Google Analytics, out-of-the-box, will tell you how many people visit a site and which pages they navigate to, but without additional customization, it won't reveal more specific user data.
Google Analytics provides basic location-based information harvested from IP addresses. If you're interested in learning more about exactly who your visitors are and what they do when they visit, you can work with a developer to create Custom Dimensions that will reveal more specific demographic information.
One Approach: Re-think Your Site Registration
One approach to getting a better handle on exactly who your site visitors are includes gathering more information from them right off the bat. If you're able to include demographic questions in the initial site registration, for example by asking new users specifically whether they're male or female, this information could be stored in a user database alongside all of the other information associated with that user.
A developer who knows how to build Custom Dimensions within Google Analytics can then help fine tune your understanding of the people visiting your site. By attaching a Google Analytics function to the login script, a visitor's session can be tagged and tracked so that when someone logs into the site, the login process checks against the user database to grab that user's demographic information and then populates that information into Google Analytics as a Custom Dimension.
With this added customization you'll be able to view reports about who is visiting the site (e.g. male/female, student/teacher, Hispanic/White) and understand how differing segments of the population interact with your site:
- What pages are garnering the highest engagement based on gender?
- Which items are most often placed in a shopping cart based on income level?
- Which homepage rotating banners receive the most clicks based on age?
Google Analytics Custom Dimensions can be set at three different levels: visitor, session, and page.
This level of customization is good for sites that do not require visitors to register and login with every visit. So if altering your site registration or login process isn't feasible, this type of Custom Dimension tags a site visitor upon their first visit and then compiles data about their browsing behavior on subsequent sessions. Anytime that visitor comes back, behavior is associated and reported, until of course they clear their cookies.
With a session-based Custom Dimension, individual users' visits are tagged by information pulled from a database at login, so analytics are not affected when users clear their cookies. In other words, every new visitor session whereby a visitor logs into an account is being uniquely appended with the desired demographic information.
This type of customization is perfect for publisher websites, like The Huffington Post, that produce large volumes of content across a wide variety of categories and sub-categories. Every page of their site can be tagged with a Custom Dimension that rolls that page up into a more generalized category bucket. This enables site administrators, data analysts, and marketers to focus on broad categories, rather than having to comb through the data on thousands of individual pages.
So for example, the task of determining how engagement times vary between articles devoted to Technology as compared to those focused on Politics can be measured. And with most websites, all pages on a site can be tagged with the inclusion of a single piece of code in the page template.
If you'd like to discuss how using Custom Dimensions in Google Analytics could help your organization in developing more tailored messaging, please feel free to get in touch.
Is a Growth Driven Design strategy the right approach for your next web redesign? Learn more in the A Web-Dev's Guide to Growth Driven Design ebook.