How to Create Custom Segments in Google Analytics

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Google Analytics is a powerful platform that gives you a full picture of how your website is performing. It comes pre-loaded with reports for basically every metric you can imagine, but customizing your Google Analytics (GA) platform allows you to dive even deeper into the unique needs of your business to really get the most out of the data.

One way you can customize your analytics is through segments. A “segment” is a subset of your user data that allows you to see trends more clearly. Segments allow you to slice up your data to get a more precise view of the behaviors of certain user demographics, such as device type, country, gender, and more. Your Google Analytics account comes with several pre-made segments, here are just a few:

  • Country or region
  • Referral source
  • Visitor type
  • Paid vs organic traffic
  • Device used

The pre-made segments Google has installed can tell you a lot about your audience, but you can get even more out of segments by creating your own. GA’s segment builder allows you to choose specific data filters to create unique segments for your business’s unique strengths and challenges. After you apply your new segments to your reports and dashboards, you’ll be able to see those new datasets in just a few clicks.

Today, we’re going to teach you how to create new segments in Google Analytics and how to use them to better visualize your business data.

Ways to use segments to your advantage

Segments let you drill into your data to see trends in buying activity or user behavior so you can adjust your marketing efforts accordingly. For example, by creating a segment in your Analytics reports, you might notice that your online sales dropped significantly after you changed the messaging on your website homepage, or that your recent efforts on Instagram have resulted in a change in your mobile checkouts. Being able to see these trends helps you know where you need to focus your marketing spend or add special offers to incentivize your audience to buy.

You can also use segments to more effectively compete in your space. If you’ve recently noticed your competitors adding more online deals for their Facebook fans, you can segment your audience to just those users who were referred by Facebook and add sales or deals to undercut those competitors and encourage your users to buy from you instead.

Another way to use segments is to target specific user behavior, such as users who are only visiting your website to visit your swimwear sales. If you know who those users are, you can target them with ads when you add new merchandise to your swimwear inventory to boost sales in that area.

How to create new Google Analytics segments

Now that you have some ideas about how you can begin using segments to your advantage, it’s time to learn how to create them in Google Analytics. However, before you begin, you should review Google’s pre-made segments to see if any of those already address the segments you need more information about. No use doing more work than you have to! If you look through all of the pre-loaded segments and decide that you do need to create a new one for your data set, you should review Google’s per-user and per-view segment limits, as you can’t create any additional segments after you hit those limits.

Modifying segments

If you find a pre-built segment that’s close to what you need, you can copy and modify it to make it fit your parameters. Existing segments that Google (or you) have built can be a great jumping-off place for making new ones.

For example, you could take the segment Email Referrals and modify it to only show those users who were referred after the first email, or were referred from a specific campaign, depending on whether you’re trying to gauge general trends or changes after one specific campaign. Don’t forget that you can copy and modify segments as often as you like, until you hit your segments limit. You can learn more about modifying segments at Google Support.

Steps for creating a new segment

Now that you’re ready to begin creating segments, log into your Google Analytics account and navigate to the view that you want to begin analyzing. Then, open the Reports tab – you can choose whichever report you would like to add segments for first. Click “Add Segment” to view the segments list, and then click “New Segment.” Next, with New Segment highlighted, open the segment builder and enter a name for your new segment.

Now that your segment is created, you can use the options in the various categories to customize the segment to your exact needs. As you begin to add filters to the segment, the Summary pane will tell you about how many users will be included in the segment as it’s progressively modified so you can see how the filters will affect your data.

When you’re finished modifying the segment, you can then preview and test your segment. When you click “Test,” you’ll be shown the percentage of your users and sessions that match within your segment parameters. When you click “Preview,” you’ll be able to see how your segment affects the report you’re working with. Now you’ll be able to tell whether the segment you created addresses the need you missing information you identified in you report, or whether you need to continue to edit it.

When you’ve configured your segment to the exact specifications you need, click “Save.” This will close the segment builder and include the new segment in your reports.

How to use filters in Segments

AND and OR logic

When you begin to create new segments, you’ll notice the option to add filters to your data to further drill down to the user subsets you need to get a better look at. These filters can be very helpful, but understanding how they work is critical to getting the data you need.

The “AND” modifier under the “User” filters will make it so users need to meet both of the conditions you set to show up in the segment. For example, you could filter your data so that only users who meet the “35-50 years old” condition and the “desktop users” condition show up in the segment.

The “OR” modifier, in contrast, will show users that meet either one of two conditions. For example, users that are 35-50 years old OR that visited your site via a desktop computer.

When using the AND or OR filters in Analytics, be sure that you’re using the correct modifier to see the subsets of data you need to drill into.

Conditions and Sequences logic

The Conditions and Sequences filters allow you to filter your data for any metric or dimension you want, rather than only by specific categories. These dimensions can include AND or OR logic and can include or exclude specific data sets, depending on your needs. You should be aware, however, that when you use user- and session-based logic in the same filter, they’ll use the AND logic, meaning both conditions must be met in order for the user to show up in the data. Sequencing filters let you decide whether the user must meet the condition on their first interaction or in any interaction they have with you. If you decide to include multiple steps in your Sequences filter, you can set a rule that users must follow a specific behavior pattern in the same session or in multiple sessions in order to show up in the dataset.

The difference between Sessions vs. Count of Sessions

When you create a new segment you’ll notice that there is both a “Sessions” metric under the Behavior heading and a “Count of Sessions” metric under the Conditions heading. Both of these filters give you a specific number of user sessions, but they cover different time frames within the data.

“Sessions” describes the number of times a user interacted with you during a specific data range that you set in your report. For example, you might see 30 sessions if you’ve set your data to only show information from July 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018.

By contrast, “Count of Sessions” describes the number of times a user has interacted with you at any time, with the final count that shows up on the report being the number of the visit that occurred within your specified date range. For example, if your Count of Sessions says 7 on the report, it means that the 7th user interaction occurred during your specified date range. If your Count of Sessions says >7, it means that the user interacted with you 8 or more times during your specified date range.

Accomplish even more with effective user segmentation

Segmenting your data allows you to drill into your data to get a more detailed view of user behavior at the individual user-level, which lets you make more intelligent marketing decisions for specific sets of users. By looking at your data from the segment-level, you’re able to give your audience more individualized attention and draw in more visitors from specific demographics that need more marketing spend in order to convert.

Google Analytics provides you with a user-friendly platform from which to segment and target your data, and with the help of guides like this and Google’s own Support website, it’s easier than ever to put Analytics to work for you. However, if you need more help learning how to use segments to your advantage, we’re here to help.

Big Leap marketing is your partner for all things SEO, including using Google Analytics more effectively. Sign up for your free Big Leap SEO consultation to learn how much more you could be accomplishing with Google Analytics segments.

Meg Monk
Meg Monk is a freelance writer and content strategist based in Salt Lake City. When she's not writing about marketing strategy, she's camping in Utah's mountains in her 1976 Airstream or planning her next international trip - 29 countries and counting! You can find more of her work at megmonk.com.
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