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Understanding Your Analytics Using Custom Advanced Segments

Simon Fryer
Simon
Simon is CandidSky's Search Director, with strong roots in organic SEO and analytics, and a disturbing passion for spreadsheets.

February 24, 2013

6 minutes

Google Analytics is arguably the most powerful reporting tool available when it comes to understanding how visitors are using your website. The data provided is unrivaled among other tools and can provide valuable information for any site owner, whether you’re a small business or a corporate colossus.

The problem with Analytics (and yes, there are many problems) is that because it provides information to such a vast array of user groups, being able to find the data that’s meaningful to you can be difficult. More often than not people revert to looking at overall traffic and content metrics. This paints a good picture of how your site is performing overall, but it makes it very difficult to extract actionable data on how you can nourish visitors and increase conversions.

Using overall, entry-level data in Analytics simply won’t achieve this for you, which is why, being a generous soul, I’ve written this post on how custom advanced segments can help you measure your success.

What on earth Are Custom Advanced Segments?

Allow me to explain. You’ve got an e-commerce website. You’ve probably looked at how many visitors your blog attracts. You probably know how many sales you generate per month. But, do you know how many of the people that found you via your blog actually bought something? Without knowing this, can you truly evaluate how well your blog is performing?

Custom segments can help you. What’s more, they can provide the most valuable, actionable data you can imagine from Analytics. These segments carry all the way through Analytics.  This means that when I segment out my visitors that come from search engines, all the data in the rest of Analytics will be for search engine visitors only – this means content, conversions, demographics; the whole lot.

Sounds awesome, now how the Hell do I use custom segments?

Fear not, brave Analytics adventurer; help is on hand. Surprisingly, custom segments are incredibly easy to use once you’ve learned how to set them up.

First, head to your audience overview and select ‘Advanced Segments’ at the top.

 

The standard segments allow you to view user groups, such as paid search traffic, referral traffic etc. Now I wouldn’t be surprised if you hadn’t seen these already and were like ‘wow, these are amazing’. If this is you, then you’re welcome…enjoy! We’re going to be going a little deeper and creating some more interesting segments:

Head over to ‘New custom segment’ and we’ll get stuck in.

 #1: Is My Blog Making Me Any Money?

  1. Set the first option to ‘include’
  2. Set the second option to ‘landing page’
  3. Set the third option to ‘containing’
  4. Set the URL path

The URL path needs to the the first part of the URLs for any page contained on your blog. In most cases this will be www.mywebsite.com/blog/……

Because we’re setting option 3 to ‘containing’ the segment will include any landing pages which feature this URL path, such as /blog/post-one or /blog/post-two.

Now name the segment and save it. In this case I’ve named the segment ‘Blog Entrances’

You may need to refresh your browser for the change to come in to effect, but now you should see your brand new segment in the ‘custom segments’ section

Now all the data you see in Analytics whilst this is selected will refer only to visits which began on a blog page.

If you have an e-commerce website now you’ll be able to head to the conversions section get this kind of data:

 

I accept that I’m data geek, but even if you hate Analytics you must admit that this is some very sexy data.

If you’re assessing whether or not to invest more in blogging, whether you should outsource the work, or how much you should spend, you no longer need to guess. Now your decisions can be made based on facts.

#2 Is Facebook Making Me Any Money?

Time to create a new custom segment.

  1. Set the first option to ‘include’
  2. Set the second option to ‘Source’
  3. Set the third option to ‘containing’’
  4. Type in ‘Facebook’

When you enter the 4th option you’ll notice that a few variants might pop up, such as www.facebook.com and m.facebook.com – these are just the standard and mobile variants. Again, by using ‘containing’ in option 3 you’re specifying that it should be any source which contains the word ‘facebook’, thus capturing both of the sources.

Now head down to your e-commerce section and voila. Now you have the answer to this question.

If you want to include all the other social platforms you can use the ‘OR’ options in the custom segments menu to add as many as you want. You can even create an individual segment for each one to measure them against eachother.

Some more examples:

Have a look at the options within the custom segments menu. You’ll see that they are almost endless. What this represents is an enormous opportunity to dig deeper in to your Analytics and get the top drawer information. Here are some examples of other custom segments you could use:

How do visitors from my local city use my website?Include -> City -> Containing -> [city name]

How do people from other countries/continents use my website?Include -> Country/Continent -> Conaining -> [country/continent]

If you really wanted to, you could see how iPhone usage on your site differs from Android usage, how users entering on a specific keyword are using the site, and so on and so forth.

There are far too many options to be able to list them all. If you’re interested in finding out how to segment out specific information in your Analytics account, ask in the comments below or feel free to email me at Simon@candidsky.com and I’ll give you the tools to make data driven decisions.

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