One of the coolest features of Google’s free analytics system is that it can show you a geographic map of your website’s users. Geographic maps can help determine top markets, the effectiveness of offline campaigns, where to target special offers and advertisements, and more.
This info is also interesting and dare we say “fun to look at.” Here’s how you find it.
How To View A Geographic Map of Website Users
Starting from the standard Audience Overview page…
- Click ‘Geo’, then ‘Location’
- Click the country name to view info by region (aka states in the USA, provinces in Canada)
- Click the region name to view info by city
If your business is focused on a specific city, this data might not be very helpful to you, as you can’t drill down beyond the city level. But, if your business is focused on the entire USA, this data can be very valuable.
Making Use of Geographic Analytics Data
At Spork, most of our clients are focused on selling auto parts and accessories online across the USA and/or Canada. We tend to use geographic data to adjust our ad biddding, as there are some markets in the USA (like Los Angeles) where there are quite a few local brick-and-mortar parts retailers. These local retailers compete with our online retailers, and generally speaking, the conversion rates in these major markets are lower as a result.
However, this is just one application of geographic data. Some other ways geographic analytics data can be used:
- Micro-targeting. If you determine that you have a lot of good customers in Tulsa, Oklahoma, you can use this data to invest in a locally focused ad buy.
- Content strategy. If you see that most of your customers live in rural areas, you can write content from the perspective of a rural resident. You can also write about questions or concerns that rural residents may have about your products or services.
- Discovering regional differences. If, for example, you see that some of your blog content is more popular with people living in southern states than people living in northern states, you might be able to determine a difference between consumers in these geographic areas.
- Sharing insights with business partners. If your company has lots of affiliates at the local level (say, your company makes auto parts and sells them to repair shops across the USA), you can share insights with them about their local market. You can compare web traffic at the state level with census data, and determine if/when there’s above average interest in your product in a particular state. Then, you can use that info to encourage local affiliates in that state to buy more product (for example).
If you’ve got a large amount of data to work with, geographic analysis can be very interesting. We often look at 6 or 12 months worth of data when we’re evaluating ad bids, for example, and that works out great.
But How Does Google Analytics Know Where People Live?
At this point, you might be wondering how Google knows where website users are located. The answer is that Google Analytics looks at the Internet Protocol (IP) address of every visitor to determine where they are in the world.
If you’re not aware of IP addresses, here’s a quick run-down: Every piece of information sent across the internet has a destination IP address (where the info is going) and a return IP address (where the info came from) – sort of like a letter you mail at the post office. These IP addresses contain information about the country they came from, and often times the IP address will tell you a specific geographic location (especially in the USA and Canada). It should be noted that this technology isn’t foolproof. It’s good for trending, but it’s not 100% accurate.
Locating customers by IP address usually isn’t accurate beyond the city level, which is one of the reasons why you can’t drill down beyond the city level in Google Analytics. The other reason you can’t drill down too deeply is privacy – if you could narrow things down to a city block, for example, you could start figuring out which individual consumers were looking at your site.
That’s not something Google Analytics offers, at least not yet.