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3.3 Reporting tab: Audience reports

What are audience reports in Google Analytics?

Audience reports can be one of the most revealing areas in Google Analytics. They provide you with insight into who makes up your audience (the Demographics, Interests and Geo reports), how they access your content (Technology, Mobile), and how engaged and loyal they are (Behavior). The better you understand all this, the better you can tailor your site or app for the needs and interests of your audience.


In all the Audience reports, the display is based on the reporting period you define in the date range drop-down menu. Except for Overview and Users Flow, each report includes a summary sessions graph plus a table chart showing the Acquisitions, Behavior and – assuming you’ve set up Goals – Conversions data for each group.

How to enable demographic data in Analytics

Note that Demographics and Interests data is not collected by the Analytics JavaScript tracking code embedded in your site; it’s derived from the third-party DoubleClick cookie (for web traffic) and from anonymous identifiers for mobile apps. Accordingly, before you can view Demographic or Interest data you must enable Display Advertiser Features for the Property, and enable the Demographics and Interests reports for the View you want to use.

The easiest way to enable Display Advertiser Features for a web Property is to first click Admin, then Property Settings in the Property column. Under Display Advertiser Features, set Enable Display Advertiser Features to ON (and while you’re here, also toggle “Enable Demographics and Interests Reports” to ON); finally click Save. Alternatively, you can update your tracking code directly; you must do this in the case of app Properties. If you’re using Google Tag Manager, you simply tick the box marked “Enable Display Advertiser Features”.

If you haven’t enabled Demographics and Interest reports on the Admin page as above, you can alternatively do so from the Reporting tab: click Audience > Demographics > Overview, and simply click the Enable button above the introductory text. If you haven’t already enabled Display Advertising Features, you’ll now be prompted to do so.

An overview of audience reports in GA

This report features a line graph of the number of sessions over the selected reporting period. Then there’s a display of numbers of sessions, users, pageviews, pages per session, average session duration, bounce rate, and percentage of sessions that are new sessions. (If these aren’t displayed, select them from the drop-down that appears when you click on Sessions.)

Beneath is a data table, with a sub-menu to its left with which you can select what the table displays. By default, it shows the top ten languages, the number of sessions in each language, and the percentage of sessions this represents. The options in the sub-menu are to show the top ten Demographics (Language, Country and City), System info (Browser, Operating System and Service Provider), and Mobile (OS, Service Provider and Screen Resolution – more accurately screen size). Alternatively, you can click the appropriate item under Audience in the main sidebar on the far left to access the full reports.

What are audience demographic reports in Google Analytics?

Demographics offer a choice of three views: Overview, plus specific reports for Age and Gender.

The Overview display breaks down your audience by age groups and gender. You can access the full age and gender reports by clicking the link in each chart or from the sidebar. When you drill into an age group, you see the breakdown by gender; drill into one of the age groups within this and you then see a breakdown by interest. Bear in mind that Google does not report users aged under 18, and that age and interest information is extrapolated from visitors’ previous online behavior and should not be taken as infallible.[1] (Find out more in the ‘Google Analytics Audience Segmentation’ playbook)

What are interest reports in GA?

Find out what your audience’s interests are. As with demographics, the Overview page shows a summary of the other sections, which are: Affinity Categories, In-Market Segments, and Other Categories.


  1. Affinity Categories: identifies users in terms of broad lifestyles – for example Technophiles, Sports Fans or Cooking Enthusiasts. These categories are defined to be similar to US TV audience categories.
  2. In-Market Segments: identifies users in terms of their product-purchase interests.
  3. Other Categories: provides the most detail. For example, while Affinity Categories includes the broad category “Foodies”, Other Categories includes the much more specific category “Recipes/Cuisines/East Asian”.

Bear in mind that a single session might be counted in more than one category – for example, “Software/Internet Software” and also “Software/Internet Software/Internet Clients and Browsers” – but each session is counted only once in the total at the top of the column.

What are Geographical reports in Google Analytics?

This report shows your users’ Language or Location (country, region or city).


In this way, you can quickly spot areas with higher or lower than average numbers of sessions. Choose a Goal Set or Ecommerce under the Explorer tab and you’ll be able to spot locations with high or low numbers of conversions. If you want to attract more users from an underperforming area, you might consider adding content specifically relevant to that area, or more content in the appropriate language. To convert visitors from such areas to buyers, you could consider marketing campaigns targeted at them, and so on. Both reports include the standard charts showing Acquisition, Behavior and Conversions data, and Location also displays a map of your visitors’ locations, derived from mapping their IP addresses to geographic locations. You can click this to drill down to the country you want to know more about. To begin, select Site Usage on the Map Overlay tab, and in the map, select the metric Sessions from the drop-down menu. Set Country/Territory as the primary dimension (top left of the table), then click an area on the map to zoom in. You can now change the graphical display to – for example – Metro area or City using the primary dimension options again.

How to understand user behavior within Analytics

Find out how many of your visitors are new and how many returning, how frequently they visit, and how long it has been since their last visit. The Engagement report tells you how long they spend on your site and how many pages they visit.

Select, say, Frequency as the primary dimension above the table, then select Goal Set or Ecommerce (under the Explorer tab, upper left of the report). Finally, select the Data view (top right of the table) if not already selected. If you find that the highest number or value of conversions correlates with repeated visits, then you might benefit from focusing on attracting new users back, perhaps with inducements to subscribe to a blog or email marketing list.

How to understand technology usage through GA

Available dimensions here include Browser, Operating System, Screen Resolution, Screen Colors, Flash Version, Network, and Java Support. Select each of these as a primary dimension above the table, then select Goal Set or Ecommerce under the Explorer tab at top left of the report. If the conversion rates are lower than average for any given technology, this might alert you to a site design issue that needs addressing, perhaps your site is relying on a technology that your visitors are not using?

How to understand mobile device usage via Analytics

The Mobile Overview shows you the number of desktop, mobile and tablet users who visit your site. The Mobile Devices category report shows you exactly what devices those visitors use, and their Screen Sizes. Analyzing this data can help you decide whether you should optimize the site for a smaller or larger screen size, or even create a dedicated app for the appropriate platform.

Want to identify long-term mobile traffic trends? On the Overview report, select a long date range and Week or Month view from the top-right of the graph. In the table, tick the box next to each device category, then click the Plot Rows button at the top left of the table. The line chart will now show mobile, non-mobile, and all sessions over time. Hover your mouse over a data point in the line chart to compare traffic levels.

Want to collate traffic levels with other metrics? Select an appropriate Goal Set from the Explorer tab, and look at the relevant metrics in the table. If desired, plot the metric you’re investigating (such as Goal Conversion Rate) by selecting it from the “Select a metric” drop-down menu in the graph.

What is custom variable reporting in GA?

This option is a relic from the earlier version of Google Analytics. The Custom Variables report showed activity by custom Segments that you created yourself by modifying the Analytics tracking code. However, custom variables are not supported in Universal Analytics. If you’re using Universal Analytics (as you now should be), you need to use custom dimensions instead.

The idea is that you can implement custom dimensions to collect and analyses data that Analytics doesn’t automatically track. For example, if you have a form on your website where visitors specify which industry they work in, you can capture and report on this. Custom dimensions and custom metrics require additional setup in your Analytics account and in your tracking code. Once you complete both steps of the setup process, custom dimensions can appear as primary dimensions in Custom Reports, and you can also use them as segments and secondary dimensions in Standard Reports. Note, though, that they do not appear directly here in the Audience reports section.

How to set-up benchmarking reports in GA

Benchmarking enables you to compare your figures with aggregated industry data from other businesses who share their data. This helps you put your performance in context and assess what’s happening across your industry. To see Benchmarking data, you must agree to share your own data. It’s then included in benchmarks, but the data you share (including information about the account from which it is shared) remains anonymous.

If you didn’t enable data sharing during setup (see section 4.1 of the ‘Getting Started with Google Analytics’ playbook), click the Admin tab and, under Account, click Account Settings, tick “Anonymously with Google and others”, and click Save.

You’ll now be able to see benchmark reports under Benchmarking. There are three reports:

  • Channels: compares your channel data to the benchmarks for each channel in the Default Channel Grouping: Social, Direct, Referral, Organic Search, Paid Search, Display, Email.
  • Location: compares your Country/Territory data to the benchmarks for each of the Countries/Territories from which you receive traffic.
  • Devices: compares your Devices data to the benchmarks for desktop, mobile, and tablet traffic.

Use the selection menus (top of each report) to refine the benchmark against which you want to compare your data:

  • Industry Vertical: select one of over 1,600 industry categories.
  • Size by daily visits: select from seven traffic size classifications to compare your Property against Properties with similar traffic levels in your industry.
  • Geographic location: limit benchmarking data to a specific country or territory.
  • The number of Properties contributing to the aggregate benchmark data is shown at the top of the report: metrics available include number of sessions, percentage of new sessions, pages per session, average session duration, and bounce rate.

The table displays the percentage by which your Property outperforms or underperforms the benchmark for each metric.

How to understand user flow through Google Analytics

This report is a little different from the other Audience reports: it enables you to visualize the path that your visitors take through your site. Using the drop-down menu at the top left, you can see the flow of users based on language, location, browser, mobile device and similar dimensions.

Follow users from the starting page where they enter through as many interactions as they make or pages they view on your site until they exit. This enables you to compare volumes of traffic from different sources, examine patterns of traffic through your site and identify any problem spots where you may be losing your visitors.

The graphic shows “nodes” and the “connections” over which users moved between them. The first node represents one value of the dimension by which you choose to filter your view, such as Country/Territory (select this in the first column), and other nodes represent a single page or collection of pages (for example, all pages in the “Footwear” directory). A connection represents the path from one node to another, along with the volume of traffic along that path.

The graphic enables you to see the relative volume of traffic to your site by the dimension you choose (for example traffic sources, campaign or browser) and the relative volume of pageviews per page or collection of pages. Mouse over a connection, node or node exit and you’ll see specific metrics for each. Click one to highlight just the traffic through there or to view only that segment.

You can click the arrows or drag with your mouse to pan left or right, and zoom in or out with the Zoom slider. If things are still too jumbled, you can drag the Connections slider to display fewer (or more) connections. By default, data for the last 30 days is displayed; click the date range (top right) to alter this.

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