Using Advanced Segments in Google Analytics to Improve Digital Marketing

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For this month's featured post, Dr Dave Chaffey gives the lowdown on the new Advanced Segments in Google Analytics. Read on to learn how to make the most of the new segmentation approach to analyse the effectiveness of digital marketing.

Did you notice the announcement earlier in July by Google that it's introducing a new approach to segmentation in Google Analytics? Google makes so many changes to its interface and reports in GA that it can be difficult to spot the major changes. This update struck me as significant since one of Google’s analytics evangelists, Justin Cutroni, described the update as “one of the most important changes ever made to Google Analytics”.

The new Advanced Segments aren’t live at the time of writing in my account, so in this post, I will introduce Advanced Segments and how to apply them to analyse the effectiveness of search marketing, since I still find when training many marketers with access to Google Analytics, they either haven’t heard of Advanced Segments or aren’t using them as much as they could or should. It’s like developing a marketing plan without considering your target segments.

Then, in a future column I’ll describe the new features as they become available.

What then, are segments in Google Analytics? As with traditional marketing, Advanced Segments group visitors who share common characteristics. There are lots of characteristics of visitors that are collected by default by Google Analytics, from details about their browsers and screen sizes to the sites that they come from and the types of pages they view. They’re available in the reports as “secondary dimensions” or different ways to break out visit data in the reports.

One of the difficulties of using Advanced Segments is there’s so much choice, of different types of Advanced segment as I show in this guide to using Advanced Segments. The ten segments for Google Analytics I recommend using, in rough order of value to marketers, are:

  1. Segmentation by Referrer / Traffic source including different types of search visit we will refer below
  2. Segmentation by Visitor Type, e.g. New vs Returning Visitor
  3. Segmentation by Location / Geography
  4. Segmentation by Content Viewed
  5. Segmentation by Landing Page Type
  6. Segmentation by Action taken
  7. Segmentation by Value based on Goals or Ecommerce revenue
  8. Segmentation by Demographics.
  9. Segmentation by Engagement, for example, the number of page viewed or returning visitors
  10. Segmentation by Technology platform such as mobile or non mobile.

Where do you get at Advanced Segments to take a look? Google’s Advanced Segments are easily accessible from the button available top left when you’re viewing any report. You can see there are some useful default segments such as New and Return visitors and custom segments too.

Advanced Segments

To get the most from them, it’s really worth thinking of the situations in which you could use them and then create custom Advanced Segments for different analysis activities like reviewing search marketing.

Using Advanced Segments for analysing search marketing

Here are some relevant segments for search marketing. You can use them to report on the volume, quality and value of different types of search traffic and then deep dive to see which keywords or entry pages are attracting the most traffic.

Here are the recommendations on advanced segments for search marketing

  1. Paid vs natural traffic. You may have noticed there are standard default segments for Paid Search Traffic and Non-paid search Traffic. Use these to compare the relative percentage of visits, leads or sales from paid and natural search traffic.
  2. Brand vs non-brand traffic. In search marketing, we’re particularly concerned with attracting visits who are new to our brand, who search for generic or long-tail terms that don’t include our brand name. By isolating brand vs non-brand we can again compare the volume, quality and value of visits from these sources and so set targets and review performance against them. The key segments custom to set up are
  • Includes brand natural
  • Excludes brand natural
  • Include brand paid
  • Excludes brand paid

With the growth in “Not provided” visits where Google doesn’t pass through the search term, this can skew these figures, so if you want to report on a more accurate value for not provided, see this post by Chris Lake on providing better estimates of branded search volumes.

  1. Specific search types. You can also create other types of segments for more specific needs such as understanding long tail search or generics with 2, 3, 4, more than 4 keywords, specific categories, sitelinks, etc.
  2. Mobile platform. If mobile has become important for your audience and your business as it has for most, it’s worth checking that you’re getting the most visits you can through this source across mobile and smartphone.

If you want to set up some of these segments, you can create them from scratch or, alternatively download pre-made segments using Google’s new Solutions Gallery which includes example segments for branded and non-brand search plus terms with different numbers of keywords.

You will see there are also some AdWords-specific Advanced Segments such as segmenting by ad position.

I hope that’s helpful. In a future article I will update you as and when the new Google segments feature becomes available and explain what they offer beyond what’s available now. They’re due to roll out between July to September.

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