Using Google Analytics to find your best targeting groups

Two weeks ago, I offered the “Target and Bid” setting of the Google Display Network as a profitable way to utilize the Display Network. This week, I’ll follow that by showing you how to determine which of those Topics, Interest Categories, Age Groups, and more represent your most interested and highest converting visitors.  Before you’ll be able to determine which types of visitors convert best, you’ll need to have all of your GA  Goal Tracking in order.  If you aren’t tracking your websites desired goals, read through my Conversion Tracking posts (of which there are many) and come back!

If you are wondering how Google is able to segment visitors into demographics and interests, the short answer I can give you is they are able to attain a lot of information about web users through the use of cookies.  If you want a long answer, you are much better off digging into Google Support Pages.  You can learn all the basics about cookies at

If you sign into GA, you’ll notice that the “Audience” tab on the left hand side has gotten a lot beefier with more drop downs: these are the new targeting groups that GA has been upgraded to include (you’ll have to enable Demographics and Interest Reports if you haven’t already).  If you choose a group and set your date range for Jan 1 2014 – Today’s Date, you’ll notice one thing immediately: there is no data on targeting groups prior to March 17th.  This new feature of GA will only provide information from that date onward (unlike some other GA tools I’ve written about in the past, such as reviewing your GA Goal Flow, which will allow you to take a retroactive look at some information).

Demographics by age

No GA Age Demographic information available prior to March 17th

Such a small date range is going to limit the data’s usefulness for smaller businesses that don’t get more then a couple of hundred visitors to their site each day.  When reviewing your Demographic and Interests data, make sure that the sample size is statistically significant before letting it influence your marketing efforts!  If you don’t have enough visits, you might have to wait a few months to use these reports in a meaningful way.

There are many ways to compare how well these interests groups or demographics perform in GA and consequently which ones you want to target with advertising.  Let me share my favorite (and I believe the easiest) way to do so:

1) Choose an interest group or demographic you want to focus on

2) Choose a statistic that best reflects the goal you want your advertising campaign to accomplish.  If you are trying to send a massive amount of traffic to your site for branding purposes, you might choose a generic GA statistic like bounce rate or average visit duration.  If you want the Display Campaign to convert into a specific goal, choose that goal.

3) There are a few buttons next to the “Search Bar”, located on the right hand side below the graph, that will allow you to analyze the statistics through different graphs or tables.  Choose the “Comparison” button, highlighted below:

Comparison GA bar


4)  Finally, in the “Compared to site average” column on the right hand side, choose the statistic you have chosen to target with your advertising.  This comparison view will tell you how much better or worse a particular Demographic segment or interest group converts, bounces, or whatever, compared to the site-wide average.

Comparing Age Groups Conversion Rate

Looking at the age demographics for the same website as the graph above reveals that older visitors convert at a much higher frequency then younger visitors.   All other variables being equal, it would be wise for this advertiser to market to searchers over 55 on the Google Display Network!


The rabbit hole goes much deeper: you can use a feature of GA called Advanced Segments to see how different combinations of interest groups and demographics convert, among other things (if you do this, the sample size caveat I mentioned above is going to become even more important).  However, we’ll let sleeping dragons lie, and explore advanced segments in another post.  I hope this has provided a good jumping off point for how to use Google Analytics’ new interest and demographics information to better inform your advertising efforts!

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