I'm often asked by entrepreneurs and executives alike what's the best way for them to better understand their digital following. Google Analytics, Google's freemium tool, is a pretty strong option. Here are some of the best ways to use it to better understand your audience:

#1: Age

One of the things you can learn about your audience is their age. You might think that the average age of the people you're speaking to is 45-54, only to look at your analytics and uncover that 25-34 is the most dominant age group. That might affect the way in which you present content on your site. Another interesting observation is how your audience breaks down along gender lines. Firebrand had one client who was certain that women visited its website more frequently than men, but Jeremy was able to show them that Google Analytics had estimated that 68% of their audience was, in fact, male.

#2: Preferred Language

Preferred language is another observation one can draw from looking at analytics. Now, if you speak American English, you won't be shocked to find out that it's the dominant group on your website. However, you might be surprised to find out that 11% of your audience's de facto language is simplified Chinese. If you're a landscape architect open to international projects, you might want to consider adding a Chinese version of your website, or at least key parts of it, for audience members like this. Offering a good, authentic translation is a respectful way of acknowledging that your culture isn't the only one out there.

#3: Location

Relating to language is location--another key attribute that can be observed from Google Analytics. While the majority of your visits will probably come from the United States if that's where you reside, you might uncover that 9% of your audience hails from France, and another 8% from the Philippines. That's not insignificant, and it's worth figuring out why that is. It could be that your blog content is particularly relevant to thePhilippines, in which case you might want to consider expanding your LinkedIn and Twitter outreach in that region.

If your business is almost exclusively national, that's okay: you can just see which individual cities are browsing your site. When looking at Firebrand Group's traffic, we see New York City as the top result, which is where we're based, followed by Los Angeles. But we also see some surprising ones such as Jacksonville, FL (#4), Poughkeepsie, NY (#8), and Federal Way, WA (#19), between Seattle and Tacoma. Now, if we weren't on top of our analytics, we wouldn't realize that a decent percentage of our audience is in Federal Way. This lets us do further research on the good people of Federal Way, try to establish which companies there are looking at us most often, and so on.

#4: Browser Type

It's also important to analyze how people are browsing your site. Everybody says that they're designing "mobile first," meaning they're thinking about mobile design and user experience before they start obsessing over the browser experience. Identifying how your audience splits its time between mobile, desktop, and tablet is important. But so is determining what kind of browser someone is using--such as Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, Edge, or Firefox. If the vast majority of people using your site are employing an old version of Internet Explorer, for example, that probably means your audience is less technically literate on the whole, and may be overwhelmed by your website if you use too many cutting-edge features.

#5: Getting Advanced

If you want to get very technical, Google Analytics even lets you put together Custom Reports. This is powerful stuff that lets you create mashups of different types of metrics to really get under the hood and understand your customers. For example, when writing this, we put together a custom report that let them see the average amount of time people from different countries are spending on the Firebrand Group site. From this, we can see that people from the US spend an average of 55 seconds (30th overall), with the most attentive viewers being from Venezuela, at an average of 5 minutes, 17 seconds apiece. Thank you, Venezuela! I look forward to seeing those speaking invitations roll in.

By the way, when you go to Custom Reporting, there's an "Import from Gallery" feature that is incredibly useful. It lets you import any reports and dashboards that have previously been created by Google Analytics gurus, or ninjas, or whatever you want to call them, from around the world. (Tip: don't call anyone a ninja, especially yourself, if you want to be taken seriously.)

Want more on how to build your personal brand through digital channels? Check out Getting to Like, my latest book (with co-author Ali B. Zagat), where we cover everything from analytics to content development to picking your social media channels, and more.

Published on: Apr 2, 2016