Building audiences is by far one of the top features you can take advantage of in Google Analytics. First party audiences in GA not only let you target and re-market users in AdWords and DoubleClick Bid Manager (DBM), but you can also use them to personalize the site experience with Google Optimize 360 or even serve more targeted ads with DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP). With these direct product integrations, you also won’t run into cookie loss like you may experience with other solutions.

How audiences work

There are pretty much 2 ways to create audiences in GA. You can start by creating a segment and then building an audience off that or creating an audience from scratch in the admin section. In this post I’ll show you how to create audiences from segments because that’s the most typical way that you would want to create an audience.

Audiences for ad targeting

Before you create an audience for ad targeting, start with strategy and analysis. For example, are you trying to re-target lower funnel users? Are you trying to use the audiences for prospecting? There are 3 ways that you can use GA audiences in your ad targeting:

  1. Audience re-targeting: This is probably one of the most common methods for using audiences in GA and is used to bring users back to your website. Audience re-targeting is a great technique for driving lower funnel users to purchase.
  2. Similar audiences: This could be one of the most underestimated uses for GA audiences. Similar audiences helps you find people who share characteristics with your site visitors. A good use case would be to create an audience of users that made a purchase and create a similar audience off of that.
  3. Audience exclusion: Sending audiences to AW or DBM for exclusion is a great technique for excluding existing customers or users that maybe even made a purchase in a certain amount of days.

Cool, but why would I use GA when I could just use a pixel instead?

2 reasons: Ease of use and more advanced targeting capabilities.

If you already have a relatively built out GA implementation, then creating audiences in GA can be a breeze. All you have to do is build the audience in GA. No additional coding required. Also, if you’re a true GA ninja, then you can do this in a matter of minutes.

In addition, you can easily target more advanced audiences that you couldn’t easily do with a simple pixel. For example, let’s say I wanted to target users that were on my site for more than 2 minutes. Or maybe visited 3+ pages. These are just a couple use cases for GA audiences as they aren’t as binary as a tracking pixel.

Note: I’m not saying that GA audiences are the end all be all for everything. I’d still recommend using floodlights for measurement and dynamic creative through DoubleClick Studio.

Creating an audience in GA

To create an audience in GA, you’ll first want to begin by creating a segment. Let’s say in this example that I want to re-target users that viewed a GTM category post with a search ad for my GTM container post.

I’ll first begin by a condition where my custom dimension of Category contains Google Tag Manager.

From there, I’ll add another condition where the user did not view my container post because I don’t want to target someone that has viewed the post for my ad.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll want to click on the dropdown arrow in your segment and select Build Audience.

This will take you to the audiences screen under Admin. You’ll first want to set the membership duration and lookback days. These fields are set primarily based on your business and can vary based on a number of factors. You’ll also want to look at the eligibility because audiences cannot be sent to AW or DBM if certain conditions are applied. For example, you cannot send an audience for display or RLSA if it has affinity or in-market conditions applied.

Next, you’ll want to name your audience. I recommend putting ‘GA’ at the beginning of all your audiences for organization purposes. While AW shows you where the audience came from, DBM does not.

Last but not least, you’ll want to specify the destination. Note that audiences can only be sent to one AW account at a time.

Once you create the audience in GA, it will immediately be available for use in AW. Just apply the audience to your campaign and you’ll be good to go!

I hope you get a chance to leverage this highly important feature in GA as it takes this platform beyond just any web analytics tool.