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The Beauty of Segments in Google Analytics

What are Segments?

Segments might arguably be one of the most functional tools in Google Analytics. They allow you to extract commonalities among users, sessions, or hits and group them together in one subset. The Google definition: A segment is a subset of your Analytics data. Subsets are exactly as they sound: smaller sets or groups of data within your overall data. For example, out of your entire set of users, you could have a segment for users acquired through a specific campaign.

Segments are defined by filters applied to your overall data based on the dimensions (city, device, transactions, etc.) and metrics (user, session, or hit) in your Analytics reports. For example, some of the predefined segments in Google Analytics include Returning Users, Bounced Sessions, and Converters. If you want to see how your Returning Users compare with Converters, you may choose to apply both segments. In this case, Google Analytics will show you 3 sets of data: All Users (by default), Returning Users, and Converters. This data comes out side-by-side so you can easily compare rates, numbers, and charts.

You can also create your own custom segments, like sessions with a specific Pageview. I will walk you through how to set up your own segments later on.

Why You Should Use Segments

The multi-usage functionality of this application is why it’s so valuable. You can use segments to look at data for a specific set of users, sessions, or hits that share a dimensional commonality. If you have an eCommerce business for example, you can use segments to identify transaction trends among users logged into an account vs. guest users. If you find that transactions tied to an account are dropping, you may want to offer a limited time VIP discount code for members to boost account based transactions.

You can use segments to compare 2-4 subsets of users. For example, you can look at session data from 4 different cities to compare performance. Suppose these 4 cities are all in different continents. This would be great for analyzing seasonality trends and differences among users by geo location. Another example could be that you want to compare session drop-off points between devices. If you apply device segments and look at the Behavior Flow chart in GA, you might notice a higher drop-off count on a specific page among mobile users than other devices. Thus, you might want to go ensure that page is mobile friendly.

You can also use segments as a basis to form audiences for marketing campaigns. For example, if you create a segment for users who left a specific product in their cart, you might choose to launch a remarketing campaign using an image of that product targeted towards that audience.

How to Apply Segments

The application of segments allows you to isolate, compare, and analyze specific subsets of your data. The apply-and-stick functionality of this feature keeps the segments active wherever you go within that view until you remove it.

To apply a segment, the action itself is fairly simple. If you open a view in Google Analytics and navigate to any report, you’ll see the default All Users segment applied at the top. To add a segment, you’ll simply click the +Add Segment button as shown below:

Then, you can choose from the list of predefined segments, hit Apply, and see your updated reports:

Google Analytics has a default segment applied for all users. It can be removed if you want to focus on other segments alone, but it can also be helpful to see where a specific segment stands in relation to your overarching data.

There’s so much more behind how to analyze your data using segments, so I’ll save that for another post - stay tuned.

Creating a New Segment

If you’re looking for a subset more specific than the predefined ones Google Analytics provides, you can create a new segment. For example, let’s say you own an eCommerce clothing company. You’re about to introduce a new accessory product line: Earrings. If you’re tracking use of the Search bar on your website, a good idea might be to isolate all users who have searched for earrings on your site in the past. You can then use this segment as a key target audience for your product launch campaign.

Click + New Segment in the top left corner:

Here, you’ll see all the filter categories available for you to customize and make your own. To create a segment based on Search bar activity, you’ll need to click on the Conditions tab under Advanced:

The goal is to apply filters that will isolate users who have searched for earrings on your website. Thus, you’ll want to set your filter for “Users”:

Then, select the dimensions for your filter. For this segment, we’ll need to filter by at least two dimensions: Sessions with Search AND Search Term. Use the dropdown menus to select the relevant terms.

We want to find users who’ve used Search in at least one session...

AND they included the word “earring” in their search:

The reason we want to set a Search Term that “contains” rather than any other option is because we don’t want to exclude any users who may have been plural with “earrings” or typed a longer phrase like “gold earrings”. All we care about is if their search contained the word “earring” because that tells us enough about the user.

Give your segment a name and click Save.

You’ll notice there’s a user Summary that changes as you apply more filters. It’s basically a preview of your segment size that updates as you build. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on this as you form your segment to get a sense if something seems off. In my example, the Summary jumped from 100% of users to 0.00% because there’s no internal Search tracking set up in the property I used.

How to Use Segments to Form Target Audiences for Your Next Campaign

One of the great values of segments in Google Analytics is the ability to use them as a base to build audiences for remarketing. Now that you’ve created your segment, you need to create a target audience with it to use for your product launch campaign. You must have Edit permissions to do this, but there are two ways:

1. From your segments box.

  • Click Actions next to the segment you want to use

  • Build Audience

You’ll be redirected to the Audience builder to finish the job.

2. From Audiences, you can import the segment.

  • Admin

  • Property you want to create an audience for

  • Audience Definitions

  • Audiences

  • + New Audience

  • Import Segment

Once your audience is finalized, you can use it in Google Ads or Display & Video 360 to target those users in your campaign! You can find how to edit and remarket audiences here.


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