Sometimes you just want to see one piece of information about your website and not the onslaught of data provided by Google Analytics. You could filter your data (which is nice), but that has its own caveats. Advanced segments, on the other hand, are an excellent way of isolating subgroups of information about your website for analysis. There are lots of ready-made segments, and you can also create your own.
What Are Advanced Segments in Google Analytics?
As mentioned before, an advanced segment is a setting that can be configured in a profile in your Google Analytics account to exclude other data and only look at one specific metric. For instance, using common default segments, you can view only direct traffic or only search traffic to a site. Using custom segments, you could do things like only see traffic related to mobile devices. Advanced segments are useful because you can cut out other data and only look at what is important to you. You can also compare that data to the site overall and other metrics, plus (even though you may have just created a segment) they can be applied historically; this is a feature not available when you create a filter on your profile.
Advanced Segments vs. Filters in Google Analytics
Historical reports: One of the most notable differences with advanced segments compared with filters is that you can apply them to historical data. When you set up a filter on a profile, this is not possible because the only data the filter is affecting is that which is collected after the filter has been implemented. Conversely, advanced segments can be applied retroactively on profile data. In this way, they are far more powerful than a regular filter because you can see your trends over time. The only drawback is that you have to reapply the filter each time you leave and come back to your Analytics account.
Comparing data: By selecting more than one segment at a time, you can compare the metrics together in reports. This is something that cannot be done by applying a filter to an entire profile. With profile filters, data that has been marked for exclusion is thrown out and is no longer retrievable.
Excluding traffic: An area where filters can be more useful than advanced segments is with excluding traffic. For instance, many businesses will exclude their own internal traffic to get a more accurate picture of prospects visiting their website. There may be visits that you want in reports all the time or ones that you don’t. Whatever the case may be, remembering to always manipulate this traffic data with advanced segments can be a pain, and that is where filters come in handy.
User Roles: Filters are also better for managing user roles. For instance, you may have team members working on a specific area of a site that they only need to see certain data for. In this regard, filters can exclude that data or manipulate it in other ways that are permanent and don’t require those team members to see all data.
Using Advanced Segments in Google Analytics
Using advanced segments is super easy. Follow the steps below to use default advanced segments.
- Log into your Google Analytics account.
- Click on the profile that you want to view data for.
- Navigate to a report that you want to view data for (note that if you are just playing around with segments, you can do it in any report).
- Click on “Advanced Segments” near the top of the page.
- A menu will drop down showing default segments on the left and any custom segments on the right. Note that custom segments are created at the account level. Even if you have been made a user on another Analytics property, as long as you are viewing a property in your account, the segments for that account will appear regardless of whether or not they will work.
- Click on any segment that you want to view data for. Note that by clicking on more than one segment, you will be viewing data in side-by-side comparison and not in aggregation.
- Click “Apply”.
Customized segments are a little different. They work in the same way that the default segments do; however, they are created by the user and are very versatile. For instance, you can use customized code on your web page to capture information and then use it in advanced segments like this code to capture visits where people were logged into one or more popular social media accounts.
Setting up a custom segment
- Log into your Analytics account.
- Click on the profile where you want to create the advanced segment.
- Click on the “Advanced Segments” button.
- On the right hand side of the dialogue box that appears, click “+New Custom Segment”.
- Next, you will have to set the parameters for your custom segment. This includes whether or not you want to include or exclude data, what data that is and the logic you want Google Analytics to use in finding that data. Note that after you create the segment, you can test it by clicking the “preview” or “test segment” buttons. Analytics will then apply the segment to your data. If you don’t get the desired result, you can tweak it.
- If you are satisfied with your segment, click “Save Segment”.
Unlike filters on profiles, you can also add “and/or” statements to your advanced segments. This means that when the segment is applied, Google can include other data that you have specified in the segment as opposed to throwing everything out and only looking for one set of data that was entered.
Advanced segments in Google Analytics are a nice tool for looking at subsets of data where filters don’t quite do the job or are overkill. You can choose from one of many default segments or you can create your own. The coolest part is that you can use your own custom programming to create data to be used by advanced segments.
How do you use advanced segments? Do you have any innovative tutorials to share that incorporate advanced segments? Join the conversation by commenting below.