If you haven’t heard of buyer personas before now, here is an excellent definition from web-marketing legends, Hubspot:

A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. When creating your buyer persona(s), consider including customer demographics, behaviour patterns, motivations, and goals. The more detailed you are, the better.

Having a buyer/customer focus sounds like an obvious thing to do right?

And it would make sense that a great deal of time and effort is invested in creating accurate and insightful buyer personas on which successful strategies and campaigns could be based?

I hope you answered yes to both of those questions, perhaps you even said it out loud in the office and people stared.

However, more often than not, when I ask fellow marketers about their buyer personas they either haven’t done any or they’ve created just one to fit all potential buyers in the world (no segmentation) and the details in the personas have no basis on actual data.

As these personas are often then used as a foundation for marketing communications strategy and messaging I am understandably troubled. Thousands, even millions of pounds could be wasted on totally inaccurate targeting because it’s all based on hunches…personas created out of the imaginations of people dreaming up who they think will like their products, or worse, the people they want to sell to.

When I quiz further, it often transpires that many of my fellow marketers feel that they don’t have the time to do all of the research necessary to create great buyer personas. Sometimes they might also feel overwhelmed by the task, especially when they just don’t know where to find the information they need.

This is totally understandable, I’ve been there myself.

So to help anyone in this position, I want to share a quick-fire way to create a very basic but very usable buyer personas from your Google Analytics data.

Any buyer personas created in this way will represent people that have actually engaged with your website/brand to the extent that they have ‘converted’ on your website (e.g. they made a purchase, donated money, completed a lead generation form, emailed you with, called your sales team or help line, etc.)

These are exactly the kind of people that you want more of on your website. Therefore, they are the people that you want to target with your website traffic generating campaigns (e.g. PPC, social media, email, PR, SEO, etc.).

1. Make sure you have setup goals in Google Analytics

This is of crucial importance for establishing the performance of your website and the campaigns that drive traffic to it (e.g. SEO, PPC, social media, paid social, email, etc.)

When I set up goals in Google Analytics I label them as macro or micro goals and use the ‘goal sets’ to group them together (e.g. Goal sets 1 and 2 for macro goals, goal set 3 and 4 for micro goals).

The macro goals represent that actions we really want users to take on the website (e.g. make a purchases, submit a contact form enquiry for lead generation, etc.). We are going to use our macro goals to great effect when creating our personas.

For more information, read this fabulous blog post on tracking macro and micro goals from digital marketing metrics guru, Avinash Kaushik.


2. Create custom segments based on your goals

Here’s where the real fun begins!

Creating custom segments in Google Analytics really starts to enable you to harness the power of the system. For full instructions on setting up custom segments, refer to the Google Analytics help files.

Create a custom segment based on one or more of your macro goals. In the example below, this segment is on a B2B website and we are segmenting users that have contacted the business through the website either by calling them on the phone, clicking an email link so they can email the business (e.g. in Outlook, through Gmail, etc.) or by submitting the main contact form on the website.

If phone calls made from users viewing your website would be classed as a conversion and you would like to be able to track these conversions, get in touch with me and I can explain how I could help you with this.

Custom Segment

Interestingly you can see a preview of the numbers involved in the preview summary on the right-hand side; essentially the macro-conversion rate for the site in the period previously selected in the Google Analytics view is 3.19%.

To make this even better, you could save this custom segment and duplicate it. You could then edit the duplication and add more conditions that represent even higher levels of profitable engagement. For example, greater numbers of enquiries or repeat purchases (if this were an e-commerce website) or high order values:

Customer Segment Conditions

Then you’re not only identifying just any macro conversion, you’re starting to identify your highest value converters. Your most profitable users!

3. Use audience data to generate demographics and interests of buyer personas

If you haven’t done so already, you need to tell Google Analytics that it can make user demographics and interest reports based on age, gender and interest data. You can do this in the admin settings:

Admin > Property Settings > Advertising Features “Enable Demographics and Interest Reports”

Remember, you should have an appropriately compliant cookie policy in place on your website first.

With this in place, we can access the demographics and interest reports to start building our converting-user persona.

In this example I have compared two segments in the demographics overview report, users that made a purchase vs users that didn’t make a purchase:

Demographics Buyer Personas

Gender Buyer Personas

You can see that the demographics profiles are similar, as many people that visit a site don’t convert because they are not ready to do so at that moment in time. They may come back later…

However, we can clearly see that females in the 25-34 age group represent the largest converting age segment. We can also see that very few people over the age of 55 converts. This is worth noting if we were to create a ‘negative persona’ too. A negative persona would represent exactly the kind of people that we would not want to waste our precious marketing budget on as they might visit the website, but they would probably not make a purchase.

Now run through the same principles for the other demographics and interest reports to build up your persona using their interests, geographical location, user type (new vs returning), browser technology and mobile device types.

Look at this segmented user type data, you can see that returning visitors account for over 80% of users that made a purchase:

Made a Purchase

So this means that people in your target persona typically do not make a purchase upon their first visit to the website. This is incredibly important to know as it means that campaigns need to be put in place that drive return visits (e.g. email, remarketing/retargeting ads in Google AdWords and Facebook).

4. How do I create the actual persona?

You could export this data into spreadsheets and then put it into a persona template, or you could take screenshots and paste them into your template.

What template? I hear you cry!

Well, you could download Hubspot’s free buyer persona template and customise it to feature your Google Analytics data and save yourself lots of time.

Buyer Personas Template

When you do have more time at your disposal, you could try and gather more information on your buyers in order to build a complete picture by filling in the blanks in this free template.

Remember, you can create more than one persona and negative personas are really useful too.

Perhaps you could create buyer personas for your ‘average customers’ and for your ‘big spenders’. This could help you to allocate your budgets for your targeted marketing campaigns.

5. Use as a basis for segmented targeting

By creating remarketing lists in Google Analytics you can directly integrate this persona information with Google AdWords to take advantage of their remarketing services.

You can also use your persona information when setting up your targeting on paid social advertising, particularly Facebook which has incredibly powerful targeting capabilities.

If you are buying email lists you could use this persona information when sourcing your lists, and I’m sure you could think of many other practical ways to use your personas.

How do the buyer personas you have created match up to who you thought would be interested in buying/using your products and services?

Why not tweet us and let us know!


About the author

Alex Hutson is one of Oxford College of Marketing’s lecturers and key support tutors. Like many of our assignment tutors and lecturers, Alex is also a consultant. If you would like help to improve the usability of your website and your conversion rates, you can contact Alex through LinkedIn or via his website.