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PHOTO: Carlos Luna

Marketers can have difficulty recognizing what dimensions should appear side by side in a report. Many managers work to identify key performance indicators (KPI), but they may easily argue about what supporting metrics should be monitored in a dashboard setting.

Google has added a new dashboard feature to its Google Analytics suite that can that can solve that argument. It is called the Audiences report, and it is designed to allow marketers to analyze the behavior of a website’s various “audiences.” An audience, in this case, is a segment of the visitors to a website who meet certain predefined criteria.

“Audiences in Analytics are users that you group together based on any combination of attributes that is meaningful to your business,” Google’s support site explains. “You can create broad definitions, like all users who at any time purchased a product or all users who have purchased within the last 12 months but not during the last two.” Marketers could, for example, use the information gleaned from Audiences reports in Google Analytics as guidance for tailoring marketing campaigns to the customers who are truly active online.

How Google Audiences Report Benefit Marketers

Google Audiences report is part of a trend in analytics in which users look for ways to quickly view differences across important dimensions. As analytics reporting has grown more sophisticated, so too has the ability to identify specific audiences from a website’s traffic. A decade ago, most analysis meant linking website content to search volume of keywords (and it still does in some cases).

Today, however, the rise in the use of mobile devices and the increasing sophistication of mobile apps have added behavioral context to online activity, from spoken phrases to geolocation of where an online search takes places. To make the most of these advances, marketers need to be able to act quickly when it comes to analyzing and parsing the behaviors of a targeted customer persona — i.e., an audience. Marketers can use their understanding of customer behaviors to refine their marketing messages, and thereby increase the likelihood that they will spur users to, say, download white papers, watch videos or order products for in-store pickup.

Moreover, marketers are learning to be more proactive in leveraging personas to know who makes up their target audiences.

As Len Williams noted in a CMSWire column on personas, the ideas that define a customer persona should be updated to reveal evolving opportunities to serve customers. You can best make sense of personas as website or app audiences with the side-by-side comparisons of visitor behavior that Google Analytics Audience reports provide.

How to Create Audiences 

To get started with Audiences in Google Analytics, marketers have to create their audiences on the admin page of their Google Analytics property. There, the marketer selects “Audience Definitions” and then selects “Audiences” to create an audience segment.

A number of audience segment choices are available. There are the standard selections that have been available as filter choices since the launch of Google Analytics: All Users, New Users, Returning Users and Users who visited a specific section of a website or app.

There is also a new option called Smart List. With Smart List, the audience segment is automatically selected by applying machine learning to statistically determine which visitor audience is most likely to convert in subsequent sessions. The choice is dynamically managed; according to Google, identification factors include location, device, browser, referrer, session duration and page depth.

You can also choose “users who completed a goal conversion” or “users who completed a transaction” for a nuanced view of site or app activity.

Once the audience selections are set, marketers can access their reports in the standard analytics menu.

Metrics at a Glance

The report provides the standard metric frameworks that appear in other Google Analytics reports: acquisition, behavior and conversions. But what sets an Audiences report apart is the comparison of audiences as primary dimensions in a dashboard. So marketers can determine which audience has a better engagement metric at a glance, for example.

The ultimate benefit is being able to compare performance across different audience segments and then make decisions that relate the audience activity to the business objective. Marketers can use the information to help decide what kinds of campaigns are viable for a particular audience.

An Audiences report can also spawn ideas for other reports in Google Analytics. For example, the audience lists can serve as the basis of comparison in conversion rate optimization tests on landing pages and paid search campaigns.

Generic reports can be limiting because they do not offer in-depth answers. Tools that derive insights from comparisons of the characteristics of your most cherished customers can quickly reveal those answers, or provide good insights that lead to those answers. Google Analytics Audiences reports provide side-by-side comparisons that save marketers precious time.