Segmenting your traffic in Google Analytics can be very powerful, as it allows you to examine certain Segments of your audience and how they may or may not behave differently than others. In this article, we show you how to work with Google Analytics Advanced Segments.
What are Google Analytics Advanced Segments?
By default, Google Analytics (GA) will show you traffic stats based on the entire traffic of your site. In other words, you will see All Sessions of All Visitors – every metric you look at will be based on the entire pool of data.
While this is great for getting a sense of your total traffic development, it is not helpful to answer specific business questions regarding your audience. Some even go as far as saying that “All data in aggregate is useless”.
Let’s say you are interested in only the metrics of the Organic Traffic of your site. Of course, you can go to Acquisition and then select only the Organic Traffic there.
However, this will only give you basic metrics such as Users, Sessions, or Bounce Rate. If you are interested in learning more about your organic visitors, for example, what device they are using, then you need to use the Google Analytics Advanced Segments.
Google Analytics Advanced Segments come in handy when you want to get a specific question about your traffic answered.
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By narrowing down the database you can apply all the different views in Google Analytics to just this Segment of your traffic. This makes Google Analytics Advanced Segments a very powerful tool.
How Are Google Analytics Advanced Segments Defined?
There are many ways to define your Google Analytics Advanced Segments, but all of them fall under one of the following three categories:
Segments can be created based on individual Users, i.e. actual people that visited your site.
By contrast, you can also base your Segmentation on what Google Analytics calls Sessions. Since one User can perform multiple Sessions on your site, using Session-based Segments offers a more detailed way of looking at your data set.
Hit Scoped (Using Sequence Based Segments)
While User-scoped and Session-scoped Segments are quite common, there’s a third type of Segmentation that is perfectly suited to answer business-related questions.
With Hit Scoped Segments, you can include or exclude traffic based on interactions during a Session – such as products added or removed from a shopping cart or clicking on specific links on a page.
The following example shows the difference between the three Google Analytics Advanced Segmentation types
Example Cases of Google Analytics Advanced Segments
Example A: If you are interested only in New Users on your site, and how they navigated on it, the User-based Segment “New Users” is adequate.
This Segment will narrow down your data to only those users who, according to Google’s data, haven’t visited your site before.
Example B: Let’s say you want to learn about the user behavior in all Sessions coming from your campaigns. Specifically, you want to know whether they stayed longer on your site than the average user.
You would then define a Segment based on all the Sessions coming from that campaign, and compare it to all other Sessions – individual users don’t interest you here, so this requires a Session Based Segment.
Example C: Finally, if you want to learn more about the traffic that interacted with your site in a certain way, Hit-based Segmentation is the way to go.
As an example, you can look at only the traffic in which a certain product, say a book with a specific title, was put into the shopping cart.
What can You do with Google Analytics Advanced Segments?
Advantages of Using Custom Segments Over Unsegmented Traffic
As mentioned in the introduction, Unsegmented traffic can be quite meaningless – especially when you have a big website with lots of different sections for different purposes.
What does an average conversion rate of 1.7% tell you if a large portion of your content isn’t even laid out to convert? For example, if a big part of your website is blog posts while there’s only a small webshop?
It would make more sense to narrow down the database to only that traffic that actually had a chance to convert, right? That’s why you need Segments.
How to Use Google Analytics Advanced Segments
Here’s the good news: You don’t need to create all the Google Analytics Advanced Segments by yourself, as you can find many Pre-configured Segments in Google Analytics.
However, you can always create your own Segments if you don’t find the perfect Segment to answer your business question.
When you click on the Segment button (the one that by default says All Users, 100.00% Users), you will find that there are already a lot of preconfigured Segments at your disposal.
You can easily distinguish between Mobile Traffic, Organic Traffic, only New Users, and a lot of others. To apply them, simply click the corresponding checkbox and then click Apply.
Pro tip: You can import additional Pre-configured Segments via the Analytics Solutions Gallery. Click on the Import from gallery button and you will see a library of Pre-configured Dashboards and Segmentations.
Custom Google Analytics Advanced Segments
If you can’t find the Segment you are looking for, you can always create your own Segment. We’ll go through this process in the following section.
A Walkthrough On How to Create Your Own Custom Google Analytics Advanced Segments
Ask a Question – Do You Need Segments to Answer it?
Some Analytics questions can easily be answered with the views available in Google Analytics. You should, therefore, ask yourself first whether you need to use Google Analytics Advanced Segmentation to answer your question.
If you want to see how a certain population of your traffic behaved on your site, or if you want to drill down deeper on only those Sessions that visited certain sections of your websites, it is likely that you need Segments to answer your question.
If you are only looking for basic numbers regarding these specific groups, you probably won’t need Segments.
For this example, we want to find out what users did on our site who are based in Europe and visiting our website with a smartphone
Prepare: What Properties Do You Want to Segment By?
This example now gives us an indication of the properties that we need to Segment by: all the Sessions by Users based in the continent of Europa AND with the Device smartphone/mobile.
Decide on Scope
Next, get a clear understanding of whether the Segmentation you are aiming for is user-based, Session-based, or hit-based. Some questions can be answered with differently based Segments that yield different results.
Keep in mind that User-based is the broadest type of Segmentation while Hit-based is the most granular. In our case, we are looking at a Session-based Segmentation as we want to look at all Sessions coming from Europe with a smartphone, regardless of whether they originated from the same user or not.
Search for Properties in Configurations and Enter Your Data
Now we will create our Segment in Google Analytics. First click on the button that says All Users on the top of the page, then you will see a red button that says + NEW SEGMENT. Click on it.
We now need to enter the properties of our Segment. As described in step 2, these are Location and Traffic Sources. Location can be found at the bottom of the first tab, which is called “Demographics”.
As we only want to monitor traffic that is based in Europe, we set the Location to Continent → contains → Europe.
Notice how the Summary on the right gives you a preview of the number of Users, Sessions pertaining to your Segment, and the percentage of total traffic that this new Segment will include.
Our second Segmentation is by device, so we open the tab Technology. Here, we want to Segment by Traffic coming from smartphone devices. So we choose Device Category → contains → mobile
As we can see in the summary, the size of our Segment now decreased from 26.2% to 5.9%. So now we have Segmented down our data set substantially.
Name your Segment
It’s now time to name our Segment. Create a Segment name that lets you remember immediately what filters you set. In our case, we could name the Segment Location: Europe AND Device: Mobile.
Try it Out
Before we save our Segment, we can already try it out by hitting the preview button. This will provide us with a chart showing only our Segment in the view that we were in before, In this case, the Audience Overview View:
Since we are happy with the Segment we created, we can now hit save and the Segment will immediately be applied in all Google Analytics views. That’s it, we created our first Google Analytics Advanced Segment.
Now we can use this to gain more insights about our traffic. For example: How does this Segment differ from the desktop users?
We create another Segment for Location: Europe and Device: Desktop and go to Behavior → New vs. Returning to see which Segment returns more often to our site:
The result: Only 12.9% of our mobile Segment are return visitors while 18% of the Desktop Segment visited our site more than once.
With both Segments activated, you can now make this comparison to any of the other views available in Google Analytics. You can activate up to four segments at the same time for these kinds of comparisons.
13 Google Analytics Advanced Segments You Should Try
If you aren’t too sure which Segments you should use, here is a list of recommended Google Analytics Advanced Segments:
Converters show you any Session in which a goal or a transaction was completed. Activate this Segment and check which parts of your website these users visited.
With this information, you can optimize the content of your site to appeal more to those who are likely to buy from you or take other desired actions.
Depending on your website structure, traffic to your blog can dilute your conversion rates. Therefore, it can be helpful to exclude any traffic that entered your website via a blog post, especially when you aren’t using blog posts to lead visitors straight to purchase something.
To apply, go to conditions and exclude Landing Page → contains → /blog (assuming that all blog posts follow this URL structure: “www.yoursite.com/blog”)
Abandoned Cart Users
To zoom in on those visitors who abandoned their shopping cart, you need to first set up your e-commerce tracking. Then you will be able to check the shopping behavior of your visitors.
Go to Conversions → e-commerce → Shopping Behavior, then simply click on Basket Abandonment and Google Analytics will offer you to create and activate a Basket Abandonment Segment.
Branded vs Non-Branded Traffic
If you want to get a better understanding of how those visitors who searched for your brand behave vs. those visitors who were simply browsing for certain information or products, you can do so by defining Segments for Branded and Non-branded Traffic.
Prepare a list of your branded keywords and enter your brand terms into Google Analytics. Then, create one segment that includes these keywords and one that excludes them. You can also consider to filter both Segments by organic traffic if that is what interests you.
Another very helpful way to Segment your traffic is by channel. This can be extremely helpful when you are seeing a spike in your traffic and want to find out the reason for it.
By creating Segments for Organic, Social, or Paid Search Traffic and comparing them, you can find out directly which acquisition channel was responsible for the spike.
You find this Segmentation option under Conditions → Default Channel Grouping then select the channel(s) of your choice
We’ve already touched on the Device Segment in our example. You find it under the Technology → Device category. You can also select whether you want to include your Tablet Traffic in this segment or not.
If you want to know whether people understand how to navigate on your mobile website, choose this segment, and take a look at the behavior flow in Google Analytics.
Is your website offer gender-specific? Then you probably want to find out whether female and male users behave differently on your website and in what way. For this, go to the Demographics tab and choose the gender you want to segment for.
The same as for gender applies to age. If your target audience usually belongs to a certain age cohort, you may want to create a Segment for this group. This is also found under Demographics, then Age.
Note that you have fixed age brackets here and that Google may not be 100% right about this information, so treat this information with care.
If you like to know whether the content of certain sections on your site leads to more subscriptions, simply create a Segment for all the traffic that visited this particular section of your website (see the blog example above) and one Segment with traffic that didn’t.
Then you navigate to your goals (assuming you have set up subscriptions as a goal in your Google Analytics account before) and check out how the Subscription Rate differs between the two Segments of Traffic.
New / Returning Visitors
Want to know if or how new users behave differently from returning users? For example, whether new users follow down your purchase funnel as smoothly as the returning visitors? Then Segment your traffic in new and in returning visitors.
The easiest way to set this is up is via Conditions → User Type, then choose New Visitor for one Segment and Returning Visitor for the other.
Bonus: Pro Google Analytics Advanced Segments
Now you’ve seen some straightforward, though very important types of Segments. What to do if you want to learn more about your traffic?
Here is where the two Advanced tabs named “Conditions” and “Sequences” come into play. Used in the right way, they can help you create super granular and insightful Segments.
Let’s say you want to know whether the landing page affected your registration rate. To create Segments for this, you would create one Segment with Landing page A and another with Landing Page B.
We are choosing home vs. store in this example for the landing page
Activate both Segments and then navigate to the goal you are interested in (in our case: Registrations, which is measured by visiting the registersuccess.html page).
We can now see that 33.85% of those who arrived via the home page to our site registered, while only 6.67% of the users that come via the Store page registered.
Sequence Segments example
Sequence Segments are extremely helpful when you have an e-commerce business. Sequences allow you to look at only that chunk of Sessions where a specific action sequence was performed.
A very popular example is to only look at traffic that came to your site via a specific campaign that you are running and then made a transaction – as this is a desired sequence, you will want to find out more about your users that followed this sequence.
To create a Segment like this, go to the Sequences tab and enter Campaign → exactly matches → the name of your campaign and as a second step Transactions → per Session → greater than zero.
And presto, you have your Segment of converting campaign traffic.
Bonus: Use Custom Segments to Create Remarketing Audiences for Google Ads
One cool thing about Custom Segments is that you can put them to work immediately for your Google Ads Remarketing campaign by creating an audience from it. And you don’t need a single line of code to do that:
First, go to the Admin Section of your Google Analytics account and make sure that Remarketing and Advertising Reporting Features are enabled under Tracking Info → Data collection.
Next, go back to the regular Report View and select or create your Custom Segment as described above. We will choose Check-out Abandonment for this example.
After your Segment is activated, click on the Segment button and will find an option named Build Audience
Clicking on it will take you back to the Admin menu. Here, you can select the view (Audience Source), define the Membership duration of the Audience and give your audience a name.
In the last step, you choose the Audience Destination, i.e. The Google Analytics account(s) in which you want to publish your audience. Note that you cannot change this setting after publishing your audience.
Provided that you have linked your Google Analytics account to your Google Ads account, the Remarketing Audience will automatically be transferred into Google Ads after you click Publish.
Now you can use this new audience to retarget users with a campaign who have visited your website, but abandoned their shopping cart. Pretty smart.
All the steps for creating a remarketing Audience with Custom Segments are also explained in this video:
FAQ On Google Analytics Advanced Segments
In this section we cover some frequently asked questions about Google Analytics Advanced Segmentation:
Are Google Analytics Advanced Segments Retroactive?
Yes, they are! And this is excellent news if you’ve missed to set up goals in the past (which are not retroactive).
Simply create the goal that you are looking for a Sequence Segment (see the example above) and you can go back in time and observe what your traffic for this particular goal looked like. Isn’t that great?
Can I Define Goals Based on Segments?
Google Analytics Advanced Segments offer greater flexibility than goals, which means you can unfortunately not create a goal out of every Segment that you have. Goals are limited in that you can only build them around one particular action, such as visiting a specific URL, staying on a page for a certain time, or performing an action like playing a video.
With Segments, you can combine any of these actions and you can go much further, for example only including traffic from a certain channel or from a certain device, etc. So while you should make a habit of setting up goals in Google Analytics, they cannot deliver the same granularity that Segments can.
Can I Share Custom Segments?
Yes, absolutely! And it is very easy to do so. Simply click on the Segment button that you want to share, hit the Share Segments button. This will take you to a list of the Segments that you created:
Click on Actions and click on Share. You will get a link that you can pass onto others and that will call up the Segment in their Google Analytics account with all the conditions that you defined in your account.
As you have seen in this blog post, Google Analytics Advanced Segments can be a very powerful tool for slicing and dicing your traffic and answering important business questions.
Especially the Conditions and Sequence options can help you to define exactly the Segment you want to analyze.
Segments can also help you to go back in time and check out just traffic with a certain goal completion, in case you missed to set up your goals in Google Analytics earlier.
Have you already used any of the Segment options? Which is your favorite Segment in Google Analytics that we didn’t discuss? Let us know in the comments!