Although I've made several posts about segmentation, I thought it would be good to take a step back and talk about what segmentation is and why it is one of the most powerful tools in the analytics tool kit. Segmentation is the ability to look at just a portion of your traffic, based on some criterion such as geography, site action, time of day, or some other custom variable you set. The power from segmentation (also known as filtering) is by comparing the patterns of one segment of your users versus the activities of another. Separating out these groups helps you see how each is performing and try to isolate opportunities.
Let me provide a concrete example. For a client, we are running a banner and paid search campaign to drive traffic to the site. The campaign traffic currently accounts for less than 5% of the total site traffic, so there aren’t any dramatic changes in the overall site traffic usage patterns. Knowing that, I wanted to see if despite being low volume, whether the campaign driving high value. By creating two segments, one for banners and one for paid search, I could see not only the basics of page views, conversion, etc. (available elsewhere in Google Analytics, in this case) but I could also see what specific pages received the most traffic, the city/state where visitors were coming from, and the browser/OS used to access the site. With this information, I got an idea of the type of visitors coming in from each of the campaigns and can put more money in the right place next month.
Segments are powerful. Segments let you slice your site data down to a single user and see what he/she did. Scary powerful. But how often do you really need or want to do that. If you use Google Analytics, within Advanced Segmentation (their name for this), there are several predefined segments: New/Returning Visitors, Paid/Non-Paid Search, Search/Referral/Direct Traffic, Visits with Conversions, Visits from iPhones, Non-Bounce Visits. These are all great and if you do nothing beyond using these, you are already ahead of many people.
But of course, I would love everyone to take this further. Here are some other general segments that I would suggest (with links to Google Analytics examples):
- Completed a specific site goal – if you have goals setup in GA (I hope you do!) then you can use the goal as a segmentation point. If you aren’t using goals, visitors that reach a specific page can be considered a goal.
- Example: Complete Goal #1 segment
- Mobile visits – For the purposes of segmentation, I consider anything smaller than 640x480 to be mobile.
- Example: Mobile segment
- Campaign visits (general or specific campaign) – this can be setup using a campaign name, campaign medium or many other dimensions.
- Visits from or excluding a specific geography – this could be visitors specifically in the US or only international visits; maybe visitors from Ohio vs. visitors from Pennsylvania
- Visits within a time period – knowing what visitors are doing within or outside of business hours can be powerful, especially if your site has a clear pattern of more weekday traffic than weekend.
- Example: Visits outside of business hours (all days)
- Internal website visits – it is sometimes helpful to know what your own company is doing on your website. The easiest way to track this is by Service Provider in Google Analytics if your company shows as its own service provider. If not, this is tricky, but can be done through custom code.
- Example: DigiKnow internal traffic segment (this is only useful as a model/pattern)
The easiest way to learn how to use segments it to dive right in. If you use Google Analytics, the examples above will get you started. Any time you dig into analytics, the best approach is to have a goal in mind. If you don’t know what you are trying to find out, you can spend a lot of time exploring, but not learn much and won’t find anything actionable. Rather than try to explain any more here, I wanted to link you to a great video that explains Google Analytics Advanced Segments.
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