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What Data Does Google Collect?

We all know that Facebook is the leader when it comes to collecting data that assists in building highly targeted audiences. Google has been quietly improving their efforts in this department and will close part of the gap this year. While most AdWords advertisers make adjustments based mainly on location and device, I believe that this year more and more advertisers will learn how to harness the power of demographic targeting that google introduced a couple of years ago. In order to understand why or how Google will make their demographic targeting successful we should really be asking what data does Google collect and how does it collect it.

The Data That Google Collects

Google collects 3 types of data:

  1. Stuff you do.
  2. Stuff you create.
  3. Stuff that are unique to you.

1. Stuff You Do

This could include things such as:

  • Things you’ve searched
  • Sites you’ve visited
  • Videos you’ve watched
  • Ads you’ve clicked on
  • Your geo-location (including where you work, live, prefer to eat, etc.)
  • Any info they can get on your device
  • IP address
  • Cookie data collected and much more

Whether you’re using Chrome, Google Maps, Search, Youtube, Gmail or any other Google product, you can be sure that more data is being collected.

2. Stuff You Create

This could include:

  • Email correspondence on Gmail.
  • Your contacts
  • Calendar events
  • Pics and videos you upload.
  • Docs, Sheets, and Slides on Google Drive.

In short, if you’re signed into your Google account any action you take will be analyzed. But what if we’re not signed in?
Adwords has a demographic labeled as “unknown” anytime there is insufficient information on the user’s demographics and Google describes it using the following:

How Google determines demographic information

“When people are signed in from their Google Account, we may use demographics derived from their settings or activity on Google properties, depending on their account status…. In addition, some sites might provide us with demographic information that people share on certain websites, such as social networking sites.

For people who aren’t signed in to their Google Account, we sometimes infer their demographic information based on their activity from Google properties or the Display Network.”

Apparently you don’t have to be signed in. Leave it to Google to figure out on their own who you might be.

3. Stuff that are unique to you

This basically means:

  • Name
  • Email address and password
  • Birth Date
  • Gender
  • Phone number
  • Country

Anytime you sign up for a Gmail account, you’re required to give all this information. Even if you opened an account years ago, Google will start nagging at some point that you must give up all this info, mainly your phone number.

With that said, I personally created many Gmail accounts for various reasons and in many cases I did not give my actual birth date or even gender. I’m sure I’m not the only one, and this raises the question of just how accurate can Google be after all?

While there may be some inaccuracy with some of this collected data, I still believe you can leverage demographic targeting quite efficiently.

Discover Optimization Opportunities using Demographic Data

As I’ve mentioned earlier, Google tracks everything you do on Google products, especially when you click on ads.

In any active AdWords account you’ll be able to see this data being collected and tracked.

Thus, when you log into your clients’ AdWords accounts, you’ll see the results of this data tracking.

You can learn a lot from looking at these reports, for instance you can discover that a certain age group has an extremely poor conversion rate.

If you notice something like that, you can apply a negative bid on that specific age segment to prevent any wasted spend.

The same can happen with gender, you might discover that Female users have a much higher conversion rate compared to Male users, so applying an increased bid for Female users and a reduced bid for Male users makes sense.

When I look at the demographics for my digital marketing agency I can clearly see that the majority of my visitors are men between the ages of 25-45.

Remember the “unknown” segment I mentioned earlier, even though you can’t pin point exactly what this segment consists of, you can at least know if it’s performing well or poorly for you and make adjustments accordingly.

Optimization Tips

1. Segment Separate Ad Groups

You can create additional ad groups that are dedicated to specific demographics with both dedicated ads and landing pages that could be custom tailored for that specific audience.

This method also allows you to adjust your bids more effectively and obtain higher performance metrics overall.

If you know that Men between the ages of 20-30 are your best converters, it would make sense to create an ad group dedicated to them.

2. Understand Your Client’s Business

While Google has a ton of data for you, not all of it always makes sense. If your client understand their business, they should also understand who their clientele is. In other words, they can probably make an educated guess that helps explain what Google Analytics sometimes won’t.

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