User segmentation is probably the most powerful tool in Google Analytics because of the incredibly valuable and actionable business insights you can collect from your digital marketing data.
What is User Segmentation?
Segmenting your users is the process of slicing and dicing your data by grouping your traffic based on common characteristics. This allows you to perform more in-depth analysis and identify trends within those segments.
Every time you login to Google Analytics, you are looking at the aggregate data of all of your visitors. But looking at your data in aggregation tells you very little about your visitors because different groups of users who visit your website represent different value to your business. Treating all of your visitors in the same way means you’ll be missing out on a ton of insights about the users that are most valuable to you.
One great thing about segments is that they can be applied retroactively. This means that they can be applied to data that you have already collected.
Why Segments are so Powerful
As already mentioned, creating segments allows you to break down your data by different dimensions so that you can identify patterns in your data. For example you may find that your website sales are driven by one customer segment (professional women aged 34 to 45 who live in London, Brighton, New York and Edinburgh.)
This type of incredible (and actionable) insight would be invaluable for your business, and segmenting those users will allow you to tailor your marketing campaign to attract more of the same type of users. Creating a segment based on these users will also help you understand how they are finding your website and what content they are consuming.
Note that you can only apply 4 segments to a report at one time. In addition, user segments can only apply a maximum date range of 90 days for reports and up to 1000 historical sessions in your reporting.
Advantages of Segments
Segments allow you to answer different questions about your users. These include:
- What are common differentiating characteristics between people who buy from you on a regular basis and people who do not buy at all? You could create a custom segment called “Made no Purchase” and compare it with the default “Made a Purchase” user segment. Comparing these segments will reveal insights that can help you understand why certain people have not yet bought from you.
- What channels drive the most engaged visitors? To do this, you can compare the bounce rates and session duration of the “paid social traffic”, “organic traffic” and “referral traffic” segments. You may find that your Bing organic traffic drives high conversion rates, while your expensive Facebook paid campaign generates too little conversions to justify the expense.
- Sudden sales drop. If you notice a slump in product sales for your core audience, is there a sale going on with a competitor that is causing that slump? This allows you to improve your offer and win back your customers.
Type of Segments
There are two types of segments in Google Analytics: user segments and session segments.
A user segment is a group of your website visitors who visit your site across several sessions over 90 days. You can create user segments based on a combination of dimensions including age, gender, traffic source, session date, behaviour, etc.
Session segments represent different levels of interaction by your users during a single session, which are known as hits. For example, you can build a session segment for all sessions arising from an email campaign, or all sessions during which a visitor converted on a goal.
Difference Btw User and Session Based Segments
User based segments allow you to go beyond a single session on your website to perform your analysis. On the other hand, with session based segments, you’ll only be looking at the final session where the user completed a particular conversion. You won’t be able to see all of the different traffic sources that led to the conversion.
With a user based session, you can see all of the different sessions that led to a particular conversion. This means you can combine multiple interactions and different audience attributes to perform your analysis. This allows you to perform more in-depth analysis on the traffic sources that led to the conversion.
Google Analytics has a set of default, ready-made segments. To access these segments, in the Audience Overview, click on +Add Segment.
These are a wide range of default segments that you can apply to your reports immediately.
How to Apply Default Segments
- Go to Audience Overview
- Click on Create Segment > System
- You can choose up to 4 segments to apply to your report
Under “VIEW SEGMENTS”, you’ll find:
- All: this is the default segment which applies to all of your visitors. You’re looking at everybody who’s accessed your website.
- System: this contains all of the default segments built-into Google Analytics.
- Custom: segments you’ve created yourself so that you can perform your own custom analysis. You can create custom segments based on demographics, technology, behavior, date of first session, traffic sources and (if configured), ecommerce.
- Shared: segments shared to different views and users.
- Starred: segments you’ve marked as favourites.
- Selected: currently active segments.
If you select “System”, you’ll find a whole bunch of segments Google Analytics has pre-built for you. You can only select 4 of these segments to apply to a report.
Now, you can compare the different audience segments to understand performance. In this case: the default segments all users vs converters vs non-converters. You can also choose to focus on a particular section of traffic such as the converters by removing the all users and non-converter segments.
Removing the non-converter and all user segments allow you to focus on just the high value users on your site so thatt you can analyse their behaviour such as the specific marketing channel they used to arrive at your website, and the content they are currently consuming on the site.
As you move through Google Analytics, the same segment will continue to be applied so that you’re only looking at data only from people who have converted on your site.
Here are the different types of custom segments you can create in Google Analytics.
Simple segments are the recommended segments you get when you click on the Create Segment button.
- Demographics: this involves segmenting users by their demographics, such as age, gender and location. For example, females, aged 25 to 34, living in Brighton. If you’re using Google analytics, you can also use Affinity Categories and In-Market Segments.
- Technology: segmenting users by their OS or mobile device.
- Behaviour: segmenting users by how often they visit your website and convert on your goals.
- Date of First Session: segmenting users by when they first visited your site.
- Traffic Sources: segmenting users by how they first discovered your site e.g. SEO, social, email, etc. in order to identify the channel that drives the most valuable traffic.
- Ecommerce: segmenting users by their shopping behavior as long as you’ve setup ecommerce tracking.
Segment your users or their sessions according to a single condition. For example, if you want to find out how watching a video on your site affects revenue per visitor, you could use conditions.
Sequences allow you to isolate your users. For example, if you have an online store, you can create a segment of people who abandoned their cart so that you can remarket to those users with an improved offer. You can also create a segment of users who have completed a conversion using mobile.
How to Create a Customized Advanced Segment
Let’s imagine that you want to create a user-based segment for people who are accessing your website through a mobile device, and have bought something from you.
- On the left panel, click on Conditions.
- Create a filter to isolate the users you want to focus on.
- Select users from the Users/Sessions options.
- In the drop-down, search for device category.
- Select mobile
- Create an AND statement to focus on people that have converted on at least one of your site’s goal.
- Select goal completion per user > = 1
- Name segment and save it.
This means you’ve now created a custom segment of the users that you want to target in Google analytics, i.e. people who arrived at your site using a mobile device, and have converted on the site’s goal.
There are certain reports that cannot be segmented in Google Analytics. These include:
- Funnel visualization
- Google AdWords cost data
- Google Search Console data
Click here to check out other powerful configured segments from the Google Analytics Solutions Gallery.