Google’s new analytics platform, Google Analytics 4 (GA4), will soon be the new standard, as Universal Analytics (UA) is set to stop collecting data on July 1, 2023. GA4 brings a unified data model across any connected experience, increased control over data privacy and governance, built-in data modeling, and closed-loop measurement of marketing across the Google Marketing Platform (GMP). One key aspect of that closed-loop measurement is that GA4 allows you to easily create and manage highly customized, addressable audiences. As such, GA4 can serve as an “audience hub” for marketing activations you want to conduct across the GMP. In this post we’ll look at the basics of creating and managing audiences in GA4, then consider some example use cases to help you get started.

Audience creation in GA4 allows marketers to create audiences based on a wide range of attributes like on-site behaviors, prior transactions, demographics, device info, and more. These audiences can be used within GA4 for the purposes of gaining insights into campaign performance, user experience, and more. Crucially, those insights can seamlessly be actioned because these very same audiences can also be activated across other Google platforms, like Search Ads 360, Display & Video 360, or Google Optimize. The fact that these GA4 audiences are addressable across so many other Google platforms means that a variety of exciting use cases can be executed with only a few clicks of your mouse.

For example, GA4 audiences can drive optimized ROI across paid media via tactics such as retargeting, ad suppression, and lookalike modeling. Furthermore, audiences shared from GA4 to other Google platforms are live synced, meaning that the data is continuously updated, allowing you to always have up-to-date audiences.

Creating Audiences in GA4

To get to audience creation in GA4, first navigate to the Configure button in the menu at the top left of the interface. Then, click the Audiences tab in the menu at the top left of the interface. Next, click the “New Audience” button at the top right of the audiences list. Here you will be able to choose between using a prebuilt audience or creating a custom audience.

Once you are in the custom audience tool, you are able to add conditions that determine whether to include or exclude users from the custom audience. For instance, you could create a custom audience for users who added an item to their cart but failed to complete the transaction.

At the top right of the audience creation screen, you are able to adjust the duration of audience membership (i.e. how long a user’s cookie stays in the audience before expiring). Additionally, you are given the ability to utilize the new audience trigger feature to trigger an event when a user becomes a member of your custom audience. This lets you track the progress and evolution of your custom audiences. For example, you could build an audience of high value customers and track the rate at which customers make purchases of a certain value.

Below the membership duration and audience trigger section, there is a live updated summary of how many users are in the audience you are creating. It shows you a summary of the amount of users that are included and excluded in the audience based on the current parameters that you have set. This allows you to make an informed decision of which parameters to include depending on how large your desired audience size is.

Activating GA4 Audiences Across the Google Marketing Platform

After you have created audiences, you can utilize them across the full Google Marketing Platforms, for example in Search Ads 360,  Display & Video 360, or Google Optimize. Once you’ve linked GA4 to these other platforms, your audiences will be automatically live-transferred to the other Google platforms. 

In Display & Video 360, navigate to the Audiences tab located on the top left of the screen, and then click “All Audiences.”

In Google Ads, select the Tools and Settings dropdown from the toolbar at the top of the screen, and then under the shared library section, select the Audience Manager.

These highly customized audiences can help you to capitalize on your most valuable audiences and drive media effectiveness across channels. Here are a few example use cases that can each help you optimize your return on ad spend (ROAS).

  1. Retargeting: Custom audiences can make retargeting more efficient by focusing on highly specific sub-audiences and targeting them with unique messaging and offers.
  1. Ad suppression: Alternatively, custom audiences can help you reallocate media budgets away from people who shouldn’t be seeing your ads for one reason or another (for example, they’ve already converted, or they aren’t qualified).
  1. Lookalike modeling: Custom audiences can also help you profitably grow your reach by feeding Google’s “Similar Audiences” targeting algorithm. This helps you find new customers who are a close match to the people who are already your best customers — which means that instead of growing with a “spray and pray” approach, you’re growing by finding the specific people most likely to be valuable to you.

Regardless of which activation strategies you’re excited about pursuing first, you’ll be able to get started with just a few clicks of your mouse. We recommend that you start building out some key audiences in GA4 soon so that you can test out some of these strategies, measure the results, and scale up your adoption from there — all while you still have the “security blanket” of Universal Analytics running in the background. 

Check out our Beginner’s Guide to GA4 for more information about the Google Analytics 4 migration.

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