Guide to Google Analytics Audiences and Audiences Report

What is an Audience in Google Analytics?

In the context of Google Analytics, an audience is a group/segment of users who showed common characteristics, attributes or experience in a particular time frame.

The characteristics/attributes of users are time bound because same users can show different characteristics in different time period.

For example a user may buy product X in Jan but may buy product Y in Feb or a user may visit your website on Monday via Laptop but visit your website on Tuesday via smartphone.

Same user can be a member of multiple audiences at the same time depending upon how you segment and interpret the data.

For example:

A user who visited your website from UK via Google Organic Search on February 14 and bought product X can be a member of following audiences in Google Analytics (provided they already exist):

  • UK audience – group of users of your website from UK
  • Google traffic audience – group of users who visited your website from Google
  • Search traffic audience – group of users who visited your website via search engine listings.
  • Organic search traffic audience – group of users who visited your website via organic search engine listing.
  • February audience – group of users who visited your website in February
  • February 14 audience – group of users who visited your website on February 14
  • Product X audience– group of users who purchased product X

Note: Audiences in Google Analytics are just like Google Analytics cohorts.

What is the advantage of creating audiences in Google Analytics?

There are two major advantages of creating audiences in Google Analytics:

#1 You can understand the acquisition, behavior and conversion performance of particular group/segment of users who showed common characteristics, attributes or experience in a particular time frame.

For example, if you sell online training courses then through the ‘Audiences’ report in Google Analytics

you can understand:

#1.1 How you acquired students for your training program. Like from which marketing channels or traffic sources you got the registrations.

#1.2 How the students consumed course contents on your website. This content consumption is measured in terms of bounce rate, pages/session, average session duration etc.

#1.3 What courses the students enrolled in and how much they spent on the purchase. This is conversion performance which is measured in terms of transactions, revenue and ecommerce conversion rate.

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How to create an audience in Google Analytics?

Follow steps are involved in creating an audience in Google Analytics:

Step-1: Define the objective(s) of creating an audience.

Step-2: Decide the conditions/criteria for creating your audience.

Step-3: Decide membership duration.

Step-4: Decide destinations to which you want to publish your audience.

Step-5: Link your GA property with the selected destinations

Step-6: Enable demographic and interest reports for your GA property.

Step-7: Enable ‘Remarketing’ and ‘Advertising Reporting features’.

Step-8: Decide the method you want to use to create an audience.

Step-9: Create and publish the audience.

Step-1: Define the objective(s) of creating an audience

Define the objective(s) of creating an audience.

For example, the objective can be something like:

“We want to understand, how we are acquiring students for our training program.

We want to understand, how the students are using our website and consuming the study material.

We want to understand, what courses the students have enrolled in and how they are impacting the business bottomline”

Step-2: Decide the conditions/criteria for creating your audience

Decide the conditions/criteria for creating your audience in Google Analytics. The ‘condition’ is how you segment your users and/or their sessions to create an audience.

Conditions denote the common characteristics, attributes or experience in a particular time frame which will make up the audience.

For example, your audience can be made up of users who visited following pages on your website:

  • /course-list/
  • /account-settings/
  • /login/
  • /courses/
  • /lessons/
  • /assessments/
  • /topic/

Step-3: Decide membership duration

Decide the number of days a user remain a part of your audience.

The number of days for which a user remain a part of an audience is called ‘Membership duration’.

In Google Analytics, a membership duration can be 1 day to 540 days long:

Step-4: Decide destinations to which you want to publish your audience

Decide the destinations to which you want to publish your audience.

These destinations could be:

  • Google Analytics
  • Google Adwords
  • DoubleClick Bid Manager
  • Google Optimize
  • Google Optimize 360

You would need to decide the destinations in advance because in order to publish your audience to a particular destination, you would first need to link your Google Analytics property with that destination.

For example, if you want to publish your audience to Google Optimize, you would first need to link your GA property with Google Optimize.

Similarly, if you want to publish your audience to Google Adwords, you would first need to link your GA property with Google Adwords.

In fact without first linking your GA property with your Google Adwords account, you won’t be to create any type of audience in Google Analytics.

If an audience is published to Google Analytics then it is called ‘Analytics Audience’.

In GA user interface it is shown as an audience of type ‘Analytics’:

Note: An analytics audience is not available for remarketing unless it is also shared with Google Adwords or DoubleClick bid manager.

If an audience is published to Google Adwords or DoubleClick bid manager then it is called ‘Remarketing Audience’.

In GA user interface it is shown as an audience of type ‘Adwords’ or ‘DoubleClick Bid Manager’:

Note: The audience which is published to Google Adwords or DoubleClick bid manager in addition to Google Analytics is also called ‘Remarketing Audience’.

The audience which is published to Google Optimize or Optimize 360 is called Google Optimize Audience.

This is the audience which is used for experimentation.

In GA user interface it is shown as an audience of type ‘optimize’ or ‘optimize 360’.

Step-5: Link your GA property with the selected destinations

Based on the destinations you have selected for your audience, link your GA property with the selected destinations one by one.

For example if you want to publish your audience to Google Adwords, DoubleClick Bid Manager and Google Optimize destinations then first link these accounts to your GA property.

Step-6: Enable demographic and interest reports for your GA property

Enable demographic and interest reports for your GA property.

Follow the steps below:

#61. Sign in to your GA account.

#6.2 Navigate to the property where you want to use Demographic and Interests data.

#6.3 Click on ‘Property Settings’ under the ‘Property’ column (within the ‘Admin’ section):

#6.4 Under Advertising Features, set Enable Demographics and Interests Reports to ON:

#6.5 Click on ‘Save’ button.

Step-7: Enable ‘Remarketing’ and ‘Advertising Reporting features’

Enable ‘Remarketing’ and ‘Advertising Reporting features’.

If you want to create Remarketing Audiences in your GA property and share them with your advertising accounts (like Google Adwords, DoubleClick Bid Manager) then you would need to turn on the toggle button for ‘Remarketing’.

Note: Whenever you enable ‘Remarketing’, the ‘Advertising Reporting feature’ will automatically get enabled (if it is not already enabled) for your GA property.

In other words, you can not enable ‘Remarketing’ setting for your GA property if you do not want to enable the ‘Advertising Reporting feature’ for your GA property.

In order to use and benefit from Remarketing feature for a GA property, you would need at least one active Google Adwords account or DoubleClick Bid Manager account and this account must be linked to your GA property.

When you enable ‘Analytics Advertising Feature’, your GA property can collect data about your users from the ‘Google Advertising Cookies’ in addition to the data collected through a standard GA implementation.

Note: In order to use and benefit from Advertising Reporting Features for a GA property, you would need at least one active Google Adwords account or DoubleClick Bid Manager account and this account must be linked to your GA property.

The ‘Data Collection’ is one of the settings you see in the section named ‘Tracking Info’ under the ‘Property’ column:

When you click on the ‘Data Collection’ link, you get the option to enable ‘Remarketing’ and ‘Advertising Reporting Features’:

Step-8: Decide the method you want to use to create an audience

Decide the method you want to use to create an audience in your GA property.

There are four methods you can use to create an audience in GA property:

Method #1: Import the audience from Google Analytics Solution Gallery.

Method #2: Use the preconfigured audiences recommended by Google Analytics.

Method #3: Import a predefined advanced segment and use it as an audience.

Method #4: Create a brand new audience from Scratch.

Method #1: Creating an audience through Google Analytics Solution Gallery

Follow the steps below:

Step-1: Login to your Google Analytics account and then navigate to the ‘Admin’ section.

Step-2: Click on the ‘Audiences’ link under ‘Audience Definitions’ in the ‘Property’ column:

Step-3: Click on ‘Import from Gallery’ button:

Step-4: Decide the audience you want to import and then click on the ‘Import’ button:

Step-5: Select your destination account (from the drop down menu) and then select/deselect the remarketing audience(s) you want to import:

Step-6: Click on the ‘create’ button.

Method #2: Using a preconfigured audience to create a new audience

Google Analytics provide following preconfigured audiences (ready to use audiences):

#1 Smart List – group of users who are most likely to convert in subsequent GA sessions. This audience is managed by Google using a machine learning algorithm.

#2 All Users – All users to your website or mobile app

#3 New Users – group of users who have triggered only a single GA session on your website or mobile app.

#4 Returning Users – group of users who have triggered more than one GA session on your website or mobile app.

#5 Users who visited a specific section of my site/app

#6 Users who completed a goal conversion – group of users who have completed non-transactional goal on your website.

#7 Users who completed a transaction – group of users who have completed a transactional goal on your website. It includes any user with more than zero transactions attributed to him.

In order to use a a preconfigured audience to create a new audience, follow the steps below:

Step-1: Login to your Google Analytics account and then navigate to the ‘Admin’ section.

Step-2: Click on the ‘Audiences’ link under ‘Audience Definitions’ in the ‘Property’ column.

Step-3: Click on the ‘New Audience’ button:

Step-4: Click on one of the preconfigured audiences in the ‘Recommended Audiences’ list:

Step-5: Change the membership duration, if required:

Step-6: Enter the name of your new audience and then click on the ‘Next Step’ button:

Step-7: Select the destination where you would like to publish your audience by clicking on the ‘Add Destination’ drop down menu:

Step-8: Click on the ‘Publish’ button.

Method #3: Creating an audience by Importing a predefined advanced segment

Follow the steps below:

Step-1: Login to your Google Analytics account and then navigate to the ‘Admin’ section.

Step-2: Click on the ‘Audiences’ link under ‘Audience Definitions’ in the ‘Property’ column.

Step-3: Click on the ‘New Audience’ button.

Step-4: Click on ‘Import Segment’ button:

Step-5: Select the ‘segment’ you want to import from the segment list.

Step-6: Change the membership duration, if required.

Step-7: Enter the name of your new audience and then click on the ‘Next Step’ button.

Step-8: Select the destination where you would like to publish your audience by clicking on the ‘Add Destination’ drop down menu.

Step-9: Click on the ‘Publish’ button.

Method #4: Creating a brand new audience from scratch

Follow the steps below:

Step-1: Login to your Google Analytics account and then navigate to the ‘Admin’ section.

Step-2: Click on the ‘Audiences’ link under ‘Audience Definitions’ in the ‘Property’ column.

Step-3: Click on the ‘New Audience’ button.

Step-4: Click on the ‘Create New’ button:

Once you click on the ‘create new’ button, you will see the ‘Audience Builder’ dialog box:

Step-5: Enter your conditions/criteria for creating your audience and then click on the ‘Apply’ button:

Step-6: Change the membership duration, if required.

Step-7: Change the lookback days, if required from the drop down menu:

The Lookback days option denote the number of days for evaluating the behavior that qualifies users to be added to your audience provided they start a new GA session on your website after you create the audience.

For example if you set the lookback days to ‘7’ then any user who came to your website from Facebook (see the screenshot above) in the last 7 days would be eligible to be added to your audience provided they start a new GA session on your website after you create the audience.

Note: You can set lookback days to 7, 14 or 30 days.

Step-8: Enter the name of your new audience and then click on the ‘Next Step’ button.

Step-9: Select the destination where you would like to publish your audience by clicking on the ‘Add Destination’ drop down menu.

Step-10: Click on the ‘Publish’ button.

How to view Audience data in Google Analytics?

There are two methods to view Audience data in GA:

Method #1: Click on the ‘Analytics’ link under the ‘Type’ column in the Audience list:

As soon as you click on this link, you will be automatically redirected to the ‘Audiences’ report of a particular audience:

Method #2: Click on the ‘Audiences’ report link under the ‘Audience’ menu in your GA view and then select the audience whose data you want to analyze:

Note(1): The Audiences report in Google Analytics only show data for the audiences whose destination has been set to ‘Google Analytics’ (i.e. Analytics audiences).

Note(2): The Audiences report in Google Analytics does not collect retroactively i.e. data for an audience is available in the report starting from the date you publish the audience to Analytics.

Note(3): You can create maximum of 2000 audiences per GA property. However you cannot create more than 20 Analytics audiences per GA property.

Note(4): If your audience includes sequences then you cannot publish that audience to Google Analytics.

Note(5): You can also create and edit audiences with the Google Analytics Management API

Editing an existing audience

You can edit an existing audience. To do so, follow the steps below:

Step-1: Login to your Google Analytics account and then navigate to the ‘Admin’ section.

Step-2: Click on the ‘Audiences’ link under ‘Audience Definitions’ in the ‘Property’ column.

Step-3: Click on the name of the audience you want to edit:

Step-4: Click on the ‘edit’ link next to the ‘Audience source’ to change the GA view used for collecting audience data.

Step-5: Click on the ‘edit’ link next to the ‘Audience definition’ to change the conditions/criteria used for collecting audience data.

Step-6: Click on the ‘edit’ link next to the ‘Audience destination’ to change the destination for collecting/sharing audience data.

Closing an audience in Google Analytics

When you edit an existing audience in GA, you get the option to close the audience. You can do that by clicking on the ‘close audience’ link:

When you close an audience, it no longer add users.

You can close an audience for individual destinations or close an audience for all destinations at the same time.

Note: If you want to delete an audience, you would first need to close it.

Reopening an audience in Google Analytics

You can reopen an audience in GA. When you do that, the re-opened audience again start adding the users which meets the predefined criteria.

In order to reopen an audience, edit it and then click on the ‘edit’ link next to ‘Audience destination’:

Click on the ‘reopen’ link:

Deleting an audience in Google Analytics

Once you have closed the audience, you can delete it by clicking on the ‘Delete Audience’ link:

Note: When you delete an audience, it is removed from all destinations.

Difference between Audiences and Remarketing Audiences

An audience which is used for remarketing purpose is called ‘Remarketing Audience’.

An audience which is published to Google Adwords or DoubleClick bid manager is a remarketing audience.

An audience which is published to Google Adwords or DoubleClick bid manager in addition to Google Analytics is also a remarketing audience.

However, an audience which is published only to Google Analytics is not a remarketing audience.

Learn about the Google Analytics Usage Trends Tool

The Google Analytics usage trend is a new tool which is used to visualise trends in your Google Analytics data and to perform trend analysis.


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Himanshu Sharma

Certified web analyst and founder of OptimizeSmart.com

My name is Himanshu Sharma and I help businesses find and fix their Google Analytics and conversion issues. If you have any questions or comments please contact me.

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