• Jervis Koo

Getting Started With Google Analytics Segments

For a deeper dive into your data on Google Analytics, there’s no better tool in the interface than Segments – a way to dynamically categorize and compare groups of users by shared dimensions. Whether you’ve used Segments before or starting fresh, take some time to review the best ways to create and use Segments, the pros and cons of using Segments, and how to turn your Segments into Audiences that can be shared easily with other tools.

What Is a Segment?

Within the realm of Google Analytics, a segment is a subset of your data or a smaller piece of the whole. Like a slice of cheese, rather than the whole wheel (easier to digest?). Segments can help us dig through all of the information in Google Analytics by creating more manageable chunks of data.

Examples of Segments:

  • Users who completed a purchase

  • Users who added a product to the cart, but did not make a purchase

  • Users that are paying members/non-paying members

  • Sessions that included a view of a specific page

  • Engaged users who submitted a form

Used within the Google Analytics interface, segments allow you to ‘slice and dice’ your data into smaller chunks, based on conditions that you’ve defined. Want to compare converters to non-converters and see whether they’re viewing different content on your website? Or isolate users who’ve visited a targeted landing page but didn’t convert? Segments are your solution.

You can also use Custom Dimensions and Custom Metrics as the basis of your segments. For example, if you’re collecting user-provided information like income or occupation (remember, no Personally-Identifiable Information), you can use that data to create unique segments, like accountants with an income of $100,000 or more. Pros of Segments

  • Segments can be applied to any report in GA

  • Segments are applied to historic data (have a retrospective view with new segments!)

  • Compare multiple segments in a report

  • Segments do not permanently alter your data, unlike filters

  • You can create specific segments to isolate small subsets of data

  • Segments are a personal asset in GA, so you can keep your segments to yourself or easily share segments with others

Cons of Segments

  • Segments are calculated on the fly, so sampling can occur (a random sample is taken as a representation of the segmented data)

  • Segments don’t function exactly like filters

  • Limited segments on a report – only up to 4 at a time

  • Segments include users or sessions entirely within the window of the date range

  • User-based segments are limited to a 90-day time frame

Creating a Segment

There are multiple ways to access and create segments within Google Analytics, so it’s super easy to jump in and get started without much configuration upfront. Predefined Segments

There are many predefined, or default system segments within Google Analytics, that you can start using right away. Check the list before you start creating your own segments to make sure the one you need isn’t already available.

  • All Users

  • Bounced Sessions

  • Converters

  • Direct Traffic

  • Made a Purchase

  • Mobile and Tablet Traffic

  • Mobile Traffic

  • Multi-session Users

  • New Users

  • Non-bounce Sessions

  • Non-Converters

  • Organic Traffic

  • Paid Traffic

  • Performed Site Search

  • Referral Traffic

  • Returning Users

  • Search Traffic

  • Sessions with Conversions

  • Sessions with Transactions

  • Single Session Users

  • Tablet and Desktop Traffic

  • Tablet Traffic

Choose Your Own Conditions

Given that system segments tend to be pretty generic, you will probably find many use cases for custom segments, which allow you to apply your own conditions and logic. You can start with the default selection of dimension and metric filters that are built into the segments panel, but if you can’t find what you’re after (or want to use Custom Dimensions or Metrics), you can use the Advanced options instead.

Under the Advanced section, Conditions pretty much lets you choose any dimensions and metrics to build your segment.

There's an additional Advanced segment type that's called a sequence segment. A sequence segment allows you to define sequential conditions in order to segment your users or their sessions. You can use sequence segments to analyse users who followed a certain path during their session. You can use this if you are looking to create a segment of sessions where users landed on a specific page, viewed a specific type of content immediately after, and then ultimately made a purchase at some point in their session. Think purchase funnels!

Create Segments from Custom Funnel Reports and Enhanced Ecommerce Funnel Reports

There’s another way to create segments that flies a little more under-the-radar, but it’s extremely valuable! You can actually create segments directly from within Enhanced Ecommerce shopping stage/checkout step funnel reports and (for 360 users only) Custom Funnel reports. For instance, if you want to create a segment of users who got to the billing page of the checkout process, but didn’t complete the purchase, you can easily do this with just a few clicks.

How To Use Segments?

Segments can be used for your daily reporting, ad-hoc analysis, to answer questions and investigate data issues. They're also great for ad-hoc analysis given that they can be applied retrospectively to historical data and can be easily created within the GA interface.

Reporting – Data Studio and Google Sheets

You can also use your GA segments for reporting with other tools, like Data Studio and Google Sheets:

Google Sheets and Google Analytics Part 2: Segments and Filters

Google Analytics Segments in Data Studio Audiences

One of the most exciting ways segments can be used is to create audiences. Audiences can be built directly from the Admin screen in Google Analytics or if you prefer, can be converted from an existing Segment. You can create a segment, then build an audience based on that segment.

Audiences can then be shared across other products, like Google Optimize 360, Google AdWords, and DoubleClick, allowing you to target your users more successfully with marketing and advertising efforts.

You can also view your audiences in the new Google Analytics Audiences report (found within the Audience section of reports), and use them throughout Google Analytics.

With audiences, we can eliminate some of the limitations of segments:

  • How long someone stays in an audience

  • Audiences eliminate the date window – as long as the person is still in the audience, you can see their historic activity

  • Acts more like a user-level Custom Dimension

When you have defined audiences and can analyse their performance, you can start using those insights for action. Did certain audiences engage and convert as expected, or not? Were some audiences performing better than expected? Based on the data, you can make changes to your advertising and marketing campaigns, budgeting more for targeting high-value audiences and less for any that underperform.

Overall, segments and audiences are powerful tools that can be used in so many different ways. From analysis to action, they make our data more valuable and actionable than ever. So if you’re not using segments and audiences yet, make it a point to start soon!