Google Analytics (GA) is a free tool for analyzing your web traffic. Although ‘web analytics’ may sound like a tiny part of your overall digital marketing presence, its implications are actually quite huge.
As bloggers and online marketers, it’s important to realize that your website is the hub for your digital traffic from various sources.
This means that if you’re running a marketing campaign using search or social media ads, email, mobile, or any other form of digital marketing, your customers are probably going to visit your site somewhere along their customer journey.
Given that your site is at the center of your entire presence online, it’s the best place to get a holistic view of the success and effectiveness of the various campaigns you’re running to promote your products or services online.
More than 50 million websites use Google Analytics, and if you’re not using it yet, it’s time you get it set up so you can start tracking important metrics that you can use to grow your business. All you need to get started is a free Google account.
After you’re all set up, it helps to know which information to focus on since there’s a massive amount of data that can be gleaned from this software. The last thing you want is to overload yourself with information that doesn’t help your business in any way.
In order to be able to collect relevant data that you can then turn into actionable intel, you need to know a few basic things about GA. But first, we’ll take a look at how the software works.
How Google Analytics Works
GA embeds a few lines of code in your website’s code, and this records the various activities of your visitors as they interact with your site.
It also provides you with attributes such as gender, age, and interests of those users. All that information is sent to the GA server as soon as the user leaves your site.
Google Analytics aggregates your website data in four ways, primarily:
- User Level (this is related to each user’s actions, eg. a user returning to your website)
- Session Level (this has to do with interactions made by each user during each individual visit, grouped into sessions, eg. all sessions where a user signed up/made a purchase, etc.)
- Page view Level (this is each of the individual pages visited)
- Event Level (these are the video views, button clicks, and other interactions during each session, eg. made a purchase of $100 or more)
When using Google Analytics, it’s important to note that this platform is very much like an iceberg in the sense that the majority of it is way (waaay) beneath the surface.
This means that if you only browse around the standard reports that you get, checking your daily revenue or monthly visitor count, you’re only seeing a tiny percentage of what GA really has to offer.
One easy way of making the most of this tool is by using the ‘segments’ feature.
There are simple segments and advanced segments. In this article, we’re going to take a look at how you can leverage these segments to turn all that quantitative data into qualitative information that can help you make better-informed decisions for your site.
What are GA Segments?
Segments act as a subset of the data you get from Google Analytics. They turn granular information like users, sessions, and events into more specific, in-depth data that you can readily use in your business.
A simple way of looking at this would be to imagine that you have a box of M&Ms, and you separate each color so you can eat the green ones last.
That process is called segmentation, and the different colors are segments.
With Google Analytics segments, you’re able to drill down to extract more in-depth insights from the information you’ve already collected.
For instance, if you’re wondering how your mobile visitors differ from your desktop visitors, you can create a desktop segment and a mobile segment and then navigate the reports to compare the information side by side so you can identify significant behavioral differences.
Important Notes on Google Analytics Segments
- They can be applied to any GA report, but you can only use four segments at a time
- The cost data from AdWords isn’t compatible with segments and will display as 0
- For multi-channel funnel reports, use conversion segments
While there are only a few segment levels, keep in mind that each visitor can have multiple sessions, and each of those can then generate multiple hits.
For instance, let’s say that you want to find out which people spent $500 or more on your website. User A might have spent $200 during one session and $300 during another, while User B spent $500 in one session.
The difference between the two is that a User segment will include both of them, whereas a Session segment will only include User B.
See the difference?
OK, moving on!
Let’s take a look at some of the most commonly used segments that you can use in your business (and why you should):
1. All Users:
‘All Users’ is the standard segment set by Google Analytics and includes all users across the whole account.
This is a great segment to use as a starting point, but as soon as you get accustomed to the platforms and build up a bit of confidence, it’s time to wade in so you can take an even deeper look at your audience.
This segment allows you to see who converted on your website (or other property). It counts everyone who completes at least one Goal Completion and/or Transaction.
This is an extremely useful segment for businesses that have multiple conversion goals such as signing up, booking a consultation, or making a purchase.
In contrast to the segment above, this one shows you who didn’t convert on your website. This counts every visitor who fulfilled no Goal Completions and/or Transactions.
This segment can help you better understand what influences peoples’ decisions not to convert on your site.
4. Sessions with Conversions:
As with the Conversions segment above, this one looks at the users who fulfilled at least one Goal Completion, even without the Transaction.
You can use this to see which customers took the desired actions during their sessions.
5. Sessions with Transactions:
You can also view those users who fulfilled at least one Transaction. That is, you can find out who bought something on your site.
This is a great tool for e-commerce business owners trying to gain a better understanding of their audience such as their age, location, which channels users make purchases on most, and so on.
6. Bounced Sessions:
This shows you who bounced off of your site. A ‘bounce’is when a visitor leaves after viewing only one page.
This helps you understand how engaging your pages are, and where you need to make improvements to keep your readers on your site longer.
7. Non-Bounce Sessions:
This is the opposite of the segment above and refers to how many people viewed more than one page on your property.
You can use this information to better understand the type of content that really resonates with your audience.
8. Made a Purchase:
This segment refers to users who made at least one purchase through your website.
It’s useful for helping you narrow down ‘important’ users who converted and to understand their behavior.
9. Returning Users:
This is any user who has visited your site within the last two years and then returned via the same device.
The ‘Returning Users’ segment is great for helping you determine if your returning visitors are converting at a higher rate than your new visitors, as well as the reason behind it.
10. New Users:
Designed to count all users visiting your site for the first time either: in more than two years, using a new device, or if it’s their first time ever.
It allows you to see what percentage of your overall audience is brand new visitors so you can measure the effectiveness of your brand marketing campaigns (for example).
11. Paid Traffic:
This shows you any traffic that came to your site or property via paid search results. It’s a segment that can help you better understand how your paid search performs compared to organic search.
12. Organic Traffic:
Conversely, this segment helps you see the traffic that comes to your site through organic search.
You can use it to determine how your SEO marketing activities are performing and how long it generally takes to start seeing results from your optimization efforts.
13. Direct Traffic:
This is the traffic that comes to your site by typing your URL directly into their browser. This segment is set up to count all traffic that comes through from direct searches on Google.
14. Search Traffic:
By combining the Paid Search and Organic Search segments, you’re able to see the total traffic that comes to your site through search.
This gives you a complete view of all the traffic you get from Google search, and it can be helpful in comparing that with traffic from referrals or emails to help you gain a deeper understanding of which channels are best for your business.
15. Referral Traffic:
This shows you traffic that comes from other websites. For instance, say you guest blogged on another site, the people that land on your website via the link in your author bio will be counted here.
16. Mobile Traffic:
Anyone who visits your site via their mobile device will be counted in the Mobile Traffic segment.
You can use this to see the percentage of people who are viewing and/or converting on your site using mobile devices.
This gives you valuable buyer behavior insight as to whether you may need to make your site more mobile-friendly or not.
17. Tablet Traffic:
Just as with Mobile Traffic, here you get to find out who comes to your site via a tablet device.
You can use this segment in pretty much the same way as the one above, and you’ll find out how much your visitors view your site from tablets, as well as whether or not your property is optimized for this device.
18. Tablet and Desktop Traffic:
This segment combines the traffic from both desktop and tablet users, which gives you a much broader view of the portion of your audience who uses these devices to view your site.
You’ll be able to determine if you’re supposed to be more focused toward your tablet/desktop visitors than your mobile users.
19. Mobile and Tablet Traffic:
You’ve probably already guessed that this segment shows you all the traffic that comes to your site from mobile and tablet devices.
It’s a great way of finding out how many people view your site on the go, as opposed to a desktop. This can also be helpful in helping you determine whether you should create a mobile website for your users.
20. Single Session Users:
This segment shows you all the users who visited your site and only had a single session (after 30 minutes of inactivity, a new session is counted).
This helps you to determine how your visitors are using your site, as well as which content is being viewed.
21. Multi-Session Users:
With this segment, you can see where users visited your website and had multiple sessions.
This is great for helping you see how your audience uses your site (albeit very differently than those who visit your site for just one session).
The Bottom Line
As you can see, there are many segments that are commonly used on the Google Analytics platform.
But that doesn’t mean you need to use all of them, all the time. As I said previously, you can only apply four of them at a time to any single report.
Simply choose the ones that will provide you with the relevant information you need to make better decisions regarding your marketing efforts, and then go from there.
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Updated: Originally published February 21st 2019