Google Analytics Demographics & Interests Reports

Google Analytics Demographics & Interests Reports

Google Analytics (GA) has always been a great tool when it comes to understanding and optimizing online behavior. But with the addition of Demographics and Interests information as a first class citizen in the tool it brought a new level of insights into it.

This feature consists of a series of reports where we can see behavior information relating to visitor age, gender and interests; but even more importantly, this data can also be used to segment standard reports and create remarketing lists. [Please note that this feature is still not available to all users.]

Below I will discuss how to enable the reports, use the new dimensions to understand customer behavior, and optimize your website experience based on it. In the last section I will also go over some technicalities on how the data is collected and its accuracy.

Setting Up The Demographics & Interests Reports

In order to get the demographics and interest data into your GA account you will need to perform the following steps:

  1. Update your Analytics tracking code and Privacy Policy to support Display Advertising (instructions).
  2. Enable Demographics reports in the reporting interface: go to "Audience" > "Demographics Overview" and you will find an "enable" button in there.
  3. Enable Demographics and Interest Reports in the Admin interface: click on Admin (top-right orange navigation), then on "Property Settings", then on the checkbox below the Demographics and Interest section

Please note that if you use Google Tag Manager, you should select "Add Display Advertiser Support" in your Google Analytics tag template; and if you are using a 3rd party tag management tool Google Analytics might not be able to validate your code, but you should be able to skip validation and the reports will work.

Once you perform the steps above it might still take a few days until you can see data populating your reports.

Age, Gender And Interests - Standard Reports

Google Analytics Demographic Report

In the image above we see one of the standard demographics reports: Age. There are 4 standard reports included in this new capability: Age, Gender, Affinity and Other Categories. As with most reports, you can choose which metrics group you want to use for your analysis (Site Usage, Goal Set 1, Goal Set 2... Ecommerce), which visualization you want to use in the tables (pies, bars, comparison, and pivot) and pick additional secondary dimensions. Here is a quick summary of each report:

  1. Age: break down of user by age.
  2. Gender: break down of user by gender.
  3. Affinity Categories: categorizes visitors taking into account their life styles (technophiles, music lovers, gamers, etc). See below for information on how Google finds this information.
  4. Other Categories: categorizes visitors based on the specific content they consume, along with how recently and frequently they consume that content.

Just looking at the reports above will be mind blowing, believe me. Suddenly you will be able to learn so much about who visits your site and how they behave in there... just wait till you start doing analyses! Below is a quick analysis I recommend as a first taster, look how we can instantly learn which age groups are terribly failing! In fact, we can learn which age groups we are terribly failing to persuade!

Age Comparison on Google Analytics

Here is how you reach this report:

  1. Find your age report
  2. Choose the metric group you want to use above your chart (Site Usage, Goal Set 1, Goal Set 2... Ecommerce)
  3. On the top right corner of your table, choose the comparison icon
  4. Choose the metrics you want to use from the drop down in the top right corner of your table.

In a few words, all our analyses (both using the standard reports above and the advanced techniques below) will try to uncover the two most important segments in our website: high revenue but low visits (high potential to bring more valuable visitors) and low revenue but high visits (high potential to allocate budget away from them).

Three Optimization Techniques Based On Age, Gender And Interests

Once you get used to the standard reports and overcome the initial euphoria of getting to know your customers so much better, you should roll up your sleeves and start analyzing.

1. Use Demographics And Interests For Customer Segmentation

The first step will undoubtedly be to create one (or several!) Segments. While the standard reports allow you to understand how different ages (or gender, affinity...) are performing, using a Segment will enable you to merge this data with other interesting dimensions such as campaigns, country or content.

To start, create a segment by clicking on the down arrow in any report. This arrow is shown just below the title of reports (see orange arrow below). Once you click on the arrow, click on "+ Create New Segment" and you will see the following screen.

Demographic Segmentation

You will be able to create segments using the demographic information we saw above. It is important to perform a few analyses as the one showed in the screenshot above (comparison chart), it will provide a good guidance on which segments to build. Here are some segment ideas for you to try:

  1. Male and Female: you should create both a male-only and a female-only segment. Once you do, apply both of them and visit your campaign report. Click on the conversions tab (Ecommerce or Goals). Now you will be able to see which campaigns have a good conversion rate for males and for females. This can provide important insights into ways to optimize your landing pages for each audience. Also take a look at which countries are performing well for each gender, there might be some cultural forces in play.
  2. Age Groups: looking at the comparison chart screenshot above we clearly see that the website is doing extremely well for visitors between 25 and 44 years old. Why is that? Maybe your display campaigns are being shown on "young websites"? Or maybe your content is too "cool" for older people? Or maybe the images are just not right? By creating a segment containing 44+ visitors you can understand better their abandonment points and where they are coming from.
  3. Affinity Categories: first go to the Affinity Categories standard report and check which of them have a high conversion rate. Then create a segment containing these categories, and visit the content report (direct link to report). This will show you which website content is the most important to your most valuable customers and it will help you prioritize content creation.

2. Use Demographics And Interests Data For Smart Remarketing

Since the data mentioned above is also available on Google Analytics' remarketing feature, you will be able to use the insights discovered above when creating your lists.

So, for example, if you discover that the Music Lovers category for ages 25-34 is underperforming significantly, you could create a remarketing list for those people; using this list you can create a campaign to reach out to them in other websites in the Google Distributed Network with a special "Musical" offer. Here is a guide to create Remarketing lists.

3. Use Demographics And Interests To Analyze A/B Tests

One of the most actionable features in Google Analytics is Content Experiments, as it enables marketers to actually experiment with their websites to create better experiences. And one of its strengths over other tools is that it allows us to use data already collected by Google Analytics to analyze website testing results; this is done using the segmentation tool mentioned above.

Let's imagine a simple example. You are A/B Testing a page to see which creative works better: a family image, a couple image or a baby image. The overall test result shows you that the couple image would increase overall conversion rates by 30%. However, using the Age segment described above, you might see that the results vary significantly among different age groups. And you might find out that the best creative for 18-24 is couples, 25-34 is babies and 35-44 is families. Wow!

Data Source And Accuracy

As mentioned above, in order to get access to this data, you will need to update your Analytics tracking code and Privacy Policy to support Display Advertising. The reason is that the new reports are derived from the DoubleClick third-party cookie. According to the Adwords Help Center, here is how this information is determined by Google:

When someone visits a website that has partnered with the Google Display Network, Google stores a number in their browsers (using a "cookie") to remember their visits. This number uniquely identifies a web browser on a specific computer, not a specific person. Browsers may be associated with a demographic category, such as gender or age range, based on the sites that were visited.

In addition, some sites might provide us with demographic information that people share on certain websites, such as social networking sites. We may also use demographics derived from Google profiles.

It is extremely important to know that this data is not available for every single user, so usually the reports will be based in a subset of users. In addition, some data in the reports may be removed when thresholds are applied to prevent inferring the identity of an individual user.You can learn more on how data is subject to thresholds on the reports.

Closing Thoughts

Most marketers have been in the dark when it comes to understanding their website visitors demographics. Up till now the options were extremely limited when it comes to merging online behavior with demographics for a specific website.

With Google Analytics Demographics & Interests reports we can now optimize website experiences based on our visitors in a much deeper way. How will you use it? Please let us know in the comments!

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Jacob | October 2013

We have several domains in Google Analytics, only one shows the "Demographics Overview" options. The other domains do not. Any ideas why? Also the other domains do not show "Age" as an option under Demographics. Cant' seem to figure it out.

Daniel Waisberg | October 2013

Jacob, this feature is rolling out slowly, it will eventually be available to all your accounts.

Magnus | October 2013

I cant find this feature yet, is it released?

Daniel Waisberg | October 2013

The feature was launched but we still didn't enable it to all accounts, stay tuned!

Shuki | October 2013

Why & when will it be supported with the UA?
I think its annoying to install the both UA and async code just for this (and other) little features, but it seems to be inevitable...

Daniel Waisberg | October 2013

We are working on that Shuki! Eventually everything will be rolled into Universal.

Anonymous | March 2014

When exactly will this be rolled out? It has been 6 months you posted this!

Julian | October 2013

Hi Daniel, thanks for the write-up.
I am skeptical about the accuracy of the demographics and interests data. As you say, the data will be heavily sampled and make a number of broad assumptions on which I would not want to base business decisions.

My second concern is that the doubleclick server is still blocked by a number of adblockers so changing the tracking code from ga.js to doubleclick.js will inevitably result in losing track of a number of visitors entirely.

In my opinion this is a step into the right direction but I would be extremely cautious when using the data to support ideas / change.

Daniel Waisberg | October 2013

Thanks for the nice words Julian.

We do not (and will not) provide user level data on this, as this would have privacy consequences. But the trend can certainly be useful to understand your customers better.

As for adblockers, it would be interesting if you test it and share the results, I would believe that the blocked visitors are much lower than you would expected; but of course it would depend on your target audience...

Dancho | January 2014

Hi Julian/Daniel,

For the adblockers, wouldn't be a good solution if you create another account in Google Analytics for your site (with different UA) and you keep one account with and another without demographics and interests enabled?
Then perhaps you can quantify how much traffic you might be loosing due to the adblockers?

Greatly appreciate any input as I am also on a doubt abt this. Don't want my site traffic to go down just because of this feature.

Ilse | April 2014

I am very curious as well to see some up to date results about the potential loss in traffic. I have seen some reports around that the adblock issue would no longer exist, but some up to date test about this would help me decide to finally implement this.

Julian | April 2014

Hi Dancho and Ilse,
We have been testing it for quite a while now and across a number of different industries, using a bit of code that fires the async ga.js tracking if the dc.js tracker is blocked. It also fires an event each time allowing us to track how often the dc.js tracker did not execute. Turns out Google have done a decent job on getting dc.js whitelisted with adblockers, we have seen less than 1% of visits that did not execute the dc.js code.
@Daniel - on a different note we are now trying to get the demographic reports working with UA which is implemented via GTM and don't seem to be able to find any documentation on it despite the feature now being officially supported by UA.. have you got any info you can point me to?
Thanks! :)

Daniel Waisberg | April 2014

@Julian, the only thing I can say is: stay tuned! :-)

Jason | October 2013

Hi Dan -

On all of our sites we are running the remarketing async classic Google Analytics and Universal Analytics codes.

On one site, I am seeing the option to enable/validate the new Demographics and Interest Reports in a Universal Analytics account, but not on the classic Google Analytics.

Should I choose "Skip Validation" and see if the reports start populating for the Universal account?

Thanks!

Jason

Daniel Waisberg | October 2013

Jason, I am afraid this will not work. Universal does not work with the remarketing code right now. Hopefully in the near future...

Zac Pagin | October 2013

Thanks for the info. Great tools and analytic features.

Paul Delan | October 2013

The code I have does not match what is here https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/2444872?hl=en ,Update Your Analytics Tracking Code to Support Display Advertising. How do I update my code to view demographics?
Mine looks like this
(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){
(i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o),
m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m)
})(window,document,'script','//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js','ga');

ga('create', 'UA-xxxxxxxx-x, '');
ga('send', 'pageview');

Daniel Waisberg | October 2013

Paul, you are using the newest version of Google Analytics, also called Universal Analytics. We are still working to make the demographics reports available in it. Stay tuned!

Jason Gegere | December 2013

I am interest in using "Demographics and Interest Reports" with "Universal Google Analytics"

Alex | December 2013

Any news on an updated version of the demographics code for Universal Analytics?

Thanks,

Alex

Ville | October 2013

Hi, Our site is in wordpress and using woocommerce as our ecommerce platform why we are using woocommerces plugin for Google Analytics. Any tips on how I can update the code in this situation?
Thanks in advance!

Daniel Waisberg | October 2013

Ville, unfortunately I am not acquainted with it. You should reach to their support and ask how you can update your Analytics Tracking Code to support Display Advertising. Here is a link you can provide to them: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/2444872

Sam Shelley - Response Tap | October 2013

Is it possible that with the recent removal of 99% of organic search keyword data from analytics, that the level of usage will start to slip? What do you think?
Also, is anyone surprised that they haven't found a more streamlined way of adding the various analytics codes? So many people are flooding to forums each day with problems installing the tracking code.

Daniel Waisberg | October 2013

Sam, I am not sure how the removal of organic search keyword is related to this. In any case, this is not something specific to Google Analytics, it is a bigger change on the way Google Search encrypts the data.

As for a more streamlined way, that's exactly what Google Tag Manager does, you implement the code once and can do all the changes from the interface, no more coding required. You can read more about it at http://online-behavior.com/analytics/google-tag-manager

Sam Shelley - Response Tap | October 2013

Ahhh ok I hadn't heard of this, thanks for the link! The fact remains though, I see more people on webmaster / SEO / CMS forums asking about installing tracking than practically any other topic. Hopefully this tag manager will remedy this somewhat.

Ryan Manning | November 2013

Thanks for the post Daniel, great roundup of the new demographics!

What percentage of visitors are you seeing results for? The data is based on DoubleClick.net cookies so it would be very interesting to see what % of visitors are providing data?

Thanks!

Daniel Waisberg | November 2013

Ryan, I don't believe this information will be available on reports. The % of visitors you see results for depends on a lot of things. As described in the Help Center, some of the data is subject to thresholds.

Steven J Fromm | November 2013

Really great article. The smart remarketing point shows why this can be an important tool. A lot of great points made here, especially for someone like myself that knew very little about this area. Thanks.

Daniel Waisberg | November 2013

Thank you for the kind words Steven!

Sahil | November 2013

Hello Daniel
This is great Feature Added by Google into Analytics, This Will help me & many Other Bloggers to Get Correct Interest Ideas of Visitors. Now time to add this Code into My Blogs. Great Article Shared, Thanks For the Info :)

Matthew Small | November 2013

Do we know when universal analytics code will support this function? It seems silly that, what is suppose to be the future standard GA code does not support these demographic reporting.

Matthew Small | November 2013

Do we know when universal analytics code will support this function? It seems silly that, what is suppose to be the standard GA code, does not allow these demographic reporting.

David Suarez | November 2013

hey daniel, another great article, Thanks for posting. I wish you were still in consulting because I could sure use your services again.

anyways I hope you can help me shed some light on an issue that has recently sprung up on my account ever since my main GA profile has been rolled out the new demo and interests reporting.

It appears that ever since the roll out, my adwords data in GA no longer matches up with my data in adwords. It seems there has been some sort of "filtering" that has been plaguing my account for the last few days. Adwords is reporting a LOT MORE vistiors than GA is reporting. Visitor data in GA does not match up clicks in AW now. Now you might think this happens sometime, however, to disprove that i took a screenshot of the last month to show that the gap in reporting has only happened recently: http://screencast.com/t/bJOOEz3G

What is also interesting is that I DO have my adwords and analytics linked, and the 'click' data matches up perfectly, it is just the visitor data that has the discrepancy.

as you can see ever since the roll out date of demo and interests there is a gap of clicks to vistors that has only happened in the last few days. what i also found interesting is that i kept seeing this referrer come into my reporting during this time: 'googleads.g.doubleclick.net' (mind you i am not using double click as an adserver out side of using adwords)

I changed the one line of code, I enable display advertising support, i am even getting demo and interests data into my profile, which is awesome, but i am afraid this comes at the cost of accuracy in adwords data...Can you please let us know if this is a bug on the GA side or am i missing a step, thanks

Daniel Waisberg | November 2013

Hi David,

the problem with your Adwords discrepancy can't possibly be related to enabling Display Advertising. There must be some other change either in the code, GA configuration or Adwords settings that caused it...

And while I am not in the consulting business anymore, there is quite a few brilliant GA consultants!

Simon | November 2013

Hi guys. Some good comments and information here. I've worked in web for a long time and see all kinds of analytics systems come and go. Over the years site owners seem to have a quest for more and more information regardless of how capable they are of interpreting it, and yet there is nowhere near this level of data available in any other area of business or marketing. Following googles changes to privacy and common use policies, I'm I the only one here who sees the collection of demographic data intrusive. Most users and site owners have no idea thus data is being harvested and used for commercial gain without their express permission. In my view express and implied permissions are nothing alike.

Anonymous | November 2013

hi, where is this setting: "Please note that if you use Google Tag Manager, you should select "Add Display Advertiser Support" in your Google Analytics tag template;" I'm using GTM and its just not in there anywhere, I'm using the Universal analytics (beta) tag template but also looked in the normal, its nowhere to be found?

Daniel Waisberg | November 2013

As mentioned above, this feature is still not compatible with Universal Analytics. In the standard Google Analytics you will find a checkbox under the field where you add your Web Property ID.

Yann | November 2013

Great - is there any study or data to understand the exact methodology and how accurate that profiling is?
would be very useful.
Thanks,

Daniel Waisberg | November 2013

Yann, here are two articles that will help you understand how this data is collected:
1. Reach people of specific age and gender
2. Reach people interested in your products or services

Hope it helps.

Ian Lavelle | December 2013

Hi Daniel,

I'm interested to know if a visitor's demographic classification will change over time as GA learns more about that person through continued browsing and growth in the details in their cookie?

Once I get assigned an age range for instance, can that change later on if my browsing behaviours become more aligned with another age group?

Cheers,
Ian

Bryan Busch | November 2013

Hi there. I'm hoping to explain this to some co-workers soon and your article is the clearest I've found so far. In order to see the reports myself, I'll have to ask permission to enable it for a client, but I don't want to do that if their traffic is below the threshold.

Do we know about where the demographic reporting thresholds sit? 5 visitors a day? 50? 500?

Daniel Waisberg | November 2013

Bryan, Google Analytics will do that automatically based on several parameters.

KS | November 2013

Hi

Is it possible to disable "Demographics and Interest reports " feature, once it is enabled ?

Raluca | November 2013

Hi KS,

In order to disable the Demographics and Interests report, you should go to
Property level and then Property Settings. Here you will find Display Advertiser Features - Enable Demographics and Interest Reports turned on.
You just need to turn it off and save.

Luis Mendoza | November 2013

Hello Daniel!
Do you know what's new with reports in Universal Analytics compared to Classic Analytics?
Thanks a lot!

Anonymous | December 2013

Hello,

I was wondering when demographics will be available for Universal Analytics users? Thanks

Diana Tkhamadokova | December 2013

Hi Daniel, we have installed and activated the code as described above but are not seeing any demographics data yet. There is a msg saying "Some data in this report may have been removed when a threshold was applied." Do you know what could be the cause for not seeing the data. We don't have any thresholds set up, no filter, no secondary dimensions. Thank you.

Priscilla | December 2013

Hi Diana,
I am having the same issue. If you receive any feedback on this please let me know!

Daniel Somers | January 2014

It's not 100% working yet, that is why you have that message for the moment!
How much traffic do you have though? I think they have a limit, although as far as I can tell, no one knows what that limit is

Anonymous | January 2014

Has anyone succeeded in solving this issue "Some data in this report may have been removed when a threshold was applied". I need to solve the issue but I dont know how. Please help

Anonymous | January 2014

Same thing here....trying to figure out what that threshhold is and how to get around it....any clues?

Diana Tkhamadokova | December 2013

Hi Daniel, we have installed demographics code and enabled it as described above. However, we are getting a msg, saying "Some data in this report may have been removed when a threshold was applied" and wondering if that is the cause of us not seeing any demographics data. We don't have any filters or secondary dimensions to act as the threshold. Thank you.

Daniel Waisberg | March 2014

This is usually a result of having too small of a dataset, i.e. if your account (or time range) is too small, you won't see the numbers, this is a mechanism developed by Google Analytics to protect customers' privacy.

Wiryawan Adipa | January 2014

Is there any way to deactive or disable it after I enable it?

Joshua | March 2014

In the "tracking code" section of the Analytics Admin page, at the bottom, there's a line that says "If you continue to use the ga.js version of the tracking code exclusively, your data will be handled by Universal Analytics processing, but you will not get all the benefits of Universal Analytics." ...This is after I already upgraded to UA.

So considering that Demographics & Interest data isn't yet implemented in UA, this line suggests - to me at least - that we can go back to using the old tracking code (ga.js) even if we've upgraded to UA, at least in the mean time...but that would mean any additional ga() functions we use on a page (like ecommerce tracking, etc.) must also be reverted back to the _gaq.push() version of them.

It's worth a try, right?

Daniel Waisberg | March 2014

Unfortunately there is no going back Joshua, once you migrate you will not be able to use the demographics... but stay tuned!

giovanni | March 2014

i've noticed a traffic decrease in visit after the use of doubleclick tracking script for demographics data. Is this possible?

Steven | March 2014

Hi Daniel,
When Google says your website needs to support display advertising in order to get the demographics data, what does it mean? does it mean it will suddenly start showing ads for the display network? I'd like to implement the demographics tracking code, but my company is hesitating because of this doubt.
Thanks!

John Freeman | March 2014

Hi Daniel, I am using GUA on www.hexcode.co.za & we serve about 40k pages a month. Since GUA installed 14days ago, about 15k pages have been served to all over the world, but still no demographic data. Any ideas?

John Freeman | March 2014

Oh, and we did update our privacy policy.

Chad Williams | May 2014

I have enabled and added the ga('require', 'displayfeatures'); but it still doesn't validate. It shows in the code. Does it take days just for it to validate also?

Sophie | May 2014

I am experiencing this issue. Please help, Daniel!

Danielle | September 2014

Hi Chad,

After struggling with the same problem we found in a forum that is you hit "Skip Validation" it then confirms the validation! It's an error with Google.

However, it has been a week since Ive done this and I am still not seeing results.

Danielle | September 2014

Hi there,

I did the steps to get the Demo. info up,
trick* The Validate button, doesn't do anything but if you hit "Skip Validation" it confirms the validation!

Problem: It's been almost a week since I did this and I am still not seeing any results.
It says "Some data in this report may have been removed when a threshold was applied. Learn more"

and when I looked that up https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/2954071?hl=en&utm_id=ad
it made no sense.

Please help.

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