Troubleshooting the Google Analytics Demographics Reports

Google Analytics demographics reports provide compelling information about your website visitors.

These reports can show you data about your audiences’

  • Age,
  • Gender,
  • Interests,
  • And buying preferences.

This demographic information can help you answer one of the most critical marketing questions:

“Who is my customer, and what do they want?”

The demographics reports are supposed to be easy to set up.

But lately, many Google Analytics users have experienced problems enabling these reports. And these problems have caused a lot of confusion about how to access demographics data.

Google hasn’t provided any extra guidance for users experiencing problems. So we’ve had to take our troubleshooting measures into our own hands.

In today’s post, we’ll take a look at the data available in the Google Analytics demographics reports. We’ll walk through how to set up your demographics reports. And, we’ll look at how to troubleshoot problems accessing this data.

Google Analytics demographics reports

The demographic reports are an excellent resource for learning more about your website visitors.

These reports allow you to access data about the age and gender of your audience.

google analytics demographics reports and charts

You can also segment your visitors based on their demographics. Segmentation can help you profile your highest converting customers.

google analytics demographics data by age

You can create segments based age, gender or other characteristics.

google analytics demographic report for gender

And you can use in-market segments to find out what your visitors are most interested in buying.

google analytics demographic reports for interest category

Adding demographics information to the data you usually collect is an excellent enhancement to your Google Analytics data. This is especially true if you’re using this data to inform your paid advertising.

Having this data in your analytics account is like getting toppings on your ice cream. When this feature works, it takes something that is already good – and makes it even better!

But what about when it doesn’t work? Google tells you that setting up demographics reporting is as simple as clicking a button. However, in my experience, this process takes some additional configuration.

One of our Analytics Course students had the same problem. Together, we worked through the steps to unlock her demographics data.

Analytics Course Student question

Denise was trying to get access to her demographics data, and it wasn’t working.

So she sent us the following question:

I have been having a problem for a while now. I have had google analytics up and running for over 2 years and have all of the data we have talked about EXCEPT demographics.

And I have tried everything I can think of, as a beginner, clicked on the link GA provided and made the changes they suggested. Just today, found an alert that suggested I turn on Enabling Advertising features (hopefully this works).

This data is critical to what I need to know about my target market. Do you have any ideas?

Here are the steps we used to troubleshoot her problem.

Troubleshooting Google Analytics Demographics

To access your demographics data in Google Analytics, you need to take the following steps:

1. Enable demographics reporting in the interface

At a minimum, you need to go into your web property settings and – “Enable Demographics and Interest Reports.”

enable demographics and interest reports

If you want more guidance on this step, you can click the learn more link under the Advertising Features button. But, Google’s support documentation on setting up your demographics data is pretty limited. Basically, it says, if you click the button, these features will work.

remarketing and advertising support article

In my experience, there a couple more steps you need to take to ensure your setup works.

2. Adjust your code to start using display features (optional?)

Google says adjusting your tracking is optional. But I’ve found this is the step that makes the difference if you’re demographics data is not working.

You need to add the text that’s highlighted below –  ga(‘require’,’display features’); – to your Google Analytics tracking code.

adjusting google analytics demographics tracking code

You can also adjust your code using Google Tag Manager (GTM). To complete this step in GTM, all you need to do is enable Display Advertising Features.

enable display and advertising feature in google tag manager

This step is always part my process for enabling my demographics reports. And every time I use GTM to set this up, my reports work.

So, although Google says this step is optional, it’s not optional for me. I’d rather not risk losing access to this data.

3. Update your privacy policy to make sure you’re in compliance

Make sure that your privacy policy discloses the data you are collecting in Google Analytics.

Google provides a lot of documentation about how you can use their Advertising Features.  I recommend that you read this information and think about how it affects your privacy policy.

Google analytics advertising features policy

https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/2700409?hl=en

about google analytics advertising features

Each country has different rules and regulations about privacy policies. And with GDPR coming soon, these reports may be removed from certain countries if they haven’t been already. Get to know how the privacy regulations work in your area, and make sure you comply.

Is one extra step all it takes to fix the Google Analytics demographics reports?

Now, here’s the question I have: Is one extra step all it takes to get the demographics features to work?

Google says that step two in our process is optional. But, in my experience, this is the step that fixes any problems accessing demographics data.

So why is this step optional?

We are in a transition phase when it comes to collecting this type of data. And collecting this information isn’t going to get any easier post GDPR environment.

Overall, my recommendation is to play it safe with this data collection and enable every option at your disposal. This means adding “optional” elements in addition to clicking buttons within the Google Analytics interface. It’s better to overdo it and be redundant than to lose access to valuable data.

Also, make sure you’re very explicit with the data you collect. And follow the privacy rules in your jurisdiction.

When you’re trying to troubleshoot these problems, remember, Google’s documentation and recommendations are not always up to date. Sometimes changes are occurring behind the scenes, and their documentation websites are not updated.

Are your demographics reports working?

The one-click demographics setup doesn’t work for many users, even though Google says it should. These issues have caused problems and confusion for a lot of users.

So I would love to know… How has this process worked for you? Are you able to get your demographics data using the one-click setup? Or have you had to use GTM or adjust your code? Leave a comment below about your experience with the Google Analytics demographics reports.


This post and video was episode 74 in our 90 Day Challenge digital marketing series.

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About the Author

Jeff Sauer is an independent Digital Marketing Consultant, Speaker and Teacher based out of a suitcase somewhere in the world. Formerly of Minneapolis, MN and San Francisco, CA.