In all cases, you’re aiming at solving a need, knowing your potential customers will help you here.

New Product, New Avatar

Each time you have a new product, you absolutely need to create a new avatar. That is because, ultimately, if you want to sell your product, you need to reach the right person with the right message. And that’s what having a detailed view of your ideal customers’ needs, pain points and what they are trying to accomplish means.

It may be universally acknowledged that the same product can be marketed to different segments because it can answer different needs. However, you’ll need to identify those needs and address them differently depending on your marketing segments. And that’s where customer avatars come into play.

So here you are, with your shiny new product. What kind of information do you need to start marketing it to the right people in the right way?

What Information You Need to Build Your Buyer Personas

Using Google Analytics To Build Your Audience Call

Tons of digital ink have been used so far to detail which information you need when you build your buyer personas. Ultimately, you are best equipped to decide what is relevant for your business and niche – but in this section, we’ll see a number of suggestions on what to include when building your avatars.

But first, spoiler! Very likely, you won’t have all the information you need in one go. Don’t worry – and don’t let it stop you. There are several ways of getting to know your customers, via interviews, surveys, and by analyzing data you already have (one way to do it is to create Google Analytics personas, we’ll get there). With time, you’ll learn more and more about your ideal customers using all the above methods.

But you have to start somewhere. And here it is.

  • Demographic information. Start with age, gender, and location but also try and include more detailed information such as their level of education, job description, income, whether or not they are married and/or with children.
  • Online presence. Identify in which channels your potential customers hang out – this is where you need to be too.
  • Beliefs, values, and interests. What are your ideal customers passionate about? What are their hobbies, and interests – both at work and in their free time?
  • Goals, challenges, and pain points. This is where it gets crucial. What are your prospective users trying to achieve and which are the pain points your product or service can help solve?
  • Decision making and objections. Are your ideal customers taking the purchase decision or do they need to convince somebody else? In both cases, which objections they (or their boss) would need to overcome?

How to Build Your Google Analytics Personas

So far, we have seen what buyer personas are, why you need them (now!) and what to include when creating them. Where to find this information, then? Below, we’ll see how to create Google Analytics personas and use the data you already have on Google Analytics. This will kick-start your research, allowing you to get familiar with the audience that is already visiting your website and compile your customer avatar sheet in no time at all.

A couple of thoughts before we get started.

In order to create your Google Analytics personas, you’ll need to have clean data. This means that you’d need to exclude some IP addresses (for example your own and your office’s) to be able to see only relevant data.

Depending on how much traffic you have on your website, you may need to have 6 up to 12 months’ worth of data. This will ensure you have enough time for your results to be relevant and have more confidence in the Google Analytics personas you are about to build.

Finally, this is where it gets a bit technical. Don’t fret, though. Google Analytics can be used to a certain degree even if you don’t have great confidence in data analysis. However, you can boost the quality of the information you are getting with Google Analytics if you learn the basics of how to use it.

Google Analytics Personas #1 – Demographic Information: Audience Report

The first step to creating your Google Analytics personas is starting with the Audience report. This is located under Audience > Overview. This report will only give you high-level data, so this is a good place to start but don’t stop here. At the Audience report level, you’ll be able to see an overview of users, sessions, demographics, languages, and devices.

To get more specific about age and gender, go under Audience > Demographics > Overview. This will give you more insights on which is the best performing age range and gender among your website visitors, but if you want to have in-depth data on those metrics and be able to combine them with other, you have the option to select Age or Gender in the sub-menu on the left-hand side of the page.

Next is finding out where your website visitors are located. You’ll find this information under Audience > Geo > Location. You’ll be able to select the Map overlap or to use the explorer. If you use the second option, you’ll be able to combine location and other demographic information, such as age or gender. Under Geo, you’ll also find Language, this can be useful to you if you need to understand which markets to target.

Google Analytics Personas #2 – Online Presence: Source/Medium & Devices

Using google analytics to build your audience support

The second step into creating your Google Analytics personas is to find where your audience goes to get the information they need when they are online. A great place to find this information is to see where they land from when they get to your website pages.

The Source/Medium report can be used with many different goals in mind. Google defines Source as “the origin of your traffic, such as a search engine (for example, google) or a domain (example.com) while Medium as the general category of the source, for example, organic search (organic), cost-per-click paid search (cpc), web referral (referral).

In this case, we’ll use it to understand which source and medium get the most traffic in order to understand if you are on the right channels and if your social presence is giving you the expected results. Based on the results of this report, you can decide to focus on one or more specific channels.

Another report that will help you create your Google Analytics personas is the Devices report. Here you’ll see which device your visitors are using to access your website. This report can be found under Audience > Mobile > Overview. Here you can combine the results of the device data with other demographics data – i.e. age – to find out additional information about who they access your website.

Google Analytics Personas #3 – Beliefs, Values, and Interests: Interests report & Affinity

The next step to create your Google Analytics personas is to dive into your website visitors’ beliefs, values, and interests. All of this can be found in two different reports: the Interests report and the Affinity report. While these reports can be useful on their own, you’ll unleash their full potential if you combine them with other demographics: feel free to add a secondary dimension and combine them to find the information you are looking for.

In order to be able to see the Interests reports, you’ll first need to enable Advertising Reporting features for your Google Analytics account. This can be done in a few clicks on your Admin page. This will allow Analytics to collect additional information from the DoubleClick cookie (web activity) and from Device Advertising IDs (app activity).

Pro Tip: even if you don’t plan on running ads on Google just yet, make sure to have your ad account setup. Once you start, you’ll get additional information if you do.

Once you have enabled these features, navigate to Audience > Interests > Overview. This report will give you information about all your website visitors’ interests at a glance.

If you want your Google Analytics personas to be even more detailed, you can plunge into the specific reports on this section. First, there’s the Affinity (reach) report. This report will inform you of which other markets you can expand to which are similar to the ones of your website visitors. It can be found under Audience > Interests > Affinity.

Google Analytics Personas #4 – Goals, Challenges, and Pain Points: Search Console Queries

Following in your Google Analytics persona creation is to define the goals, challenges and pain points of your website visitors. This can be found by investigating what they search before they land on your website. You’ll be able to do just that and identify which pages (aka content) and keywords (aka pain points) rank higher in searches.

In order to do that, you’ll first need to enable the Search console integration. The first time you access it, your page will likely look like that:

Just follow the procedure and you’ll be able to identify both keywords and pages that are getting the most CRT on your website.

Google Analytics Personas #5 – Decision Making And Objections: In-market & Other Categories Reports

The final step to create your Google Analytics personas is to define at which step of the purchase decision your visitors are and which objections you’d need to overcome to facilitate it. You’ll be able to find product-purchase interests in the In-market report and get even more specific using the Other categories report. You’ll find both reports under Audience > Interests > In-market segments and Other categories.

The In-market segment report will help you identify what your website visitors are looking for in terms of product and services. You can combine this information with other demographics categories so as to find out purchase intent based on age, gender or location.

The Other categories report, on the other hand, goes even more in-depth into analyzing which categories people visiting your website are interested in.

Google Analytics Personas Bonus – Segmentation

All the reports described above will help you create your Google Analytics personas and fill in your buyer persona sheets so as to identify the key segments of your audience and market them in the right way.

Once you have identified them, you can use another feature of Google Analytics to go further in your data analysis. Segmentation will help you creating subgroups of your general audience with specific characteristics. The benefits of having multiple segments of your audience include analyzing if the marketing initiatives targeted at those specific segments are getting the results you were expecting and will allow you to adjust them in case they’re underperforming.

Another (big!) benefit of segmenting your audience is that you’ll be able to remarket that specific audience in Google Ads campaigns. This may not be an immediate need for you (yet) but once you get started with CPC campaigns, you’ll thank me.

In this article, we’ve covered the Google Analytics reports you can use to create Google Analytics personas and identify the customer avatars for your business. If this article helped you, feel free to share your buyer personas in the comments below!

If you’re not familiar with Google Analytics, it can be a little daunting at first. With so much data available to dig through, it’s hard to know where to look to find the most important metrics.

Marketers that want to better understand their audience, and strengthen their marketing strategy, need to know how to best utilize all of the data available inside Google Analytics.

Without knowing which sections to pay attention to, you could spend hours digging through the platform and walk away with your head spinning.

Similarly, without analyzing your website traffic, it’s hard to assess the effectiveness of your current marketing strategy and know when it’s time to make a shift.

If leveraged correctly, Google Analytics can provide valuable insight into who visits your website, how they got there in the first place and what pages they spend the most time on; this is powerful data for marketers that can be used to enhance their strategy.

An Overview

Google Analytics is a powerful tool for brands, bloggers or businesses alike. Through use of Google Analytics, you can uncover a tremendous amount of data about your website that can be used to enhance your marketing and business development strategies.

The back end of Google Analytics is broken down into eight main sections: Dashboards, Shortcuts, Intelligence Events, Real-Time, Audience, Acquisition, Behavior and Conversions.

Almost all eight sections contain sub-sections that provide a ton of data, but not all sections are critical for marketers to pay attention to.

Before we dive in to the sections that matter most to marketers, let’s get familiar with some basic Google Analytics terminology:

  • Users: These are people who have visited at least once within your selected date range, and includes both new and returning visitors.
  • Dimensions: These are descriptive characteristics of an object. For example, browser, exit page and session duration are all considered dimensions.
  • Metrics: These are individual statistics of a dimension, such as Average Session Duration or Screenviews.
  • Bounce Rate: This is the percentage of single-page visits, meaning that someone left your site from the same page at which they entered; aka, they didn’t interact with your site.
  • Sessions: A session is the period of time that a user is actively engaged with your website.

Now that you’re familiar with the Google Analytics sections and terminology, let’s dive in to the areas that you want to pay most attention to in order to save time and strengthen your marketing strategy.

Zeroing in on what matters most

There are three sections that matter most to marketers: Acquisition, Audience and Behavior.

The Audience section provides a tremendous amount of data about your website visitors. It contains multiple subsections that provide information about the gender, age and location of your website visitors. You can also uncover information about their interests, as well as the browsers and mobile devices used to access your site.

The Acquisition section will provide detailed information about how people arrive to your site. Digging in to the “All Traffic” tab will show you exactly how people are arriving at your website – whether it be a search engine, social media site or blog that you’re a contributor for.

The Behavior section helps you understand how people are interacting with your site. You’ll visit this section to better understand which pages on your website are the most popular.

Focusing on these three sections will help you save time when digging through Google Analytics.

When used together, the information uncovered can help you make decisions about which marketing efforts (be it guest blogging or social media posting,) are most useful in driving website traffic.

Analyzing these sections within Google Analytics will provide you with insight that will enable you to make smarketing (smart, marketing) decisions about the type, tone, and placement of content that you use on your website.

Traffic Channels

Before we dive into who exactly is visiting your site, it’s important to understand how they’re getting there.

To see your various traffic sources for a set period of time, go to the Acquisition tab and click the “All Traffic” dropdown. Select the “Channels” button, set the time period at the top of the viewing pane and scroll down to see the results for the give timeframe.

Here’s a simple breakdown of what these different channels mean:

  • Direct: Visitors that came directly to your website. They either typed your URL right into their browser, clicked on a bookmark or clicked a link in an email. Direct traffic is a strong indicator of the strength of your brand.
  • Organic Search: You can thank search engines like Google and Bing for these website visitors. An organic visitor is someone who got to your website by clicking on a link from a search engine results page. A lot of organic traffic is a strong indicator of the value of your content and SEO strategy.
  • Paid Search: You’ll find any paid search (think Google AdWords) campaigns in this viewing pane. A lot of paid search traffic means that you’re Google AdWords are working well.
  • Referral: This represents visitors that clicked a link on another site to land on your website. Years ago, before social media was what it is today, all other traffic (that wasn’t direct or organic) fell under the referral tab. Within the past few years, Google created a separate tab for social traffic, which makes it easy for marketers to focus in on just the websites that are driving traffic to their site. If you guest blog, this is the section to visit to see how much traffic is being driven to your site from your guest blogging efforts. A lot of referral traffic means that you’re being talked about (and linked to) from multiple other websites.
  • Social: As a social media marketer, this is my favorite section within Google Analytics because it shows me exactly what social media channels drive the majority of traffic to my site. This data can be used to shape your social media strategy.
  • Email: The number of visitors that came to your website from an email campaign. If you do a lot of email marketing, you’ll want to dig through here to see how effective your campaigns are.

Lg smart tv connect mobile device. Looking at the traffic channels will allow you to see which channel is the largest driver of traffic to your site. You’ll notice that the Channels are listed in order of driving power; the Channel at the top is the one that drives the majority of site traffic.

To dig deeper into the data, click each Channel to see more information.

Using Google Analytics To Build Your Audience Without

For example, when I click Social, I can see the entire list of social media sites (again, listed in order of most to least powerful) that drove traffic to my website during the selected timeframe.

Analyzing the power of different channels will help you decide which efforts to focus on, and potentially spark ideas to increase traffic from other channel types.

Here are a few ideas to increase traffic across all channel types:

  • Direct: Share the link to your website with friends and family the next time you’re with them. Tell them to type it directly into their browser and voila! You just got a nice direct traffic boost.
  • Organic Search: Make sure that you’re utilizing H1 and H2 tags, meta descriptions and keywords in all of your website pages and content updates. The stronger your SEO, the greater likelihood that someone will find you on a search engine.
  • Paid Search: Try adjusting your keywords and/or targeting options to make your ads more relevant.
  • Referral: Start reaching out to popular blogs and forums in your industry to see if you can guest post or perhaps be featured on their site. Contributing content to other sites is a great way to increase your referral traffic.
  • Social: Increasing the frequency of your posting, and the number of links you share on social media will undoubtedly result in a boost of social traffic. I recommend increasing your efforts on one channel at a time to see what drives the largest impact. For example, make February your Twitter month; aim to tweet a lot of links that drive back to your website and at the end of the month, analyze the website traffic. Then, come March, turn that attention over to Facebook and see which social channel drove more traffic.
  • Email: Start including more calls to action and links in your email campaigns. Make sure that your calls to action stand out in your email templates and serve to drive people back to your website.

Once you’ve implemented some of these ideas, take the time to review the Channels breakdown again to see the impact of your efforts.

If your efforts to grow traffic from one channel go unnoticed in your analytics, try a different one!

For example, let’s say you have a ton of referral traffic and very little organic traffic. If your attempts to improve SEO and grow organic traffic have little impact, it’s probably not worth the effort. You’re better off continuing to guest blog, as it’s proven to be a critical marketing activity that is worth your time and effort.

Audience Demographics

Understanding who is visiting your site in terms of their age, location and gender is the best way to tailor your site to suit their interests and preferences.

If you want your website content and imagery to appease and resonate with your audience, you need to know who they are.

To find this information, head over to the Audience tab. You’ll want to focus on the sub-sections of Demographics and Geo.

First, let’s look at the Demographics of Age and Gender.

As you can see, the majority of my website visitors are aged 25-34, followed by those aged 35-44.

Knowing this, I aim to create content that is geared towards, and valued by, young professionals. Some examples are tips for professional development and advice for managers leading a team of employees.

Understanding how old your website visitors are, and whether they’re male or female, is helpful if you’re looking to capture their attention when they land on your site.

For example, if 90% of your website visitors are women, you could deliver a more personalized website experience for them by starting your “About” or “Welcome” page with “Hey ladies!”

Through analyzing the Gender section, I can see that the majority of my site visitors are female. It’s not skewed too heavily though, so I don’t want to tailor my site to females only. That’s why I’ve chosen my website colors to be black, white and green; I wanted to create a sleek and clean aesthetic that would be appealing to both men and women.

Digging in to the age and gender of your website visitors is useful if you want to craft creative content for your blog posts and website pages that captures their attention and gains their trust.

For example, telling your fans to “Treat yo self” to a free guide on your website isn’t going to resonate with individuals in their 60’s. However, it WILL get a chuckle from millennials.

Finally, you want to look to see where your website visitors are from. Looking at the Location tab under the “Geo” dropdown will show you the countries, states and cities of your website audience.

When you first click “Location” you’ll be shown the list of countries. Not surprisingly, the majority of my website visitors are from the United States.

Using Google Analytics To Build Your Audience Work

Looking at the different states is a great way to gain insight that can be levered for any AdWords or paid Facebook campaigns you’re going to run. You want to target those states and cities that you see are frequenting your site.

I can see that New York dominates the results by a large margin. That’s not surprising since I live there and the majority of my mentors, friends and family live in New York as well.

Clicking on the individual states will bring you to the list of cities, within that state, that your website visitors come from.

Since I currently live in Buffalo, I’m not surprised to see Buffalo and other Western New York cities at the top of the list. I also see New York City, which is expected since that is where the majority of my friends and family reside.

If you don’t see your city as the top city, you might want to consider shifting your marketing strategy, and content, to target those in your geographic area.

Content Drilldown

Last but not least, it’s important to dive in to the content to see which pages people spend the most and least time on.

To do this, click the Behavior tab and go to the Site Content drop-down. You’ll want to look at the Content Drilldown, as well as Landing and Exit Pages to see which pages are most viewed on your website.

Content Drilldown is the overview of which pages on your website are visited the most.

Seeing which pages, and blog posts, are most viewed by your audience is helpful in guiding your web development strategy; you want to create more of what works.

Using Google Analytics To Build Your Audience Service

Through analysis, I can see that my homepage and services page are the most popular. I can also see that the page on my site that has all of my marketing blogs is more popular that the blog page itself, which shows me that my audience values marketing content.

Now, you want to head over to the Landing Pages view in order to see what pages people are landing on when they get to your site.

The Landing Pages view is a good indicator of the effectiveness of your social media and promotional strategy, as you hope to see the blogs and website pages promoted most at the top.

For me, that would be my homepage, services page, free social media guide page and Bravery Beats blog post. Those pages are the ones that I promote the most, as they provide the most value and information that I find relevant for my audience.

It’s important to me to see my free social media guide at the top of the landing page list, as this page is a free giveaway that I’m using in part to provide value, and in part to build my email list.

Analyzing the traffic of this page is a good way for me to assess both the value and popularity of the giveaway.

If you don’t see your most important and/or promoted blog posts and website pages in the list of the top ten landing pages, it’s time to either reevaluate their value and/or your promotional strategy to ensure you’re driving traffic to those pages through social media and email marketing campaigns.

Spending time in the behavior section will allow you to develop an awareness of what content your website visitors find the most valuable. You can use this as a guide for what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to blog topics and page types.

For example, if you notice that the top visited pages are all blog posts about social media, yet none of your design blogs are ranking in the top, you want to spend more time blogging about social than you do about design.

Conclusion

Google Analytics is an incredibly powerful tool.

By paying attention to the demographics of your audience, you’ll be able to create content and imagery that you know your audience desires. This allows you to craft a customized and relevant site experience for your audience that will keep them coming back for more. (Thereby increasing your direct traffic!)

When you start monitoring your referral traffic, you’ll start to see which guest blogs are helping to increase your online visibility. This will help you save time by focusing only on the guest blogs that provide a return (in the form of website visits) on your content creation efforts. Similarly, by diving in to your social referrals, you’ll be armed with data to decide exactly which social media channels are the best to share your blog posts on.

By utilizing, analyzing, and focusing on these various sections within Google Analytics, you’ll have a deep understanding of who your audience is, what they want and how they find you.

About the Author: Julia Jornsay-Silverberg is a social media marketing consultant and coach with a passion for helping small businesses use social media to build brand awareness and connect with customers. Check out her free guide, “Socially Strategic” to help you get started strategically on social media. You can also find her on Twitter and Periscope.