Yes, it’s possible. Of course, its not a level of detail that’s normally captured from visitors, but what if we could deliberately invite people to our site who we already knew a thing or two about? And if we could invite enough people from a variety of demographics, there ought to be a way we could get a sense of how different kinds of people experience our site in different ways.
But where are these people, how can we invite them, and how can we keep track of them once they’re on our site?
Where are they?
They’re on Facebook. A billion of them as of recently. Using Facebook’s advertising platform, it’s possible to send out our invitations to people of a very specific type. We can direct our messages to people of certain ages, gender, family status, or even target based on their apparent interests, from Japanese anime (potential audience of c.16 million worldwide) to ironmongery (c.1,000). And if you know a person well enough, it’s been shown in the past that you have a pretty good chance of honing an ad right at them by cooking together these criteria.
How can we invite them?
We create an ad campaign in Facebook. Anyone can set up a Facebook ad account and from there creating an ad is easy. There’s a cost involved, but advertising on Facebook is still comparatively cheap and we’ll be getting a lot more from the campaign than just traffic to our site in this most noble of endeavours.
Expect to pay around $1 US for every click your ads get and budget enough so that you get at least 20 clicks for every demographic segment you want to create in Google Analytics. So if you want to be able to segment your traffic into two age groups of 25-34 and 35-55, and also split this into male and female buckets, then you would want to set aside at least [4 segments] x [20 clicks] x [$1 cost per click] = $80. Any less and you won’t have enough data to validly draw conclusions from.
Go to the Facebook Ad Manager and have a play around, it’s actually very enjoyable.
How can we keep track of them once they’re on our site?
By tagging up the destination URLs of our Facebook ads with Google’s campaign parameters. Any values you specify in the campaign parameters – and you have five to play with – will stick to any visitors who click through to your site from that link and be associated to them throughout their session. So if the first parameter had the value utm_source=aladata, you’ll be able to get a feel for the things these visitors do on your site by creating an advanced segment with the rule Include > Source > Exactly Matching > aladata.
So to be able to create segments for 25-34 and 35-55 year-olds, male and female in Google Analytics, we would need to create four variations of the same ad in Facebook. In each case, we would vary the age and gender criteria and also the destination URL so that we get the following kind of set-up:
Advanced segments can be set up in Google Analytics for any of these five parameter values or combinations thereof. And setting all these parameters by hand can be pretty laborious so Google have gallantly provided a tool that makes the process more palatable.
And that’s it. Now we just need to finalise a budget, send the ads live and salivate as we wait for our data, sweet data to roll in.