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How to create and use audiences in Google Analytics 4: a complete guide

Audiences in Google Analytics 4 (GA4) let you get granular by creating smaller, defined groups of site or app visitors who share the same user attributes. This feature allows you to form as many subsets of users as you want, so you can slice and dice your user data in ways that matter to your business.


Step right into our simple guide to start building GA4 audiences and making the most of your data. Before setting up Google Analytics audiences, learn about

Maximize audiences as you go:

After setting up audiences, see how to get more from your data:  

On numbers and nuances: tools that gather qualitative data—like surveys and feedback—work with GA4 to give you more context into a specific audience’s journeys and behaviors. This combination of numeric and non-numeric data helps you uncover why users leave without converting and decide how to elevate their experience.

What you should know before setting up Google Analytics audiences 

You can learn to build audiences out of segments or how GA4 predictive analytics works as you go. But it pays to know what these terms mean now, so you can easily create audiences later.

Read on to compare and differentiate audiences and segments, and identify whether you want to set up an audience from scratch or build one from GA4’s suggested predictive audience.

Audiences vs. segments

Audiences and segments serve similar yet distinct purposes within Google Analytics:

  • Segments enable you to narrow your analytics data by users, sessions, or events. They benefit user research, offering answers regarding customer behavior and marketing performance.

  • Audiences, on the other hand, consist of users who share specific attributes or behaviors. They’re actionable, which means you can apply them to target specific user groups in your advertising campaigns, such as Google Ads retargeting (more on this later 🔜👀).

Also, you can access audiences in your standard reports, while segments are only available in explorations. The good thing is that you can build an audience from a segment if you don’t want to start from scratch: for example, you might create an audience based on the pre-built ‘Purchasers’ segment, then show them ads for related products to boost your sales.

Do you know about the Google Analytics and Hotjar integration? It’s a quicker way to combine quantitative and qualitative insights, with all the magic happening in Hotjar (yep, that’s us 👋).

Send GA4 events directly to Hotjar, then go to Recordings and filter your captured user sessions by GA4 events. You’ll see the on-page actions taken by real people, like returning users who recently purchased on your app or site. 

Look for behavioral patterns—like viewing three to four pages before exiting—and trigger a survey when visitors reach a top exit page to uncover any pain points or blockers. 

From here, gather insights you can apply to your next step, whether it’s fixing an issue or crafting a remarketing campaign.

Audience types in GA4

You’ll see four basic audience types when building an audience in Google Analytics: custom audiences, general audiences, template audiences, and predictive audiences.

All you need to know about general and templates, also known as suggested audiences, is they’re predefined for ease and convenience. In this section, we highlight custom and predictive audiences (which also falls under suggested audiences) to show how granular you can get with audience data depending on your goal, e.g. advertising:

Custom audiences

This option allows you to tailor each audience or user group according to your ideal customer profile (ICP) or user persona. Use dimensions, metrics, and events in GA4 to define your subset however you want. Consider the following examples:

  • Users living in Los Angeles, California

  • Users who have triggered the purchase event five times

  • Users who have triggered the add-to-cart event but not the purchase event 

Predictive audiences

Google combines your web and app data with AI to provide predictive audiences or prospects. It suggests users who are likely to purchase—or churn—in the next seven days. These are the five templates showcasing GA4 predictive audiences:

  • Likely 7-day purchasers

  • Likely first-time 7-day purchasers

  • Likely 28-day top spenders

  • Likely 7-day churning users

  • Likely 7-day churning purchasers

Now, the catch: you must fulfill a few predictive modeling requirements for your property to be eligible to use these templates. That is, you should have a sample of at least 1000 users each for purchases and churns.

Once you’re eligible, you can fine-tune or use these templates as they are to collect insights for your campaign. How do you encourage conversion among these audiences: should you remarket through ads (for the top three audiences) or re-engage via email (for the bottom three audiences)?

Get more intuitive with Hotjar

Stop guessing why people behave the way they do on your site. Observe or ask them directly about their feelings, goals, and motivations—and start giving them what they want.

How to create audiences in GA4

As promised, here’s a quick, easy-to-follow tutorial on building your first audience in Google Analytics:

Step 1: access your GA4 property. In the bottom left corner, click ‘Admin’. 

Step 2: click ‘Data display → Audiences → New audience’. You’ll have the option to start with a template or to create a new audience from scratch.

Step 3: if using a template: choose an audience template that suits your needs, such as ‘General → Purchasers’ or ‘Predictive → Likely 7-day churning users’ (if eligible). GA4 will pre-populate the criteria based on your chosen template. Click on the elements you want to edit to adjust the criteria as needed.

Step 4: if starting from scratch: click on ‘Create a custom audience’. Add conditions based on relevant dimensions, such as

  • Demographics: age, gender, or language

  • Behavior: session duration or number of sessions

  • Technology: operating system (OS) or device

  • Traffic source: Google Ads or Facebook

  • Events: specific interactions tracked on your site or app, e.g. requested a demo or finished watching a video

  • User properties: custom attributes assigned to users

Remember: you can define your audience by including or excluding certain criteria.

Step 5: set the membership duration, which defines how long a user remains in the audience after they meet the criteria. This section is set to 30 days by default, while its maximum is up to 540 days.

Step 6: don’t forget to name your audience at the top. Always give meaningful names to your audiences so you can easily identify them later.

Step 7: save your audience and start using it for remarketing campaigns or analyzing user behavior data within your reports.

So you’re all set up—now what?

You already know that GA4 audiences serve analytics and advertising purposes. Audiences enables you to customize up to 100 user subsets per property. So if you need to target your high-value customers with an exclusive ad campaign, you can create an audience for that!

However, no matter how granular it gets, audience data alone still provides an incomplete picture. Here are a few things it doesn’t tell you:

  • Why repeat customers buy your products

  • What aspect of your site or app keeps them satisfied

  • What really influences their buying decisions

Hotjar steps in precisely where GA4’s audience data stops short: it offers the context behind user behaviors. 

The User Attributes feature in Hotjar lets you pass data—such as the total purchase value of each user—to Hotjar. When your top customers make another successful purchase, trigger a survey to appear after checkout, asking them open-ended questions like Why do you frequently shop on our site? Use the collected insights to craft a remarketing campaign that nails this audience’s needs and preferences. You can also filter your heatmaps by specific user attributes for an aggregated view of how your top customers navigate your product pages: which products get the most clicks, and which do they scroll past? For additional qualitative context, click the ‘View recordings’ button on your heatmap to see session recordings of individual users moving through the page. 

With this knowledge, you can build a re-engagement email campaign that directs top customers to well-loved products or promotes less-loved items in tandem with crowd favorites.

Different ways to use GA4 audiences

In itself, audiences have various use cases that benefit your business. Here are some ways they enhance your user and performance analysis, marketing efforts, and advertising strategies.

Compare audiences

GA4 allows comparisons across different audiences. For instance, filter your engagement or conversion report by new visitors and compare them to returning visitors’ performance. Or compare the behavior of customers in France to all users.

Did you know that Hotjar gives you all the quant + qual data you need to understand your audiences better?

Say you want to compare the behavior of new users in France to all new users. First, you want to track these metrics over time by creating charts in Hotjar Trends. Add your charts to the Hotjar Dashboard for easy access.

Now, when you notice an upward or downward trend, click on any peak or dip in your charts to view the session recordings of those specific users. Through Recordings, you may learn that the recent launch of your French homepage has invited a surge of first-time users.

Use in advertising campaigns

Export GA4 audiences to Google Advertising products—including Google Ads, Display & Video 360, and Search Ads 360—and use them for retargeting campaigns. Focus on users who have interacted with certain product pages or taken specific steps on your site, like making a purchase. 

Targeting smaller user groups can make your ads more compelling, cutting down your ad spend while boosting your returns.

Build user persona groups

Audience data helps you sort users into buckets, like 'frequent shoppers' or 'first-time visitors.' You get to know these groups better and can tailor your ads and products to fit what they like or do. Consider making a group for 'coupon lovers' and showing them the best discounts you have.

Evaluate content

Use GA4 to see which content clicks with your audiences. Track how different user groups interact with your pages and what drives them to act. This analysis is critical to fine-tuning your content strategy, ensuring you hit the mark with every audience you serve.

Combine qualitative data and GA4 for better insights

Instead of launching into a qualitative vs. quantitative debate, it’s far more productive to marry objective data with the voice-of-the-customer (VoC) and behavioral observations. 

Consider the following scenarios where quantitative and qualitative data seamlessly work together to provide the full story about your user groups: 

Observe audiences to understand how they use content and boost conversion

Track your content’s popularity with GA4 audiences by looking at pageviews and engagement. Add Hotjar Recordings to the mix and watch how individual users interact with your pages in real time. Do they skip important content or stop watching videos midway? 

Then, zoom out by clicking the ‘View heatmap’ button to see an aggregate view of where your users click, scroll, and move. This visual data shows you the hotspots of user engagement. Apply these insights to your content strategy, ensuring that your key messages and calls-to-action (CTAs) are in areas people are likely to notice. This targeted content placement can significantly improve your conversion rates.

Let Google Analytics tell you the best place to conduct an exit intent survey

Use GA to identify where your audiences leave or hang around without buying anything. These spots are ideal for launching exit intent surveys (using Hotjar? We have a template for that). Ask open-ended questions to uncover why users could not complete an action. Their answers can tell you about problems that aren't obvious just from looking at the numbers.

Narrow down issues and see if they occur more broadly

Zoom out with GA4 to get the big picture, identifying common patterns and issues affecting your audience. Then, zoom in with Hotjar to see if these patterns hold true on an individual level. For example, if you notice many people leaving items in their carts, watch recordings to figure out why. Is the checkout process unclear? Are any technical problems or frustrating elements hiding in plain sight?

#A sample session recording
A sample session recording

Moreover, you can add automated surveys with Hotjar AI to gather feedback when a user abandons a cart. This direct line to user thoughts turns guesswork into precise, actionable insights.

Identify your audience; empathize with their experience 

Get granular with GA4 audiences to understand your app or site users’ diverse needs. Complement this with Hotjar’s session recordings, heatmaps, and website survey questions, capturing user sentiment and behavior to enrich your analysis.

Together, they equip you to make informed decisions that refine customer journeys, enhance UX, and ramp up conversions.

Get more intuitive with Hotjar

Stop guessing why people behave the way they do on your site. Observe or ask them directly about their feelings, goals, and motivations—and start giving them what they want.

FAQs about Google Analytics 4 Audiences