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How to use advanced segments in Google Analytics

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013 by Emily Mace

SegmentAdvanced segments in Google Analytics (GA) can help you to view how people are interacting with your content and see how specific groups of people behave on your website.  GA comes with a set of predefined advanced segments, but you can also create segments of your own to see information specific to your own website or marketing activities.

What are advanced segments?

An advanced segment is a sub set of data within GA which, when applied to your analytics, allows you to see all of the data in GA across the range of standard reports.  This means you can set up a view of a specific subset of your data (such as people who have completed a purchase or come to your website via PPC), then see what products they bought, what pages they landed on and how long they spent on your site.

Unlike setting up a filtered profiled, you can apply a new advanced segment to historical data, whereas a filtered profile will begin collecting information once it’s been set up and cannot see historical data.

Advanced segments can be set up to include a number of different rules, to include or exclude specific data.  For example, you could set up a segment for people who have made a purchase and who began their visit to a specific product or service page as their landing page. Alternatively, you could set up a segment for people who have spent longer than three minutes on your site and who downloaded your online brochure.

What advanced segments are provided by default?

By default, GA comes with some predefined advanced segments which you can use across any of your analytics accounts. These segments offer a number of sample views of your data and can be very useful in monitoring how your site is performing.

These segments are listed below:

All visits – this is the default view of GA, showing you all of the visitors to your website

New visitors – visitors who have not visited your site before.  Remember, if someone is viewing your site from a different browser, computer or has deleted their cookies, they will show up as a new visitor even if they have been to the site before

Returning visitors – people who have visited your site before. As mentioned above, this won’t include people who have deleted their cookies or are using a different computer or browser

Paid search traffic – all the traffic which is marked in your GA as being from paid search methods – such as Google AdWords.  For this report to work correctly, you must have connected your GA and AdWords accounts together correctly

Non-paid search traffic – visitors who have come to the website via organic sources such as Google organic listings

Search traffic – combines both paid and organic search traffic into one

Direct traffic – shows how people who have visited your site directly (either via a bookmark or by typing the URL into their browser) are behaving.  Email marketing (which doesn’t use campaign tracking code) can also show up as a direct visitor if someone is using a mail client such as Outlook

Referral traffic – the visitors who have come to your site via a link from another website

Visits with conversions – visitors who have completed a conversion on your site.  The conversions are set by the goals you have configured in your GA, such as a form completion.  This also includes visitors who have completed an online purchase on your site if you have ecommerce tracking configured

Visits with transactions – If you have ecommerce tracking configured, this shows you the visitors who have completed a transaction on your site

Mobile traffic – shows the behaviour of visitors to your site who have come through using a mobile device. It’s useful for recognising if mobile users are able to convert in the way you want them to, or if the way the site is shown on phones and tablets is interfering with your customers’ ability to convert

Tablet traffic – similar to the Mobile Traffic segment, this allows you to see how people are interacting with your site from tablets

Non-bounce visits – allows you to filter out the people who only viewed one page of your site, so you are able to see the performance of your content and checkout process with only qualified visitors in the equation

How to use an advanced segment

To begin using a segment, go to the advanced segments button in GA – which can be found on the left above the standard graphs in all reports:

Advanced Segment Button

When you click on this button, you can see the predefined segments on the left and any segments you have created on the right.

Advanced Segments View

In this instance, we have no advanced segments created – but the standard segments are visible on the left-hand side.

You can select up to four segments to apply to a report, so you can view more than one dataset at one time to compare different behaviours.  Two common combinations we as search marketers use are comparing paid search traffic with non-paid search traffic or comparing all visits with either/or paid search traffic or non-paid search traffic.  Doing this allows you to see if any spikes you see in your traffic are as a direct result of your online marketing activities. You can also compare the impact of paid and non-paid sources.

When you do this, you will see a graph which contains the lines for the segments you have active at that time.  For example, in the below graph I am comparing paid search and non-paid search traffic…

Comparing Two Segments

You will also see a summary line of information for each of your segments. If, for example, you are looking at pageviews to the homepage and have the all visits, paid search traffic and non-paid search traffic segments, you will see three lines of pageviews for the homepage – one for each segment, as shown below:

Comparison Stats

How can I create my own advanced segment?

The above segments are incredibly useful and I find I use a number of them regularly when I’m reporting on the performance of my clients’ websites. However, you may find that when you are looking at reports, you are regularly using the advanced filter option within GA to view a specific set of data (such as always filtering to exclude non-brand keywords from your reports) and if this is the case, you might want to set up your own advanced segment to allow you to save time moving forwards. Then, you don’t have to keep doing this and you can view lots of reports with the rules you’ve applied already set up on them.

To set up a new segment, go to the advanced segments window again and select the ‘+new custom segment’ button in the bottom right-hand corner, which will bring up the ‘create new custom segment’ window.

Give your segment a name and then add the filter options, which you want to be applied using the drop-down boxes.  Remember that metrics (which are numbers such as pageviews or revenue) are shown as blue buttons and dimensions (which are types of information such as pages or traffic sources) are shown as green buttons.

In the below example, I’ve created a segment for non-brand organic visitors when my website name is ‘Emily’s Shop’.  So the medium I want to include is organic (discounting non-organic visitors) and the keyword to exclude is ‘Emily’ – the brand name of my site.

Non Brand Organic Visitors Segment

Once I am happy with this, I can either test, preview or save my segment.  Once my segment is saved, it will appear in the list of custom segments on the right-hand side of the advanced segments drop-down.  I can amend the settings on my segment at any time by selecting the ‘edit’ button next to the segment name.

One final note on advanced segments is that at the moment these can’t be shared, so if you set up an advanced segment and want someone else to see these too, you need to either send them a link to the segment so they can add it to their GA or talk them through setting this up themselves.  To share a segment, click the ‘share’ button next to the segment name in the advanced segments drop-down.

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About the author

Emily Mace

Emily Mace

Emily joined Vertical Leap in 2008 and is now the Senior SEO Campaign Delivery Manager. Emily previously worked in training, IT Support, Website development as well as SEO and worked for local Government departments and Tourism South East. Emily gained Google Analytics Individual Qualification in 2011, and regularly blogs on the technical aspects of SEO, sharing her expertise with our readers. Follow on Google+