Creating Useful Advanced Segments In Google Analytics – Part 1

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Google Analytics can be an online marketer’s most powerful tool for gathering a wealth of information about a website and its users.  However, there are two common problems that occur when using Google Analytics to mine search data.  First, mining for causative and actionable data can sometimes be very unproductive.  This is referred to as “analysis paralysis,” and has been known to affect online marketers of any skill level.  Secondly, commanding Google Analytics’ interface to pull custom search data can be very time-consuming.

For instance, consider the time it takes to weed out the multitude of branded keyword variations and misspellings from your search data, especially if you have to do it each time you access the information.  Fortunately, Google Analytics allows users to use both default and custom advanced segments to expedite the data gathering process.  In addition to showing you streamlined ways to pull and compare search data, I will also show you how to build custom segments that gather specific data on your website’s true shoppers and the keywords they are using to find your products and services.

A. Introduction to Setting up Google Analytics

The first step in harnessing the power of Google Analytics is customizing it to meet your specific needs.  With some advanced knowledge, not only can you mine the right data, you can also keep your settings for future reporting.  Here is a basic overview of how to access some of the default advanced segments in Google Analytics:

1. Start by clicking on the Dashboard tab.

2. Locate the Advanced Segments tab on the top-right corner of the chart.

Advanced segments

3. Once you click on this tab, a drop down with segment options appears.  These include items such as all visitors, paid search traffic, non-paid traffic, visits with conversions, etc.

Advanced segments

4. Click on as many options as you need, then click “Apply” to view the overlapping data.

With regard to custom segments, there are two major reasons why each user should pay special attention to them.  One, custom segments pinpoint exactly what you want to know.  For example, if your company had an advertisement live at the Kentucky Derby, you could isolate traffic shortly thereafter in Kentucky.  Two, you can “bookmark” these custom settings and access them as frequently as you want.

Let’s use the Kentucky Derby advertisement scenario to help you get started on how to create a custom segment.

  1. From the Dashboard, click on the “All Visits” tab.
  2. Then, click the “create a new advanced segment” button.
  3. Pick “Region” as your Dimension.
  4. Your Condition will be “matches exactly,” and the Value will be “Kentucky.”
  5. Then, select “Revenue” as your Metric.
  6. Your Condition will be “Greater than,” and your Value will be “0” (zero).

Advanced segments

This graph will tell you exactly what you want to know, such as how much traffic did that Kentucky Derby advertisement bring you?  More practical examples will be covered later on, but this should give you a good idea of how to get started.

B. Determining Your True Shopper

Google Analytics provides you with tools, but it will take some creativity on your part to make them work practically.  As illustrated in the Kentucky Derby advertisement scenario, you can tweak these tools to find out exactly what you want.  Nonetheless, the biggest obstacle is setting up the custom segments correctly.  In the following case study, you will see an example of how my company, InMotionHosting, used an advanced segment to pull search data on true shoppers.

Case Study of True Shoppers

As the in-house SEO Specialist for InMotion Hosting, I’m usually excited to see a spike in online traffic to our website because it often leads to an increase in conversions as well.  Earlier this month, however, our website experienced a substantially higher amount of traffic than usual, but no improvement in conversions.  I suspected that our website was receiving “junk” traffic from our affiliates, but I couldn’t jump to this conclusion just yet.  I needed to gather data on our “true shoppers,” but before doing so, I needed to define the criteria that establishes a “true shopper.” After collaborating with my affiliates counterpart at work, I determined that the following criteria had to all be in place before an online visitor could be deemed a true shopper:

  1. They were referred to our website by an affiliate – this qualifies them as warm leads interested in purchasing web hosting of some kind.
  2. They did not bounce from our website – this shows that once they got to the site, they were interested in reading more about the other products/services that we offered.

After defining our true shopper, I created a simple and effective segment that separated the wheat from the chaff. Here are the steps I took:

  1. From the Advanced Segment menu, click “Create a new advanced segment.”
  2. Next, select “Referral Path” from the Dimensions section.
  3. Then, select “Matches Exactly” as the Condition.
  4. Enter the affilliate’s URL as the Value.
  5. Then, click “Add “or” statement.”
  6. Select “Bounces” from the Metrics section.
  7. Set your Condition as “Equal to.”
  8. Enter your Value as “0” (zero).
  9. Finally, name the segment and click “Save Segment.”

advanced segments

After activating the segment, I quickly realized that the rise in traffic did not correspond with an influx of true shoppers (see image below).  The custom segment that I created proved my suspicion about affiliates sending us “junk” traffic.  In fact, most of the additional traffic that our website was receiving from affiliates was bouncing upon entry.  Furthermore, I also had the ability to pull even more detailed information, such as the revenue generated and the time spent on a particular web page by a true shopper.

advanced segments

* Disclaimer: Various data has been fabricated/hidden to protect private information.

In the next week’s follow up we’ll discuss how to filter out non-branded keywords.

Brian Flores
Brian Flores is the SEO for InMotion Hosting, one of the top providers of virtual private servers in the US. He spends a good part... Read Full Bio
Brian Flores
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  • Len Cadieux

    I still cannot get basic Google Analytics to provide reliable info. My Affiliate source sites say I’m getting 1000’s of impressions and my GA says 3.

  • Anonymous

    In the old version of GA you could share segments with other users.  Anyone know how to do that with the new GA?

    • Brian Flores

      Hi Nathanial!  You can still share segments. 

      1. From the Dashboard, click on the “All Visits” tab.
      2. Then, click the “Manage Advanced Segment” button.3.  You will see the “share” feature underneath “Action”

  • Ada Flores

    I paid $32.67 for a XBOX 360 and my mom got a 17 inch Sony laptop for $94.83 being delivered to our house tomorrow by FedEX. I will never again pay expensive retail prices at stores. I even sold a 46 inch HDTV to my boss for $650 and it only cost me $52.78 to get. Here is the website we using to get all this stuff,

  • methods to earn

    A friend once told me about Google analytic. But up to now don’t use it. Well thanks for walking me through Google analytic. Will try it now.

  • Nancy

    Hi Brian,

    Awesomely good, very detailed explanation of segments. Thank you so much – especially about determining if traffic from affiliates is junk or quality. This is important to pull out, because otherwise you’re going to assume something’s very wrong with the site content, and start monkeying with it, when it may not be broke in the first place.

    I look forward to the next post!

    • Brian Flores SEO

       Thanks, Nancy!  I wrote this article with the main objective of benefiting SEO and SEMs.  Cutting out the fat and seeing your true true traffic is the only way you can really began to understand how your site is used and what you can do to improve it.  I hope to provide something useful for you next week. 

  • Maria A.

    Great job Brian, very helpful and thorough explanation of one the many great features of Google Analytics and the importance of data!  What’re some other features to try out?

  • Maria A.

    Great job Brian, very helpful and thorough explanation of one the many great features of Google Analytics and the importance of data!  What’re some other features to try out?

    • Brian Flores

      With regard to Advanced Segments, I really like the ability to share them.  I discuss how to share them in the comment below with Nathanial.  Sharing advanced segments is great for getting a team to work with the same data or if you need help refining your segments. 

  • Johnm

    Linking Google Analytics to your Google Adwords is also a huge benefit.  You can’t imagine how helpful it has been!

    • Brian Flores

       Great point, John.  I imagine that being a great article for SEJ.  I definitely would learn from it.