Turn on Google Analytics Affinity Categories for demographic data

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If you’re using Google AdWords, one of your fondest wishes may have been, “wouldn’t it be nice to know how my retargeting efforts are going?”. Google Analytics now offers a built-in fix for this, called affinity categories, which is slowly rolling out to all Analytics users. If you’re familiar with the interests and affinities in AdWords, you can now see who’s coming to your website based on your retargeting settings:

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This information is valuable for helping you understand which display advertising categories are helping drive new audiences, convert to leads, become sales, or develop longtime customers. Do visitors from certain websites that you’ve got display ads working on behave differently? Do some audiences behave more loyally, return more often, or buy more from you than other audiences? This information can help guide your advertising spend much more intelligently and reduce ad spend waste on audiences that aren’t behaving the way you want them to.

You’ll also get basic demographic data like age and gender, with the understanding that you won’t necessarily get a representative sample of all your website’s audience, just those who have provided demographic data to Google’s display network or Google+. If your audience is active on Google+, you’ll get more data than an audience that’s rooted firmly in Facebook.

Campaign Management

Obviously, if you’re not paying for AdWords ads, this information may not appear in your Google Analytics instance, as it’s intended primarily to help AdWords advertisers (and I’m guessing they are prioritized in rollout). However, the data comes from Google’s Doubleclick network, so if you’re getting website traffic from other Doubleclick sites (sites running AdSense), then you may get some useful information even without paying for AdWords ads. I’m seeing the data for this website, and I’ve got no ads running.

For those websites where you are a paying advertiser using AdWords Display ads (not search ads), this has the potential to be very valuable. Give it a try – just set it up from inside Google Analytics and change your tracking codes as instructed. Note that if you’re using Universal Analytics rather than standard Google Analytics that you won’t have access to this right away.

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