At the end of 2017, Google announced new ways to report on audiences in Google Analytics, giving marketers even more data about who is coming to their sites. Below are some features in Analytics that are about the audience and are not enabled by default. Users need access to the Admin area of Analytics to enable these changes.

User Focused Reporting

Marketers can report on users or sessions by enabling this feature in the property settings of Google Analytics as seen below.

With sessions, the data represents a period of interaction with the website. With users, data is about the visitors. Turning the user metric on or off does impact how metrics are calculated for reports, but does not change the underlying data.

Users isn’t new, but this feature makes it a primary metric in Google Analytics, replacing sessions data for as long as it’s enabled. Note that this metric isn’t the right call though for every report. For example, the Behavior section of reports is about sessions so that is a better primary metric. Decide what you want to know about your audience before deciding to turn this feature on, knowing you can always turn it off later.

User Explorer

The User Explorer is a little creepy. This provides detail about individual users, such as when they first visited the site and how they were reached, with detail about their activity.

Although interesting to see what individual users do, clicking through each Client Id is time consuming and not necessarily insightful. Instead, create a custom segment to view a conversion, such as a check-out page. Then look at the User Explorer report for insights about these groups of users and metrics that stand out for a specific conversion.

Analytics Benchmarking

How does your site perform compared to competitors in your industries? Benchmarking is another feature in Google Analytics that needs to be enabled in the Admin area under account settings.

Once it’s enabled, you can access additional data which helps when setting goals for visits and engagement on your own site. With 1,600 industries to choose from, you can compare your site to several verticals with a drop-down menu and view your strengths and weaknesses compared to other sites.

Some questions to ask include how your site performs organically compared to others, if your social channels are active enough, if email leads are engaged with the site and if your paid campaigns reach the right people. All sites need to pay attention to mobile performance since mobile surpasses desktop use in all geographic regions as you can see below.

Audience destinations

AdWords users are familiar with reaching audiences with AdWords and Analytics. Audiences can also be published in Google Analytics to use as a segment in Analytics reporting. This is not a default feature so marketers need to add this in the Audience Definition section of property settings.

Choosing an Audience Destination of Analytics, in addition to AdWords, allows marketers to see audience behavior across the site and not just in the AdWords reports of Google Analytics. Since this data is not historic, similar to applying a filter in Google Analytics, marketers should add audiences as soon as possible so the data will start to collect.


Once audiences are added as a destination in Google Analytics, you will see them in reports under Audiences > Audiences NEW

It works like a custom segment, allows you to group users based on attributes that matter for your business.

Dynamic Remarketing

Remarketing is in the toolkit of most advertisers. Dynamic Remarketing goes one step further by customizing ads based on specific products or services viewed as well as purchase history.

With PPC campaigns, previous site visitors can be targeted based on their site activity once AdWords and Analytics are connected. For Dynamic Remarketing, retailers also need to make a connection with their Merchant Center account before using.

This is a complicated tactic that requires that the site is tagged with at least one custom dimension. Rather than describing it here, we recommend to learn about dimensions and Google’s support file for setting up a feed in Google AdWords.

Once set-up, your audience is based on the custom dimensions defined in dynamic attributes, allowing you to serve tailored ads in real time for the right audience. You might offer a promo code good for that day only on the item viewed. Or if visitors made a purchase, they can be shown an ad for new arrivals in that same category to bring them back to the site.

Analytics Session Quality

A majority of sessions on your site will not lead to conversions. People may learn about you for the first time and decide they are not interested in what you offer. Or they may add an item to the shopping cart but decide to not check-out.

For website owners that receive at least 1000 ecommerce transaction per month, a Session Quality report is available under Audience > Behavior which indicates how close a session was to a transaction. It shows which keywords and campaign lead to the most engaged users and what your “almost-converting” audience looks like.

Next Steps

There were a lot of features mentioned above and not all will be applicable to your business, so here’s the least you need to know.

Users MetricEnable this when you want to view existing data by users rather than sessions.

User Explorer – Segment your data by a meaningful metric, such as a conversion, then explore the types of users who perform that converting behavior.

Benchmarking – See how you perform compared to specific industry verticals, being careful to not get too granular.

Audience Destinations – Everyone should enable this feature. This works like a segment but takes time to build up and offers more robust reporting.

Audience – Once you add audience destinations mentioned above, you will see a sub-set of Audience in your reports.

Dynamic Remarketing – More complicated than regular remarketing, it’s useful if you want to remarket based on a specific product viewed.

Analytics Session Quality – Applicable to high volume, ecommerce sites.

However you choose to work with your audiences, you can use a Supermetrics reporting templates to help organize your data. And if you are ready to dig even deeper with your Google Analytics data, sign up for Google Analytics Academy. Those courses are all free and Google’s Advanced course include sections on audience reports.

About Tina Arnoldi


Tina Arnoldi is Analytics and AdWords Qualified and one of the few people in the United States recognized as a Google Developer Expert(GDE) for marketing. Her agency, 360 Internet Strategy, is also a Google Partner. You can learn more about her on LinkedIn

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