How Does Google Analytics Track User Age and Gender?

how does google analytics track age and gender

Demographics Data in Google Analytics

Demographics reports in Google Analytics at their most basic show the age and gender breakdown of your visitors.

Google Analytics Demographics Reports
Google Analytics Demographics Reports

Demographics (age and gender) data is collected along with Interests data which relates to interests that your users express through their online behaviour and purchases.

Both Demographics and Interests data can help by assisting in the development of personas and judging the value of different user types.

How to Start Tracking User Demographics?

This kind of information is not actually tracked automatically in an out-of-the box Google Analytics configuration. In order to start collecting this information in Google Analytics, you need to:

  1. Enable Advertising Reporting Features for your property
  2. Enable the Demographics and Interests reports for the view

1. Enabling Advertising Reporting Features for Your Property

To enable Advertising Reporting Features for a web property, you need to have Edit permission for that property. You can enable Advertising Reporting Features for a web property by using one of the following methods:

  • Modifying your property settings
  • Modifying your tracking code

Modifying your property settings

  • Simply sign into your Analytics account, click Admin and navigate to the property for which you want to enable the features.
  • In the Property column, click Tracking Info, then Data Collection
  • Set the Advertising Reporting Features toggle to ON
  • Click Save.
Modifying your property settings

Modifying your tracking code

Modifying your property settings is the preferred, and most straightforward way to enable Advertising Reporting Features, but if for whatever reason that option isn’t available to you, an alternative method is to simply add a single line of code to your Universal Analytics code snippet.

Between the ‘create’ and ‘send’ commands, add ga(‘require’, ‘displayfeatures’); similar to the example below:

<script>
(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){
(i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o),
m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m)
})(window,document,'script','//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js','ga');
ga('create', 'UA-XXXXXX-XX', 'example.com');

ga('require', 'displayfeatures');

ga('send', 'pageview');
</script>

If you’re using Google Tag Manager, follow these instructions to edit the Analytics tag.

If you’re still using the ga.js tracking code, you can find instructions for modifying that code here.

2. Enabling the Demographics and Interests Reports for Your View

After enabling Advertising Reporting Features for your property, you still won’t see Demographics data in your Google Analytics report. You also need to enable Demographics and Interests reports. The easiest way to do this is as follows:

  • Simply sign into your Analytics account, click Admin and navigate to the property for which you want to use Demographic and Interests data.
  • In the Property column, click Property Settings.
  • Under Advertising Features, set Enable Demographics and Interests Reports to ON.
  • Click Save.
Enabling the Demographics and Interests reports in Google Analytics
Enabling the Demographics and Interests Reports

How does Google Analytics know user Age and Gender (and other Demographic info)?

By default, if a user is logged into their Google account, Google Analytics can access profile information like age and gender. This info is available to Google Analytics when the user is logged into Google services including, but not limited to:

  • Google Chrome Browser
  • YouTube
  • Gmail
  • Chromebook Laptop Devices
  • Android Mobile Devices

Along with Google Account information, once you update Analytics to support Advertising Reporting Features, Analytics collects Demographics and Interests data from the following sources:

  • Third-party DoubleClick cookie
  • Android Advertising ID
  • iOS Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA)

Third-party DoubleClick cookie

When this cookie is present on the users browser, analytics will collect any demographic and interests information available in that cookie

Android Advertising ID

On Android apps, when the Google Analytics tracking code is set to collect the Advertising ID, Google Analytics generates an identifier based on that ID that includes demographics and interests information associated with that users activity.

iOS Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA)

On iOS apps, when the Google Analytics tracking code is set to collect the IDFA, Google Analytics generates an identifier based on the IDFA that includes demographic (and interests) information associated with that users activity.

Age and Gender data is only available for a subset of your users

If the DoubleClick cookie is not present on the users’ browser, they are not logged into a Google Account and neither Advertising ID is present, Google Analytics can’t collect demographics and interests information.

Therefore demographics data (like age and gender) and interests data is generally only available for a subset of your users – so adding Male users + Female users will not necessarily be equal to the total Users figure in your reports.

Of a sample of 30 of my own clients, on average only 32% of user demographics are known by Google Analytics.

% of user demographics that is known by Google Analytics
% of User Demographics that is known by Google Analytics

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