What are segments in Google Analytics?
Segments are a way to pull out and analyses subsets of your data. If, for example, you want to look at UK males aged 18-24 who came to your site from Facebook, you can construct a Segment that applies this combination of criteria, and then view the data about this specific group in any report you wish.
Two things to note about this: first, Segments are non-destructive filters that do not change your underlying data – they are just a way of pulling out the data relevant to what you want to look at. Second, once you apply a Segment, it remains available as you navigate throughout the reports until you remove it, which means you can access all the relevant data in all the reports you’d normally use. In other words, Segments mean you don’t have to focus on your entire audience, your whole site or the complete conversion flow; you can focus in on any part of this selectively. What’s more, you can have up to four Segments active at a time, and compare results from each Segment side by side in your reports.
Google Analytics includes predefined Segments (“system Segments”) such as “Paid Traffic” and “Visits with Conversions”, which you can use as-is or duplicate and edit to create new custom Segments. You can also build your own Segments from scratch, share your custom Segments and even import Segments created by other Analytics users from the Analytics Solutions Gallery: click Segments in the left-hand panel to see what’s on offer.
There are a few limitations to bear in mind:
- There’s a maximum of 1,000 Segments per Analytics account.
- Each View can have up to 100 Segments.
- The date range maximum when using Segments is 90 days.
- Don’t use Segments with Multi-Channel Funnel reports (see the relevant section above).
Because Segments don’t change your data or the way it’s collected, you can apply a Segment to data collected before you created it – remember, it’s just a way of pulling out data you want to look at. Bear in mind, though, that Goals, Events and other user-defined types of data are recorded only from the point when you define them onwards, so if you create a Segment that uses such user-defined data types, the Segment will have no access to data from before that point.
How to use segments in Analytics
To apply Segments in a report, open the View that contains the reports you want, switch to the Reporting tab and select the report. At the top of the report, click “+Add Segment”. You’ll see a list of all available Segments, including the predefined system Segments and any Segments you’ve previously created or imported. Tick the Segment or Segments you want to use (up to four at a time), then click Apply. You can now switch to any other report if you wish; the Segment will remain active until you remove it.
To quickly remove a Segment, look at the top of a report to see which Segments are applied, mouse over the relevant Segment to open its menu, then click Remove. To duplicate it, do the same but select Copy in the menu; the copy opens in the Segment Builder, where you can then modify it – for example by clicking “+Add Filter” to add an additional condition to the Segment definition. When done, click Save.
The menu includes a third option: Remarket enables you to create a remarketing list based on the Segment.
How to create a segment in Google Analytics:
1. To begin, open any report and click “+Add Segment”.
2. In the Segment list that opens, click “+New Segment” to open the Segment Builder.
3. Enter a name for your new Segment.
4. To configure the criteria for the Segment, start by clicking a category of dimensions or metrics in the left-hand panel – Demographics, say – and use the options that appear in the right-hand panel to define the filters you want to apply to your data.
5. Where relevant, use the pop-up menus to select operators such as “Contains”, “Exactly matches” or “Starts with”, and type in any specific strings you want to match.
It’s possible to create quite complex configurations of criteria, but the logic of how they combine can be a bit confusing at first glance. In brief, if you apply multiple values within the same dimension, then by default OR logic applies – so for example data will be included if it matches either of the criteria Age 18-24 OR Age 25-34. Otherwise AND logic applies, and data will be included if it matches both criteria – for example, “Demographics/Age 18-24” AND “Demographics/Gender: Female”. To create something different, see the “Advanced options” section below.
In many cases, you’ll also need to specify a Scope for the data you want:
- Hit: behavior confined to a single action – for example, viewing a page or starting a video.
- Session: behavior within a single session – for example, the amount of revenue that users generated during a session;
- User: behavior across all the sessions within the date range you’re using, up to 90 days – for example, all the goals that users completed or all the revenue that they generated (across all the sessions) during the date range.
Click more dimensions in the left-hand panel to add further criteria and define the Segment more precisely. When you’ve finished, click Preview to apply the Segment to the current report (don’t worry about Test). If this doesn’t show you the information you expected, you can continue editing the Segment, then preview again. When you’re happy with it, click Save to close the Segment Builder, save the Segment and activate it for all your reports.
You can also use an existing Segment as the starting point. For example, you could start with the system Segment “Sessions with Conversions”, duplicate this and then add additional filters for criteria like Country/Territory and Campaign to focus on data about specific countries where sessions with conversions originated, and data about specific campaigns that led to sessions with conversions.
If the Segment you want to start with is already applied, start as described under “Using Segments” above; otherwise, open the Segments list as just described, locate the Segment you want to start with, click Actions next to it, and select Copy. A duplicate of the existing configuration opens in the Segment Builder; to avoid confusion, give this a new name straight away, then edit the existing filters or add new ones (or both) as required. When done, preview as above. When you’re happy, click Save. The original Segment you used as the starting point will remain unaffected.
To import a Segment, open the Segments list. This time, click “Import from Gallery” to open the Analytics Solutions Gallery and go straight to the Segments category. Use the sort and filter options to further narrow the content. When you find a Segment you want, click Import below the Segment description. You can opt to make the Segment available in all Views in the account you’re currently using, or choose a single View. Click Create and you can then rename, modify and configure the Segment as required, and finally Preview and Save it as usual.
What advanced options are available in Google Analytics?
In the Segment Builder, under Advanced in the left-hand panel, you’ll see two options: Conditions and Sequences. These enable you to build up more complex sets of criteria based on dimensions and metrics as we’ve seen, but with some additional options:
- You’re not restricted to specific categories: these let you create filters for any dimension or metric.
- Include or exclude specific data: they can also include both AND and OR conditions.
- When you include user and session-based rules in the same filter, those are joined with AND logic – that is, data is included when it meets both conditions.
- Sequences filters: these let you determine whether the sequence begins with the first user interaction or with any user interaction.
- When you include multiple steps in a Sequences filter, you can specify that one step follows another at any time or immediately. The subsequent step can occur in the same session or in a subsequent session.
The Segments you create can be as straightforward or as complex as you choose. You could, for example, look at all the users who first visited your site in a specific month, or even on a specific date, and trace exactly what they’ve done since then. (Just to complicate matters, Google uses the name “cohort” for a Segment that includes some type of date condition.) Or you could compare users who convert with those who don’t, and see if you can identify any patterns in their behavior that might help you turn more of the latter into the former. Making the most of your Analytics account can often require one of the many Analytics courses online available to ensure your knowledge is up to scratch!
You could look for “high-value users”, such as those who purchase or visit frequently, have done so recently, and account for more than some specified value – say £100 per user. From here you could then navigate through your reports to find out more about these users – their location, demographics, technologies or channels used, for example. Armed with these insights, you can then develop your audiences and marketing around that data.
One final scenario: you could create a Segment of users who viewed product-detail pages, clicked Add To Cart, but never actually placed orders – on the face of it, these users have indicated a strong interest in purchasing, so it should be worthwhile to try enticing them back with a remarketing campaign. Google has a page that shows you exactly how to configure the criteria for such Segments, helping you master how it’s done.Read previous article Read next article