GA4 Audiences: Content, News Site Guide

Google Analytics 4

What Are Audiences in GA4?

Google Analytics 4 audiences are groups of users that you can create based on dimensions, metrics and/or events. You can use audiences to segment your users and target them with specific content, offers or ads.

You can also create custom reports based on these audiences. While I’ll get into more specific details below, you can base these on behavior, location, specific referral sources and more.

Table of Contents
  • I. Audience Types
  • II. What is the difference between UA and GA4 Audiences?
  • III. Create Audience in GA4
  • IV. GA4 Audience Examples
  • V. Audiences in Looker (Data Studio)
  • V. Predictive Audiences

  • I. Audience Types

    Prebuilt audiences are automatically created by GA4 based on your data. For example, GA4 will create a “Purchasers” audience for you that includes all users who have made a purchase on your website.

    Custom audiences are created by you based on your specific criteria. For example, you could create a “New visitors” audience that includes all users who have visited your website for the first time in the past 30 days.

    You can use audiences in GA4 for a variety of purposes, including:

    Segmenting Users

    You can use audiences to segment your users into different groups based on their behavior. This can help you to better understand your users and to target them with more relevant content and offers.

    Targeting Ads

    You can use audiences to target your ads to specific groups of users. This can help you to improve the performance of your ad campaigns.

    The best way to do this is to connect your Google Analytics 4 property to your Google Ads (or other compatible ads) account.

    Measuring Effectiveness of Marketing Campaigns

    You could track how many users in your “Purchasers” audience have made a second purchase after seeing your ad campaign.

    You could also analyze the behavior of specific groups of users you’re targeting based on your email newsletter or specific social media posts. One great way to do this would probably be with UTM codes that pass information to GA4, which you can sort out in your reports.

    How Many Audiences Can You Have?

    You can have up to 100 audiences per property in GA4.

    Audiences vs. Segments

    Audiences and segments are both ways to group users in Google Analytics 4, but they serve different purposes.

    You may be used to the Universal Analytics dashboard where you could create segments directly in a reports dashboard.

    In Google Analytics 4, you do not have that option. Segments are only something you create and use in the Explore section of GA4.

    The good news? Any segment you create using Explore can be turned into an audience, too.

    Now that understand some of the differences between segments in UA vs. GA4, let’s shift our attention completely back to GA4.

    As we talked about above, audiences are groups of users that you can create based on dimensions, metrics and/or events. You can use audiences to segment your users and target them with specific content, offers, or ads.

    Segments, however, are subsets of your data that you can use to analyze your users’ behavior. You can use them to compare different groups of users, identify trends and measure the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns.

    Here are some of the key differences between audiences and segments:

    1. Audiences are used to target users, while segments are used to analyze data. You can use audiences to target your ads to specific groups of users, or to show them different content on your website. You can use segments to compare the behavior of different groups of users, or to identify trends in your data.
    2. Audiences are created based on dimensions, metrics and events, while segments are created based on conditions. You can create an audience based on any combination of dimensions, metrics and events. You can create a segment based on any combination of conditions, such as “users who have visited the website in the past 30 days” or “users who have added an item to their cart but not purchased it.”
    3. For me, this is a big one: Audiences are not retroactive, while segments are. Audiences will only start accumulating users once you create them. Segments will include all users who meet the criteria, even if they met the criteria before you created the segment.

    II. What is the difference between UA and GA4 Audiences?

    The main difference between UA and GA4 audiences is that GA4 audiences are based on events, while UA audiences are based on sessions.

    In UA, a session is a group of user interactions that happen within a certain period of time. For example, if a user visits your website and then leaves, that would be considered one session. If the user then comes back to your website later that day, that would be considered a new session.

    In GA4, an event is any interaction that a user has with your website or app. For example, a user viewing a page, clicking on a link or signing up for your newsletter are all examples of possible events.

    Since GA4 audiences are based on events, they can be more granular than UA audiences. For example, you could create a GA4 audience of users who have viewed a certain page, or who have added an item to their cart. You couldn’t create an audience like that in UA, because UA audiences are based on sessions, not events.

    Another difference between UA and GA4 audiences is that GA4 audiences are updated in real time, while UA audiences are updated on a daily basis. This means that you can use GA4 audiences to target your ads to users as soon as they take an action on your website or app. This also means any reports that are based on audiences will be more up-to-date.

    III. Create Audience in GA4

    Google Analytics 4 includes two standard or “predefined audiences” in each property: All users and purchasers.

    All users is exactly what it sounds like – every user who’s ever visited your website or opened your app.

    Purchasers, while automatically included, is something you need to set up. That is, you have to define for Google who a purchaser is.

    While helpful to be able to analyze these two default audiences, you probably want (and need) more granularity.

    So, how do you create audiences in Google Analytics 4? With custom audiences.

    Custom Audiences

    To create a custom audience in GA4, follow these steps:

    1. In the left navigation, click Admin.

    2. Under the Property column, click Audiences.

    3. Click the blue New Audience button.

    4. Click Create Custom Audience (or use one of the suggested audiences, which will also count as custom)

    Once you have created an audience, you can use it to segment your users, target your ads and measure the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns.

    I like to use these audiences to analyze data within the Reports and Explore tabs, respectively.

    The primary benefit is being able to analyze or target specific groups of users who visit your site or app instantly.

    IV. GA4 Audience Examples

    Abandoned Carts

    This audience would include users who have added items to their carts but have not completed their purchases. You could target this audience with ads for the items they left in their carts, or you could offer them a discount to encourage them to complete their purchases.

    This is useful whether you sell products, services or subscriptions, such as to a news website or a paid newsletter.

    Multiple Website Visits

    This audience would include users who have visited your website more than once.

    I like to set up audiences for the following buckets:

    • 1 session/30 days: These users are essentially coming once per month
    • 2 sessions/30 days. These users visit your platform twice per month
    • 3–5 sessions/30 days: These users visit your platform about once per week
    • 6–14 sessions/30 days: These users visit your platform multiple times per week
    • 15–29 sessions/30 days: These users visit your platform at least every other day
    • 30+ sessions/30 days: These users visit your platform at least daily

    Engaged Video Watchers

    You could also track users who watch at least 50% of a video on your website. (This is especially easy if you’re embedding a YouTube video, since Google owns YouTube and has some built-in features for that platform in GA4.)

    By Geography

    Is your target audience worldwide? Then you’ll probably want to group users by country to get a better idea of behavior, at a high level, around the globe.

    What if you only care about people reading content or or purchasing your products domestically? Then creating audiences by your most important regions (i.e. states in the U.S.) would be useful.

    Perhaps, though, you’re a hyperlocal news website. Then you would want an audience for the specific city you target.

    Can you target audiences by zip code?

    No, Google Analytics does not allow targeting by zip code. The best way around that, in my opinion, is to get a list of all the cities within the specific zip code you want to target. Then create an audience that includes all those cities.

    To ensure you’re not pulling in irrelevant user data from other same-named cities in different states, include an AND condition in your audience for your state (that is, region). 

    By Device or Technology

    You can get really creative here. GA4 allows you to create broader audiences such as mobile, tablet and desktop.

    You can get more specific, though, and target by device type (iPhone vs. Android).

    It doesn’t stop there, though. You can even target by the operating system version on a particular device.

    You can also group users by screen dimension. And the list goes on.

    Why would you do this? You might notice that bounce rate is high for a particular device or operating system. This could be a clue to do some tests on that specific device and figure out if there’s something incompatible with your website or app.

    Or you may notice that while you don’t have any UX issues, Apple purchases have a higher affinity toward your content than Android users.

    Be careful not to draw strong conclusions from limited data sets. With the right audiences and analysis, though, this is yet another way you can learn which type of user likes which type of content or products that you offer.

    By Engagement

    Are there ways to interact with your site? Perhaps by commenting. Or liking a post, contributing to a forum, creating an account, downloading your app and more.

    Whatever is a valuable action that users can take on your site, you’ll want to know how your most valuable visitors are interacting with your content and products.

    By Source, Medium or Channel

    One favorite example here would be to create an audience based on Google Organic search traffic. While there are other search engines, Google is king. So this gives you a good idea of how your SEO strategy is performing.

    Taking the same approach, you could target based on a particular social network, like Facebook or Twitter.

    If you want to go even broader, you could target by channel. That is, Organic Search, Paid Search (how are your ads performing?), Email (your newsletters?), etc.

    V. Audiences in Looker (Data Studio)

    Audiences are a useful way to segment users in Looker Studio. This can be helpful if you want to analyze the behavior of different groups of users. (Take any example from the previous section to get an idea.)

    There are two ways (though I’m not saying their the only ones) to structure reports in Looker Studio (formerly known as Google Data Studio). The first is to have an entire report based on one “topic”, or in this case, one audience.

    So you might have single robust report all about organic search.

    The second way you could do it is to create an all-encompassing report that features all of your audiences, or whatever other analyses you want to do.

    Benefits of Breaking Your Audience Analysis into Separate Reports

    • Faster load time: The fewer pages there are on your report, the faster they will load
    • Fewer tokens used: Tokens are what Looker users to determine how much data you can load in a given time frame (hour, day) or property
    • Easier sharing segmentation: Not everyone on your team needs to see all your data. This way, you can manage individual access to specific reports

    Benefits of Keeping Doing All Your Audience Analysis in the Same Report

    • Streamlined Sharing: If you don’t care who has access to what data – probably the case at a smaller organization – this is a much more efficient way to do things. Just share one single Looker report and let users navigate based on your table of contents.
    • More Efficient Analysis: Instead of having to jump between different reports and load multiple pages to make comparisons, you’ll have everything you need in the same place.

    Looker Studio, in my opinion, is the best way to analyze Google Analytics 4 data, so long as you don’t have problems with the aforementioned API limit.

    VI. Predictive Audiences (GA4)

    They are audiences that are created based on machine learning models that predict future user behavior. For example, you could create a predictive audience of users who are likely to churn, or who are likely to make a purchase.

    Predictive audiences can be a valuable tool for marketers, as they can help you to identify users who are likely to take certain actions in the future. This information can then be used to target those users with relevant content or offers, or to exclude them from certain campaigns.

    If you’re unfamiliar with this kind of segmented marketing, it’s worth hiring someone to make sure your content strategy is closely aligned with user intent. And even if you’re not running a complex marketing campaign, predictive audiences can give you ideas about different content buckets you could create to target specific groups of users.

    To create a predictive audience in GA4, you will need to have a sufficient amount of data for the machine learning model to train on. You will also need to specify the type of action that you want to predict, such as churn or purchase. Once you have done this, GA4 will create the audience and start updating it on a regular basis.

    If you want to check whether you have access to predictive audiences in GA4:

    1. Go to Admin
    2. Click Audiences in the Property column
    3. Click the blue New Audience button
    4. In the Suggested audiences box (seen below), click the PREDICTIVE tab. If Google Analytics 4 doesn’t yet have enough data to create a predictive audience for you, you’ll see something like this:

    The different predictive audiences are as follows:

    • Likely 7-day purchasers
    • Likely 7-day churning users
    • Predicted 28-day top spenders
    • Likely first-time 7-day purchasers
    • Likely 7-day churning purchases

    Here are the prerequisites, according to Google, for each of these:

    1. A minimum number of positive and negative examples of purchasers and churned users. In the last 28 days, over a seven-day period, at least 1,000 returning users must have triggered the relevant predictive condition (purchase or churn) and at least 1,000 returning users must not.
    2. Model quality must be sustained over a period of time to be eligible. (Learn more about what actions you can take to make sure your property has the best chance possible of being eligible for predictive metrics.)
    3. To be eligible for both the purchase probability and predicted revenue metrics, a property has to send the purchase (recommended for collection) and/or in_app_purchase (collected automatically) events. When you collect the purchase event, you need to also collect the value and currency parameters for that event.

    Just because you meet the thresholds on a given day doesn’t mean they’ll continue to be available. as soon as you drop below the required minimums, your predictive audiences will go away.

    If you do have access to predictive audiences, you can use them for:

    • Targeting ads to users who are likely to take a certain action. For example, you could target ads for a new product to users who are likely to make a purchase.
    • Excluding users from certain campaigns. For example, you could exclude users who are likely to churn from a campaign designed to retain customers.
    • Segmenting users for analysis. For example, you could segment users into groups based on their likelihood of churning and then analyze the behavior of each group to see what factors are associated with churn.

    You can also use the User lifetime technique in the Explore tab to use Purchase probability and Churn probability.

    Predictive audiences can be a powerful tool for marketers, but it is important to use them carefully. It is important to understand the limitations of machine learning models, and to not rely on them too heavily. You should also make sure that you are collecting the right data to train the models, and that you are using the audiences in a way that is ethical and compliant with all applicable laws and regulations.

    Audiences are a powerful tool in Google Analytics 4. While they don’t function the same way you may have been used to in Universal Analytics, I would argue that they’re even better.

    Do you have other use cases for audiences I haven’t covered? Let me know in the comments.

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