This article will focus on how to extract detailed information from your customers when you have Google Analytics (Universal Analytics, not GA4) set up on your account.
I will walk through what modules you should review within your Google Analytics reports to understand key information about the customers visiting your website.
My hope is that this information will allow you to understand how you can better “speak” to your customers, and as a result, better target them with ads, SEO, AB tests, and more!
Why Do I Need to Gain Insight on my Customers
This may seem like a no-brainer, but what I want to bring your attention to is the exact set of questions you should be asking about your customers based on the kind of company you operate.
After all, there is no one size fits all approach, so understanding the customer can mean two very different things for two different companies. A better understanding of your customers will give a clear direction to your marketing efforts, including planning and building your site content.
Take for example a subscription-based company. Here, understanding the customer is about knowing the lifelong journey of that user during a certain period of time, either from month to month or for any given subscription plan duration.
In this example, you would need to understand certain engagement points along their journey and how your existing communication channels are impacting their behavior.
Ask yourself, does your site compliment a more long-term relationship with the customer?
On the other hand, an e-commerce company selling a particular product requires you to understand the customer in terms of what compels them to act the moment they land on your site.
Here, the turnover timeline is much shorter than that of a subscription company. In this case, it’s usually around 2-3 days maximum, depending on various factors in the buying process such as comparing products, looking for discounts, reading reviews, etc.
Both of these examples can yield more information by allowing you to take a closer look at your data in Google Analytics reports.
How Does Google Analytics Tell Me About My Customers
Google Analytics is, at its core, an analytics system that tracks customers who visit your website. The technical definition can be found here, on the Google documentation pages.
Ultimately, Google Analytics is already tracking a wealth of information on your website visitors, so tapping into this source can be invaluable to your business in helping you better understand your customers.
Many times, business owners don’t know where or how to find this information. If you don’t have GA implemented on your website, reference this guide to get started.
Once you’ve gathered about a month or two of data, you can start pulling insights about your business from GA.
Be aware that you need at least a month’s worth of data to ensure the customer behaviors you’re examining are a true representation of their actions over time. For example, if you send discount codes out every Wednesday, you want to make sure you aren’t just looking at that Wednesday, when your sales or conversion rate may be higher than normal.
Now that you’ve set up Google Analytics and collected enough data to identify trends, let’s get into what exactly each Google Analytics module will tell you about your customers.
What GA Modules Tell Me About my Customers
The Audience Overview report module focuses on none other than your audience. Below I will point out some specific modules in this section of Google Analytics and how to digest the information that is presented to you.
Demographics is a subheading under Audience that gives you a quick, general overview of the demographic information on your site visitors. It will help you create more directed site content and messaging based on things like gender, age, and location. This may be obvious to some business owners, but I want to show you a little secret I use to extract even more information.
To begin, navigate to AUDIENCE > DEMOGRAPHICS, then navigate to the top of the page for segments. Once you click on the segments, search for “User who made a purchase.” If you are connected to Shopify, Woocommerce, or any storefront CMS, you should have this data in your GA.
This enables you to see the users that actually made a purchase, out of the total users that visited your website.
In the example above, people between the ages of 35-44 are visiting the site more frequently, but the 25-34 age group is actually making more purchases.
This is valuable information for understanding your customer and knowing how to target them. For the rest of the article, the “User who made a purchase” tip still applies.
This is another feature that is very simple yet extremely useful. You need to understand the mobile devices your customers are using so you can optimize your design for them.
Navigate to AUDIENCE > MOBILE
If you still have your “users who made a purchase” segment turned on, you should see this:
In this example, you can see that mobile consists of 90% of the users who visit this website. That is critical to know! If I saw this, I would only focus on mobile-optimized designs, and desktops would always come second.
New vs Returning
The “New vs returning” feature sheds light on the customers who visit your website for the first time versus return visitors during the given time period you choose.
To navigate to this section go to AUDIENCE > BEHAVIOR > NEW VS RETURNING
I like to look at this section because it provides insights into the buying process and the exact value of your returning customers.
Depending on your product, you may have frequently returning users who are gathering more information about your product, for example.
This is a good sign because a return visitor is always “cheaper” to maintain than a new one. If you think about it, there is more convincing required to acquire a brand new customer than there is for someone who is familiar with and trusts your company
So the new vs returning feature is Google Analytics’ way of helping us see where we should invest more of our time and resources for the returning customer group.
When you are in this section, be sure to look at metrics such as conversion rate and revenue from each of these groups.
The Acquisition module shows you how the customers on your site got there in the first place. I will highlight the most important feature under the Acquisition umbrella below.
Source/Medium offers valuable information for understanding where your users are coming from. A user’s source of traffic inherently defines how they act on your website.
Most of the time, a customer who found your page organically will have a much higher conversion rate than a paid user (someone who came through an ad).
But why is this the case, you ask? It’s all about the intention to buy.
If a user found you organically, it means they were intentionally looking for your site, or at least something similar. For example, when you are looking for a car rental service, your intention is to rent a car.
On the flip side, a user who came by ad traffic may have just been clicking through a pop-up that happened to catch their attention– they don’t have as much intention to act.
The chances of increasing conversion for paid traffic depends on a multitude of factors, including your content marketing strategy, keywords you’re ranking for in search results, the specific ad designs you’re using on social media, like Facebook, Google, and Snapchat, and even your quality of storytelling that creates emotional buy-in for a customer.
Optimizing these factors is the first step in increasing the chances of having your paid users convert.
Once you are here, make sure to look at things such as bounce rate, conversion rate, revenue generated, and average pages per session. The source/medium feature illuminates how potential customers from different sources specifically behave on your website.
Conversions are a catch-all for an abundance of information about how users convert on your website. This may seem like one large hodgepodge of info, but you can find additional metrics within Google Analytics that help further define your customer pool.
One interesting detail that Google Analytics provides is the time lag between the moment a customer first visited your website and the moment they converted.
This can give you valuable insights into the sales cycle for your product or service. How long did it take for someone to make up their mind and make a purchase?
If you see that most users are purchasing your product within the first 24 hours, then your product most likely has a short sell cycle.
On the other hand, if over 60% of the audience does not convert within the first day, then most of your customers are probably comparing your product to many others and making their final decision days or even weeks later.
This presents you with the opportunity to target customers within a specific time window. At this point, you can try various send offers via text or email to entice them to purchase sooner.
The Behavior module shows you how customers are acting, or behaving, on your website. It could be argued that this is the most crucial widget in the Google Analytics library.
Events can be configured in a variety of ways that allow you to learn more about your customer base from Google Analytics. To view them, navigate to BEHAVIOR > EVENTS.
Luckily, Google is extremely flexible when it comes to the information you can collect using events. If you want to learn more about events and how they relate to Conversion Rate Optimization you can read about them here.
Tracking the right events will help you answer the basic question “What do users prefer to interact with on my website?”
However, since events are automatically configured for you when you set up your GA, I would recommend going in and implementing the following additional events to learn more about your users:
- Call to Action clicks
- Video Plays
- PDFs downloaded
As with any experiment you run, there is always the potential that some of these events may work for your website while others may not. But, the general idea is that if you have content like this on your website, events will help you understand how people engage with that content.
If you have a PDF and a video, for example, these events will tell you which type of media your audience likes.
Then you can take steps toward prioritizing that content with your customers.
Whether for marketers or business owners, Google Analytics is a great way to understand your customers and allows you to make educated guesses on how to improve your website for them. Just remember to look at the following modules in Google analytics and you’ll have a great base of data to understand them.