For an introduction to Google Analytics, see my earlier post. In this entry I will focus on an advanced feature of Google Analytics: Advanced Segments.
Segments are non-destructive filters that you can apply to your data for advanced analyses. Segments are non-destructive in that they do not affect the actual process of recording data from your website. Actual filters applied to a particular website profile, on the other hand, permanently affect the data that is recorded. For example, if I want to know statistics related to visitors from South America, I can create a segment that will display only information for these visitors. Data from all visitors in all countries is still recorded. By creating a filter for the same purpose, I could also see information related only to South American visitors, however Analytics wouldn’t record the data for any visitors outside of South America. In short, segments are filters that are applied after all the data has already been collected. Both segments and filters are valuable for particular applications, however this post will focus solely on segments.
Segments are extremely powerful for running comparative analyses. Segments allow you to split up your Analytics data into different groups, and you can in turn compare these groups with each other. Google Analytics includes several basic segments like New and Returning Visitors. Your segments can be accessed and applied by clicking the “Advanced Segments” box in the upper right hand corner of the screen. By splitting your data between visitors that have previously been to your site and those who haven’t, you can discover important behavioral differences.
Our website OnlineStore.com just redesigned the checkout process. Without segments applied, the data looks good. The number of visitors exiting the site after adding items to their cart has dropped… good news? When we split our data into new vs returning segments, we find that the number of new visitors exiting from the cart page has dropped a fair amount, but the number of returning visitors exiting from the cart has risen dramatically. Our changes to the checkout system have clearly alienated our returning customers. Further analysis shows us that our returning customers’ purchases are about twice as large as purchases made by new customers. While a basic analysis would suggest that our changes were positive, analysis with segments has shown us that our cart redesign needs further consideration.
Google Analytics also features the following preset segments:
The “Visits with Conversions” segment is an important tool that allows you to track usage statistics for your most valuable visitors.
Google Analytics’ preset segments are valuable and easy to use, however custom segments are necessary for more complex analyses. To create a custom segment, click on the advanced segments box in the upper right hand corner of the screen and click on “Create a new advanced segment”. The following page lets you choose any dimension or metric as the basis for the segment. If you are unfamiliar with metrics and dimensions, see my post on custom reporting in Google Analytics. Your custom segment isn’t limited to one metric or dimension; you can create segments combining two or more different criteria for specialized data analysis.
OnlineStore.com has gone global. We need to know how our customers in Japan are finding our website. We create a custom segment with the dimension “Country” “matches exactly” “Japan”. We then add an “AND” statement, and include the metric “Goal1 Completions” as “Greater than or equal to 1”. We’re done. When applied, our segment will now show us all statistics related to Japanese visitors who convert Goal1, which in this case would indicate a purchase.
There’s no limit to what custom segments can show you. Test out the many available metrics and dimensions to gain a fuller understanding of how your analyses can be improved using custom segments.