Google Analytics Segments Explained: How to Use Them -- And Build Them

Google Analytics Segments Explained: How to Use Them -- And Build Them

Now that you’re getting comfortable with Google Analytics and the built-in reports it offers, you can start to have a little more fun with the data. Introducing segments, your way to get deeper insights without making a mess. 

So what are segments?

Segments are filters you create in your own account, where you can see different cuts of data in the same report. It’s important to note that segments don’t permanently change the data. It’s a way to view the data any way you want it, as long as the raw data is originally there.

Segments are very different from “Views” as mentioned in the installation guide here. Views are permanent changes to the data once it flows into Google Analytics. There’s no reversing the settings and replacing the already filled-in data. Segments, however, are temporary where you can see a certain data set in one click.

Typically, segments will be based on a dimension, a characteristic or attribute of users that you want to filter by. If you don’t know what a dimension is, see the difference between dimension and metric here. Some common segments include filtering users coming from Organic channels or mobile devices. You can apply the segment in any report to see it compared to the overall traffic. Segments are very helpful in comparisons, especially for the big question: how different is the Paid Traffic activity vs the Organic Traffic activity?

FYI: Segments are limited to 90 days in the free Google Analytics version, just so you know.


What’s the difference between user and session segments?

As I’ve mentioned in this article, user and session are 2 different metrics you can group user activity for online behavior. 

A user segment filters the data set based on the user’s full activity throughout the cookie’s tracking period (let’s hope they don’t delete cookies). Let’s say a user visited 10x a month, all those times will be counted as part of the filter. The segment will count the user as long as he fit the segment at least one time in any of his visits. 

Drilling down, a session segment is taking a view of one individual visit, as long as they don’t stop clicking on your website for 30 minutes. Anything the user does in one visit is counted in the segment you create. 


How to build segment conditions vs sequences

Google Analytics gives you two main options to set up your segments: conditions vs sequences. 

Conditions

Conditions is when you specify characteristics of a website behavior to filter out the data set. So as long as the user matches it, he will be counted in the total. The filters don’t have to be in order, you just need to indicate whether you want to include or exclude based on a session or a user segment. The conditions are flexible where you can make sure a user did a # of actions in the same session and also add a filter at the user-level for their full active history.

For example, I want to create a segment for people who clicked on 3 specific products in one session, but came from an organic channel at one point. 

You’d set up the conditions as:

Filter Session includes “Products” contains “blah|blah|blah” (the “|” is a regex symbol to indicate “or”) 

AND

Filter User includes “Default Channel Grouping” equals “Organic Search” (OR) “Default Channel Grouping” equals “Referral” (OR) “Default Channel Grouping” equals “Email” (OR) “Default Channel Grouping” equals “Social” (OR)  “Default Channel Grouping” equals “Direct”


(we’re listing out all the organic channels here as Google Analytics doesn’t have an automatic bucket for it)

Sequences

Sequences, on the other hand, is like what it’s called. You order the conditions according to the exact path to see how many users have gone through it. 

Same type of parameters used in conditions, except we can specify the order with the “Any user interaction” or “First user interaction” - along with “Is Followed By” (at any time) or “Is Immediately Followed By.”


8 Most Useful Segments in Google Analytics

Let’s get you playing more with the data now, shall we? Here are 20 useful segments for any business that will get you started in diving deeper. Put your ski masks on! 


  1. Organic Traffic 
Users include “Default Channel Grouping” equals “Organic Search” (OR) “Default Channel Grouping” equals “Referral” (OR) “Default Channel Grouping” equals “Email” (OR) “Default Channel Grouping” equals “Social” (OR) “Default Channel Grouping” equals “Direct”
  1. Paid Traffic 
Medium matches regex ^(cpc|ppc|cpa|cpm|cpv|cpp)$ 
  1. Mobile Traffic
Users include “Device Category” equals “mobile” (OR) “Device Category” equals “tablet”

Or you can do the easier option by toggling to the “Technology” tab in the Segment Builder and checking off “Yes” to “Mobile (Including Tablet)

  1. Blog Traffic 
Users include Page contains “/blog”
  1. Email Traffic
Users include “Default Channel Grouping” equals “email”
  1. New Users
User type equals “New Visitor”
  1. Social Visitors with a Conversion
User includes Goal Completions > 0 (AND) “Default Channel Grouping” equals “Social”
  1. Visitors Reaching the Product Confirmation Page
User includes Page contains “[insert slug for confirmation page here]”