GA4 Audiences: Not Just for Ads! — Whiteboard Friday

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There are many interesting features in GA4 — some that were sort of in Universal Analytics, but now they’re better. One of those features is Audiences, which many people may only be using for their ads. In this episode of Whiteboard Friday, Dana shows you why Audiences can be useful for reporting on other areas of your marketing efforts as well.

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Video Transcription

Hello, Moz readers. My name is Dana DiTomaso. I’m President and partner at Kick Point, a digital marketing agency based in Edmonton. But if you’re in Seattle, I’m just across the water, just outside Victoria, British Columbia. What I’m going to be talking to you about today is GA4, everyone’s favorite subject.

July, real soon now. You really need to upgrade to GA4. It’s not really an upgrade, and the data doesn’t transfer over, but anyway. There’s lots of fun, interesting features in GA4 that were kind of in Universal Analytics, but now they’re better. One of the features that I don’t think people are using enough or maybe think that they’re just for ads is Audiences, which is why this is called “GA4 Audiences – Not Just for Ads.”

Slices and dices, truly a miracle machine. But really what Audiences do is they help you segment stuff. So I’ve written out a few options here, what you should understand about Audiences. What I would encourage all of you to do after watching this video is go into GA4, just try making some audiences. You can remove them if you don’t like them, but experiment with it because you really can’t hurt anything by making audiences.

It’s not going to ruin the data or something. They are totally harmless. So go ahead and try some audiences after I’ve given you these options of what you can do. But of course, watch me to the end first. All right. So what are GA4 Audiences? You may remember in our favorite tool, Universal Analytics, that there were segments.

So audiences are segments basically on steroids. They have a lot more options available to them, and they’re built from criteria you set like segments were, but there’s a lot more options in terms of that criteria that you set. I don’t think necessarily when people built segments, they really went into the Advanced section a lot. So, basically, GA4 Audiences are the Advanced section plus more. Now, the other thing with Audiences that was not in UA is they can be time based, and this part is really cool and I think, because it’s so interesting, not a lot of people are using it to its full potential yet because I don’t think we’ve really put our heads around like, “This is what we’re going to use this for.”

So one of the things you could do, for example, is I want to know how many people have watched 3 plus videos in a 30-day span. Or you could say, “I only want people in this audience who came to the site via this email and put something in their cart within one hour.” That is something you could not do without some serious, serious Kung Fu in Universal Analytics. So, again, GA4 Audiences, it’s super easy to do that. You can do time-based audiences, which I really enjoy.

The other thing you can do with GA4 Audiences is you can use them as reports. You can use them as reports within the GA4 interface. They’re also available in the GA4 API. So you can export them out of GA4 and do interesting things with them in other tools, which I’m going to talk about when I get to the column that I’m currently standing in front of. So you can even use them in the real-time reports, which I think is really fun because I’ll create an audience and then I’ll go look in the real time and make sure that people are actually slotting themselves into the audience in real time if I’m working with a client that has a high volume enough of a website.

It’s really neat to see people sort of sort themselves into audiences. It’s neat for me. Maybe you are not as nerdy as I am. Maybe you’ll not find that as fun. Anyway, they’re neat. So how can you create them? So you go into Admin and then you click on Audiences, of course.

Then you click on Create an Audience. That’s the simple part. The hard part is how are you going to create this audience. So there are three different things you can do. You can do dimensions, which are groupings of things. So a dimension, if you’re not familiar with the term, is something like the countries that people were in who came to your website or the pages that they viewed. Those are dimensions.

The next thing is metrics, and metrics are the numbers. So this was this many page views or this many sessions. That’s a metric. Then the third thing can be based on events. Events are technically dimensions, but they also kind of live outside of that a little bit, which is why I separated them out. So, for example, in GA4, you may have heard that everything is an event. Well, for example, a page view is an event called Page_View.

If somebody clicks on a video and it’s a YouTube video built-in that will work, you would have an event Video_Start. That event would have parameters, such as which video they were viewing, where they paused it, how far they got through the video. So all those kinds of things are available to you when you’re creating these audiences. Now, one important thing about audiences, they do not backfill.

Okay? You can’t create them like segments you could in UA and then look at them later and go back in time. That is not going to work. There is nothing like segments that can go back in time in GA4. So make sure to create them the minute you think of them. Typically, we have a tab in our spreadsheet we use for our analytics plans called GA4 Audiences. Myself and our team and our client brainstorm all the possible things that we might want to capture in an audience, and then we set that up right away when they’re setting up their GA4.

So I’d recommend doing that, and as you think of new audiences, just add them. Again, as I said, you can get rid of them later if you don’t like them. At least you’re backfilling them now instead of three months from now saying, “Oh, if only I’d set up that audience, you know, three months ago.” Future you would have been so happy. So don’t wait on setting up audiences. The other thing, too, with audiences, you can have static audiences or dynamic audiences.

Static audiences are this thing happened at some point, and so this person is now in this audience. Like at some point they viewed a video. Dynamic audiences are this thing is happening right now. So this person has done this thing, and if they’re not in the dynamic audience, then they’re outside of it. So they’re either in or they’re out, just like high school. So for a dynamic audience, you can choose whether or not you want to have dynamic or static, and that is going to depend on the kind of audiences you create as well.

This part I think is probably not as useful right now. I think more features are going to get added to static versus dynamic in the future. So I don’t know if you’ll use that part right away. That’s okay, don’t worry about it. Just know that it’s an option for future. Now, the last part that I really enjoy about Audiences is using triggers for Audiences. So you may see a checkbox.

We create an audience that will say, “Trigger an event.” So what will happen is an event will be created when someone becomes a member of the audience. This is really useful for things like say conversions. You can use them for conversions because any event can be a conversion. Just FYI, don’t set page views as conversions. I know you’ll have 100% conversion rate then, which might look great to your client, but like, come on, don’t do that.

So you might want to set an audience as a conversion, or you just might want to know how many times this thing happened. So, for example, we have one client who wants to know when people have viewed at least three of their videos all the way to 100%. They’re a training company. So in that case, we fire an event to say X number. Then they would say this week, this number of people got through module one or this number of people watched three videos in full.

That way it’s a nice, easy way in their reporting to say 80% of people who started module one actually completed module one this week, next week, the week after that. So creating audience triggers is really neat. I have AUD_ written here because we always pre-penned any event name for our Audiences triggers with AUD dash so you know that it came from an audience trigger as opposed to something that was measured on your website directly.

So, for example, if it was somebody starting a video, then we would have AUD_Video Start, for example. So it’s like the video start event, but it’s related to an audience specifically. Okay. I’ll move over here. Now, what do you use Audiences for? Boy, I could do like half an hour of different possible audiences you can create, but I don’t have a half an hour.

So here are some ideas of audiences that you should start with. One of the things that I always encourage customers to do is if they have a login, so let’s say they’re a SaaS product, like Moz, for example, and on the Moz website when you go there, there’s a login button. You could take anybody who clicks on that login button and then say, “This person is probably a current customer because they’re trying to log in.”

Or even better, if you do have analytics behind your login, then you can insert them into the audience of current customers if they’ve ever accessed a page that they can only access when they log in. The advantage of this is then you can say, “You know what, we already sold to these people. They’re not going to convert.” Then when you are looking at your conversion rates for different pages or campaigns or whatever it might be, you can exclude the people who are never going to convert because you already sold them.

You’re not going to sell them more. But if you have say an add-on package or something else, then you could take the people who are already current customers, the people who could only buy the add-ons because they already have the base package, and then look at them specifically away from everyone else when you’re considering those conversion rates. So at a minimum, I would say if there’s a way you can differentiate on your website between people who’ve already bought your stuff and people who haven’t bought your stuff, people who are members versus non-members, if you’re say a not-for-profit organization, those are great ways to separate out those two so you don’t need to be confusing yourself with conversion rates.

One of the things that we’ve used this for, actually, is for a convention center, which during COVID they weren’t as busy. We still set up their GA4 anyway. One of the things that we look for is they serve a lot of different audiences. They serve, for example, the people who are going to events. They serve the people who are booking a meeting. They serve the people who are booking a wedding.

So the people who are booking a wedding will probably look at the booking a wedding page. They might also look at the events coming up. People who are booking a meeting will look at the booking a meeting page and the events coming up. But people who are going to an event are only going to look at the events page. More than half of their traffic are people going to the events page and nothing else. So when we’re looking at their sales and we’re saying, “How are your wedding sales,” we’re only looking at people who went to the wedding page.

We’re only evaluating based on that wedding audience. We’re only evaluating based on that meeting audience. We’re not ignoring them, but it’s not important for their conversion rate to see the people who looked at the event page. So that’s one way you can really segment out audiences to make your marketing more effective and really focus it down to what matters. Other stuff you can do, you can evaluate content. So as I mentioned earlier, we have a client who wants to see people who are finishing their videos.

So, for example, even if it’s not a learning platform, if you have video content in your website, create an event based on people who looked at three plus videos on your site, maybe just started them or got halfway through, it’s up to you how you want to set that up. But then look at that audience versus everybody else and then look at the conversion rate. Maybe people who watch your videos are more likely to convert, and if that’s the case, put your videos in more places.

It’s a really great way to evaluate how different pieces of content, different CTAs, different blog posts, for example, can really contribute to getting more people to do the thing that you want them to do. You can also build persona groups. So, for example, like thinking back to that convention center as an example of personas, but also if you have different tools that you sell that are to a different audience, and actually I’ll just use Moz here as an example, right?

You’ve got Moz Pro, and you’ve got Moz Local, for example. You have STAT. Those are three very different audience groups, and so you would have audiences of people who are probably going to be Pro customers, probably going to be Local customers, and probably going to be STAT customers. Then that way you’re only focusing on each individual audience as you evaluate the conversions for that particular product. That’s a really important way, again, to focus in on what’s most important instead of being like, “Our conversion rate, 0.1%, but that’s because we were counting everybody who went to the blog and never went to anything else. They weren’t interested our product.”

Or, “We’re counting everybody who’s already converted,” right? Just get that out of there. Focus on who you could potentially sell to as opposed to literally everyone who’s ever been on your website ever. Then you can also compare audiences. So as I mentioned, you can say, “People who do this are more likely to convert.” That means you have to have an opposite audience. So you could have people who only complete one video, or you could say, “People who get to 50% of this video versus people who get to 10% of this video, I want to compare those two audiences to see which audience was better.”

So I think that that’s also a really effective way to compare do we need to take that last half of the video and slap it up faster? Is there something like that, that pre-roll? You know when you watch a movie trailer and they’ve got like the trailer compressed to the first five seconds, do you need to do that for your videos because you’re losing people, and by the time they get to the good stuff, those people who watch 50% are like, “Yeah, I’m ready to buy,” but they take so long to get there that a bunch of people are dropping out?

That’s a good way to compare audiences as well. Of course, you can use them for Google ads. I heard that’s a pretty neat thing to do. So generally, Audiences are pretty neat. I think that not a lot of people are using them. I think you should use them. I think if you’re agency side, tell your clients about them because clients love coming up with different ways to slice and dice their customer data.

I have never had clients so excited as I said, “You tell me what kind of audiences you want to make, and we’ll make them for you.” They just [plowing sound] through the spreadsheet. So you can definitely give them some homework, and they will help you out with creating audiences. Anyway, enjoy creating audiences. If you have a neat idea for an audience, definitely leave it in the comments or reach out to me on social media.
I’m happy to hear about fun stuff that other people are doing. Thanks so much.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com