Tracking and analyzing Google Analytics data can be a daunting task. A better approach? Creating custom reports. 28 experts discuss the best ways to use custom Google Analytics reports for your business.
Analytics | Oct 22
Elise Dopson on October 22, 2019 (last modified on May 28, 2020) • 18 minute read
And therein lies the challenge––it can be difficult to know which metrics you should be focusing on or which activities are most meaningful.
One way you can derive more meaning (and more action!) from your data is by leveraging segments in Google Analytics.
But, the possibilities seem endless. Where do you start?
So, we asked 30+ experts how they use Google Analytics segments to track their marketing performance. Their answers provided us with 25 ways you can organize your data to get the insights you need.
We found that almost half of our experts “always” use Google Analytics segments to analyze their website performance, with just 5% saying they’re never included in their data analysis process:
…But what exactly are Google Analytics segments?
Google Analytics segments allow you to break down the data inside your account. For example: You can use segments to view data for people using a specific device, or people of a certain gender.
In fact, there are so many segments available that our marketers tend to use 4-6 different options. One in five marketers use more than 15:
You can find ready-made segments inside your Google Analytics count by finding your report, and selecting the “Add Segment” button:
But with so many options available, it’s tricky to find which you should be using. So, we asked 30+ experts one question: How do you use Segments in Google Analytics?
Our experts shared the segments they love, including:
Click the links above to jump to a specific segment use case, or continue scrolling to learn more about how you can use Google Analytics segments.
“This segment will help you to filter out conversions that might be fraudulent such as conversions from crawlers and bots,” says Pixus‘ Atanas Valchev.
“When creating a segment, navigate to “Conditions” and set the “Filter” settings to “Users” and “Exclude”. Then add the following conditions:
Valchev continues: “Then check your goal completions and the ones with a session duration of 0:00 should be excluded, giving you a more realistic view of your actual conversions.”
“Among the many segments available, I recommend marketers to use the ‘behavior’ segment to analyze user behavior over time,” writes E2M‘s Jaykishan Panchal.
“It tracks the number of users’ visits, transactions, session duration, and also the number of days since the last session.”
“The data derived from behavioral segmentation will help you create different marketing campaigns to improve engagement and conversions. It will help you to know what will work for your audience and solve the retention problem,” Panchal continues.
People that fall within this segment “are the people who are leaving your website right away,” Clinton Sosnoski of CanadaWheels.ca explains.
“It’s extremely important to track their behaviour so that you can learn how to catch and retain those people!”
Salva Jovells says that for hockerty, “it is really important to separate “branded” and “non branded” traffic because the conversion of the first segment is huge and can make global numbers of conversion look good when they are not.”
*Editor’s note: Keep track of your Google Analytics data using just one dashboard with our Google Analytics (Website Traffic) template. You’ll start with the most common KPIs, then be able to customize metrics that are most important to your business:
“As any salesperson can tell you, the cost to retain a client is significantly lower than acquiring a new client,” writes Red Olive‘s Phil Mullenax.
“Segmenting by conversion cadence (how much time is between two conversions for an individual customer or client) helps a marketer to better understand their customer’s buying habits and focus their efforts on the most effective time to stimulate a repurchase.”
“First, conversion cadence helps marketers to estimate when their efforts are the most effective in retaining customers. If customers are purchasing in a 3-week cycle, you know to focus your marketing efforts around this timeframe.”
Mullenax continues: “You can run remarketing ads and send e-blasts at a time when they best leverage the natural buying cycle. Too early, and you may hit your audience before they need to repurchase. Too late, and they may have gone to your competition.”
“Secondly, monitoring conversion cadence can help improve the customer experience. Certainly, there will be natural deviations, but conversion cadence tracking helps to identify outliers and personally address them to improve their experience.”
“For example, if you’re a dental practice with 6 months between checkups, seeing an individual converting every two months can signal they are scheduling their family at different times. Perhaps they have several kids, so scheduling all the kids at one-time slot can improve their experience with the practice.”
Mullennax summarizes: “Take time to understand the buying cycle of your customers, as it can help them stay customers in the future.”
“At my agency, organic traffic usually drives the most traffic to our client’s website. Therefore understanding what converts from that organic traffic is critical,” writes Tower Marketing‘s Mike Shaw.
“Segmenting the organic conversion can allow for further diagnosis of which medium, browser or operating system, etc., delivered the highest quality conversion.”
Shaw continues: “Knowing this information will help businesses know what they should focus on and what will have the highest chance of converting.”
Similarly, Growth Hackers‘ Jonathan Aufray says that “getting traffic and knowing where the visitors come from is important but you don’t just want traffic, what you want is leads.”
“Knowing where your leads come from is essential so you can double down on these channels,” which is why converting traffic source analysis is Aufray’s go-to segment.
Futurety LLC‘s Sam Underwood explains what this segment means: “Users who made it to an affiliated domain (ex: ecommerce or LMS) vs those who did not.”
“Several of our clients are in the e-learning or ecommerce space, and have cross-domain analytics set up to include their primary domain along with their related ecommerce or learning management system (LMS).”
“For these clients, we often set up a segment that includes either one hostname or the other, so we can look at users who may have come to the primary domain, but did not even enter the ecommerce or learning side.”
Underwood summarizes: “This way, we can analyze what channels, audiences, and other variables are bringing users who don’t even make it to the client’s core offering on the subdomain or secondary domain.”
“Regarding segments to add to Google Analytics, I recommend other marketers segment users by device type,” says TaxDebtHelp.com’s Charles Corsello.
“For example, break down the data by what device the user leveraged (desktop, mobile device, tablet) when they accessed your site to see if you can find any actionable insights.”
“For example, you may find that the time on site for mobile users is much lower than desktop users. This could mean that your site is not mobile- friendly or needs to be optimized better for mobile users.”
Corsello continues: “You can find out that your conversation rate for specific goals you set (e.g. filling out a contact form on your website) for mobile users is much lower than desktop users, which may uncover some technical issues you have with the mobile experience on your website.”
SmartBug Media‘s Heather Quitos agrees: “Understanding how your visitors are accessing your website – whether through desktop, mobile, or tablet – can open up opportunities on improving your site’s content.”
“Traffic that is mostly mobile means content on your website should be optimized for smartphones: It should be concise, fast-loading, and easily scrollable.”
“On the other hand, traffic that mostly flows from desktop computers means your website has a little more flexibility in layout, but should still be easy to navigate,” Quitos adds.
Similarly, Latticework‘s Ashley Gates recommends segmenting your audience by browser because “this way, advertisers can isolate the two types of traffic and correct for things like highly inflated “unique” traffic numbers on browsers where 3rd party tracking is hindered.”
“For background, Safari & Firefox currently both block 3rd party cookies. Safari, which has also greatly limited the impact of 1st party cookies (deleted after 24 hours) is making it very difficult to attribute ads.”
“But everything in this realm is going to be affected including view-through and cross-device conversions, click-through conversions, attribution, and site analytics user metrics,” Gates explains.
“In some cases, it may also be beneficial to create a Segment that splits out site traffic before and after the rollout of Safari’s ITP update. This way, advertisers can isolate data and campaigns running prior to this update, and consider data after the update as a totally different set of values.”
Did you know that Google Analytics allows you to upload your own data to their dashboard?
Marta Ceccato of Sapiens Media Coaching “would recommend using the Data Import feature in Google Analytics. This feature allows you to create enriched audiences by importing 1st party data and layering it on top of site behavioral data.”
“This is a key capability for ecommerce businesses that are collecting user data through in-house or other 3rd party tools because it enables to build audiences around themes of shopping behavior that indicate potential high- value customers,” Ceccato explains.
Andrew McLoughlin’s team at Colibri Digital Marketing thinks the best Google Analytics segment “depends on the business model, but most of our clients operate out of brick-and-mortar stores.”
“Encouraging and tracking local traffic (within the city, say, especially from mobile devices) is a great way to figure out how well prepared your business is to capitalize on ‘micro-moments’ to better serve your customer base,” McLoughlin adds.
According to Kelly Wilhelme, Weidert Group also segments their Google Analytics data by United States visitors because “we only work with companies located in the U.S. so what I really want to know in terms of quality and leading traffic indicators is how potential leads are getting to and engaging with our site.”
It’s a segment also used by SyncShow, as Jasz Joseph explains: “We have many clients who only sell within the United States. They often have a few viral blog posts that people all over the world are reading.”
“This is fine for brand awareness, but these people will never be able to convert since they are outside of the sales territory.”
Joseph continues: “By using a “US Traffic Only” segment, we are able to get truer conversion rates and data about what their target market is viewing and resonating with.”
“New users are the most valuable segment from a marketing perspective, in my opinion,” writes Josh Margles of 7Shifts Restaurant Scheduling. “This allows our marketing team to see the growth of our brand and outreach by seeing new visitors to different pages.”
“Since some posts/pages target top of the funnel, this segment allows us to see if the posts are working correctly since we can see the split of new users (top of funnel) and returning users (lower funnel).”
Margles explains: “I would say that only sometimes we segment our users. Most of the time we just need to see the overall performance of pages and growth but as mentioned above it is useful to segment the audience for a deeper analysis of the landing pages/events.”
Spencer Smith explains that AmpliPhi Social Media Strategies “works with many professional services practices, and most are not running remarketing or retargeting until we introduce the topic.”
“Showing the decision-makers how many visitors are new helps reinforce the need for retargeting campaigns, especially when using a top-of-funnel CPC or paid social media strategy.”
“Since many eCommerce sites use blogs as part of their SEO strategy, having less qualified blog traffic in GA can cause conversion rates to look lower than expected,” FACT goods‘ Antonella Pisani explains.
“By stripping out blog traffic, you can get a more accurate picture of your website’s conversion rate and $/visitor and trend it appropriately, even as you continue driving more SEO traffic.”
Similarly, Michael Simonetti of AndMine.com thinks “inbound referral links can be huge for site performance, and strong non-paid sources indicate a very healthy organic position, which translates to ranking, authority and paid cost savings.”
“This [Google Analytics] segment allows you to see what user journey was taken by people who were somewhat interested in your website but decided not to convert,” Loud Digital‘s Dan Young explains.
“You can analyze this segment to find landing pages that put users off or don’t match their intent.”
“Marketers typically have a good idea as to who is their ideal target audience,” writes Kiwi Creative‘s Giselle Bardwell.
“You can use the target persona criteria to create a segment in Google Analytics and view all of your metrics through the lens of your persona.”
“This exercise can yield invaluable information about how your most important persona is specifically using your website in their decision journey — what content they are consuming, what devices they use to access your site, day of the week and time of day they are most active, etc.”
Bardwell summarizes: “These are all valuable insights you can use to understand how effectively you are targeting, engaging and converting your ideal personas.”
Sam White’s team at Truck Driver Academy argues that “there are so many referral sites providing traffic to the website.”
“With each site offering paid advertising opportunities, we can analyze which platform would be best suited for inclusion into our marketing budget.”
For that reason, White says: “We create a segment for each referral site to compare side to side as well as categorically against organic, direct, etc.”
“By creating a refreshed content segment in GA, you can really see the impact that retroactive optimization has on your traffic,” says G2‘s Bridget Poetker.
“Test and measure what works and what doesn’t – after all, the numbers don’t lie.”
Is SEO one of your main traffic drivers? It’s interesting to see whether they’re returning using the same channel.
That’s why Omar Fonseca of Medicare Plan Finder recommends this segment: “Returning Users for Medium of Organic Search is my favorite metric because it combines two different segmented metrics which individually are critically important into one super metric.”
“On their own, returning visitors are extremely important as they have visited your site before and are back. If someone visited our website within the past two years and returns from the same device, they are marked as a Returning Visitor in our Google Analytics.”
Fonseca continues: “The major benefits of returning visitors are they tend to have higher engagement (decreased bounce rate and increased pages per session/session durations), higher conversion rates and higher revenue or sales.”
“On the other hand, organic traffic is crucially important because it is targeted and consists of visitors who find your website by typing words into a search engine and choosing your site from the results on the search engine results page (SERP).”
“These users have a very specific intent and if you can provide them with a solution or answer to their question, they are more likely to convert. The major benefits of organic driven traffic include high ranking on the search engines, trust and credibility, and inbound marketing,” Fonseca adds.
“Organic traffic often has a lower bounce rate, longer time on site, and more pages per session than traffic from other sources. Not to mention it’s free and accessible new business as the resulting organic traffic doesn’t require an additional advertising budget other than your employees and appearing high in search results is how you can attract potential clients researching your product or service.”
Summarizing, Fonseca says: “This metric represents the consumers with the highest intent and the highest priority targets!”
Jackie Tihanyi of Fisher Unitech thinks that “using this segmentation allows you to see how your visitor types differ in their journeys through the site and the value they generate.”
“I’d highly recommend marketers use sequence segments in Google Analytics,” writes Elementive‘s Matthew Edgar.
“With sequence segments, you can understand not only how people move between different pages but also what other actions people take when they move between those different pages. For example, you could segment to see people who move from your home page to a particular product page.”
“Once that segment is applied, you could drill into what else these people did–did they convert more, did they come in from specific traffic sources, did they look at some other page, did they use specific devices and more.”
Edgar adds: “This helps you see how people engage with your website through a specific path of pages and helps you identify key conversion pathways.”
Krzysztof Surowiecki of Hexe Data thinks those visitors who fall into your abandoned cart segment “are potential sales opportunities.”
“You can try to reach them through remarketing. You can also learn about them, what group of users resign and why they do it. Thanks to which you can improve something on your website and work on your customer journey and as a result generate more sales.”
“You want to have a custom segment that looks at users that complete your specified Google Analytic goals,” advises Challenger School‘s Joe Sloan. “This has provided incredible insight to better optimize our site.”
“If we see that it typically takes a user 8 minutes to complete our desired action and they on average visit 8 pages. We know we have an engaged audience, and we can expect them to view on average 8 pages per session.”
Sloan continues: “We then decide what are the most important pages how do we dictate the user’s flow and how do we keep the content concise to convince them to take the next step in the funnel.”
“If your outreach strategy is via a blog on your website, we recommend creating a segment for unique users that have visited your blog and also visited other parts of your website (e.g. landing page contains /blog AND exit page does not contain /blog),” writes Converted‘s Matt Sellars.
“This will help any marketer gain quick insights on how engaging blog content is on their website, and whether this actually brings prospects to other parts of your website.”
Sellars explains: “By checking out dimensions like Page Titles you will also be able to see which content is the most engaging to get users onto the website, which could change your whole approach to content marketing and your outreach strategy.”
Andrew Crestodina of Orbit Media Solutions argues that “this will make your lead gen conversion rates more meaningful [because] visitors who land on blog posts don’t have commercial intent, so they push down the overall conversion rates of websites.”
“Creating this segment will show you the performance of the sales pages of your website more accurately.”
Alex Vale explains that Attio‘s “marketing site functions both as the sign-in entrance for your product and the sign up/request a demo entrance.”
“We obviously want to track the submission rates for demos and sign up rates but we can’t just use GA’s ‘All Visitors’ segment since that includes a large portion of people who are just signing in (and therefore not interested in a demo or signing up),” Vale explains.
“Our non-sign in segment allows us to get accurate analytics on conversion rates.”
SyncShow‘s Jessica Sandoval uses this Google Analytics segment “to better track website performance as it directly rates to a specific client’s goal.”
“While we always compare raw data and a referral spam exclusion to this segment in our analysis, this segment helps us filter out the customer traffic that is going to a login portal.”
Sandoval explains: “Since our client’s focus is on lead generation and new business this filter is used to get a closer look at the “real” traffic related to their goals rather than adding bias from their multitude of existing customers coming to their website daily.”
Are you ready to use segments to breakdown your Google Analytics data and find insights you’d have otherwise missed?
Summarizing, Let Me Bank‘s Morgan Taylor says: “The more data you have, the better prepared you are to make decisions.”
“Your website is vital to your business, so you want to accumulate as much relevant information as possible to make informed choices to drive traffic.”
Analytics | Oct 22
Analytics | Oct 7
Reporting | Sep 29