Google Analytics is a great tool, but its standard reports can be limited, so a little customisation is necessary to improve the quality of insight you can gain.
One way to do this is to create custom reports, which is an excellent idea, and another is to use GA's advanced segments, which allow you to filter reports to find the insights you need.
In this post, I'll explain how to use advanced segments. It's for GA beginners really, so I apologise in advance to any GA experts reading this...
What are advanced segments?
Advanced segments can be used with any of the default or custom reports on Google Analytics.
GA comes with some default segments pre-loaded, and you can also see some of the custom segments I've created for the Econsultancy blog on the right:
Advanced segments allow you to filter traffic and other data by specific criteria, such as visits which come via search, or from a particular geographic area.
Why should you use them?
Advanced segments are valuable as they allow you to segment and gain useful insights about different groups and types of visitors.
For example, an ecommerce manager might find via segments that tablet users are the highest converting customers, something which might build the case for an app or an optimised version of the site to cater for these users.
When I'm lookng at Econsultancy blog metrics, advanced segments are incredibly useful. For example, as we target different regions such as the US, Australia and APAC, we can look at the traffic and other user trends as we try to provide more relevant content.
Some segments help me to measure how effective we are at monetising the blog. For example, one thing we want to do is to increase awareness (and downloads) of our report content.
So, an advanced segment helps me to measure how many visitors we are sending to report pages from blog posts in a given period of time, and which posts are doing this most effectively:
How you use these segments will depend on the type of business, but they undoubtedly offer greater insight than the standard reports alone.
How to create an advanced segment
Open up 'advanced segments' at the top of the page:
Then select '+ new custom segment':
The next step is to name the report, so you won't spend ages trying to find it months later.
In this case, I'll look at visitors from Singapore viewing our reports.
To do this, I select 'dimension' from the dropdown, then 'country/Territory'. It defaults to 'exactly matching' , and after that I type Singapore into the text box. GA will provide suggestions as you begin typing, which saves time:
Then I need to add an "AND" statement in the next row. In this case I choose 'page' and add '/reports' to the text box, as all our report page URLs contain this. (If I used just 'reports' it would also show pages containing that word.
You can also test or preview the segment before saving, which will allow you to spot errors and make corrections. If your segment returns no data, for example, then this may indicate a problem.
If all seems OK, save the segment and you will see the results. In this case, if I'm looking to do more to increase awareness of our reports for this audience, I can use this as a benchmark and revisit to see if our efforts bear any fruit.
These segments can also be combined with other segments (up to four are allowed) so we can look at things like device and browsers used as well as the initial segment.
For more on creating segments, see Google's guide, which could use a few screenshots...
Existing advanced segments
The pre-loaded segments are also useful if you don't want to spent time creating your own.
For example, I can look at tablet and mobile traffic alongside all visits:
Further down the page, you can drill down into these stats by country, service provider, OS and browser. Note that Internet Explorer comes way down the list for our tech-savvy, highly intelligent readership ;)
In the next post in this series, I'll look at some ready-made custom segments that you can add straight to your Google Analytics account and avoid all the hard work...