How to create personas using Google Analytics

Posted on May 3, 2023
6 min read

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Personas are a powerful way for marketing and product teams to humanize their craft and better understand their users. The approach of persona creation is so ubiquitous that Google has even incorporated it into their Google Analytics platform to help researchers obtain better data.

What is a persona?

Personas help organizations understand their potential and existing audience in a more personal way.

They're detailed profiles of a particular target audience member who represents a distinct group of people. This group of people share similar behavior, attitudes, and preferences. The persona serves as a representation of them.

Typically, personas are constructed by researching and interviewing real people to gain qualitative data. This information then shapes how a design team develops the product and how marketing teams build their messaging around it.

However, in this guide, we're going to cover something a little different. We'll show you a way to build personas through quantitative data – data you can discover in your Google Analytics package.

Where do you start when creating personas?

First of all, what’s the problem you want to solve?

It’s important to first figure out what you want to achieve. Do you want to sell something? Do you want to improve user engagement? Do you want to create brand awareness? Generate content?

Once you’ve figured out the problem to solve, you then need to identify your audience.

Call it what you will: user, audience or customer segmentation – whatever you call the human being who is actually using your product, the process behind identifying them is straightforward. You just need to break down your aggregated data into various dimensions (that are already available in Google Analytics) and build a full-picture of your customer. These dimensions include age, location, gender, language, device preference.

What data do you need to create a persona?

You need to identify the key patterns that are driving the majority of conversions in your business. Identifying these patterns will help you to reveal your core audience.

You may find out that 90% of your website sales are driven by one type of customer – perhaps a young, woodland-dwelling, non-professional woman, aged 25-35. This would be an actionable and valuable insight for your business because you know exactly who you’re targeting.

There are so many methods of data collection, but how do we know which one to use?

Here’s where it’s important to understand the difference between quantitative and qualitative methods of research.

Qualitative research:

This type of research will help you understand the underlying reasons, opinions and motivations behind customer behavior.

Qualitative research can take the form of:

  • Focus group discussions
  • Individual interviews
  • Observations (the ‘think aloud’ protocol used in Remote UX testing)

All provide actionable, real-world insights without you having to become a specialist in data-science.

However the limitations of using qualitative studies for discovering patterns are that it’s difficult to derive statistical analysis, it’s time consuming and it can also be costly.

Quantitative research:

This is any kind of investigation where the results can be presented with numerical values. The data you’ll uncover in quantitative research is all to do with ‘how many, how often and/or how much, etc.’

Types of quantitative research include:

  • Online surveys
  • Paper surveys
  • Mobile surveys
  • Telephone interviews
  • Online polls
  • Longitudinal studies
  • Anything that can generate data

The drawbacks with quantitive data are that it can tell you what is happening and how many timesbut it can’t tell you why it’s happening. If you want to use quantitive data to make changes or improve your product or website, you’ll only be making a guess as to what those changes need to be.

It’s important to have a holistic approach to understanding your audience. A blend of quantitative and qualitative research will cover all bases.

If you’re using quantitative research, then there's a good chance that the huge volumes of aggregated data can result in this unwieldy type of spreadsheet.

This kind of data overview serves its purpose, but it's important to translate this information into more personal and actionable insights. You want to make sure you can communicate this information quickly and clearly to stakeholders, colleagues, and managers. In other words, you need to give life to your data.

You can do this through persona research.

This allows us to visualize quantitative data so anyone can understand it. Persona research serves many purposes.

The exercise can:

  • Reveal buyer’s concerns
  • Evaluate buyer’s behavior so you can see their journey
  • Create content strategy with topics you need to target
  • Reveal what kinds of people are interested in your services

How to create your persona using Google Analytics

Let's get literal and take a look at actually creating a persona in Google Analytics.

Age and Gender

Here is an example of the analytics from our own platform. You can see the breakdown of ages by clicking Audience>Demographics>Overview

As you can see, the largest demographic we have is ’25-34 year-old male’. Here’s where you can start creating your first persona. You can build the group with the highest representation first, but don’t forget that this isn’t your only audience. You’ll also need to build personas for all your high performing demographics.

To add more detail to your persona, you’ll need to click 'Age,' then the ‘secondary dimension’ section where you can search for ‘Affinity’. Then click on the category to add the dimension.

Affinity

Affinity categories helps you identify your ideal online customers at scale. Google Analytics uses different types of factors such as browsing history, time on page, and then associates this with a ready-made user profile (i.e. ‘shoppers’, ‘technophiles’, ‘foodies’, ‘music lovers’).

Below, we’ve added the ‘Affinity’ secondary dimension to the Age demographic to reveal the main interests of our 25-34 year-old audience.

This gives us more insight into the background of our audience in order to give more detail to our persona.

In-Market

Within the ‘Secondary dimension’ drop-down menu we can then search for ‘In-Market Segment’

The In-market segment is a way to connect with customers who are actively researching and comparing products or services across the Google Display Network (YouTube, paid search results via AdWords, display ads via AdSense, etc).

Below you can see what products/services our audiences are interested in.

Geo

We can also filter by language and location in order to see where in the would our audience is visiting us from. To find this filter, click Audience>Geo>Language and Audience>Geo>Location.

Devices

Now we need to find out what devices our audience is using to access our site. By clicking Audience>Mobile>Devices, you can see exactly which brand of mobile they’re using and even what service provider or operating system they prefer.

Putting together your persona

The above data can be accrued using any analytics package, not just Google Analytics. Just remember that however you obtain it, when you’re putting it together in some form other than a giant spreadsheet, you need to make it clear.

Try to avoid putting these together in a clinical, sterile way (by naming them Persona 1, Persona 2, etc) – we need to give the persona a name and a personality. This will humanize your persona. 

You don’t have to be a graphic designer to do this. You can put all the information into a simple table, grouping personality traits under your chosen names.

Or if you have some skills in design (or the resources in your organization), you’ll be able to make something a little more visually appealing. Like this example:

There are a lot of specific details here about Johana, a 23 year-old student who wants to ‘grow a strong marketing reputation’. The goals above haven't been gathered from Google Analytics data we’ve uncovered, but more likely are revealed through qualitative research. It is important to look at both qualitative and quantitative data to get a deeper understanding of your target persona. 

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