Custom Segments in Google Analytics

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If you have every used google analytics before, then you know how important it is to be able to get the data you need as efficiently as possible. That is why I want to discuss a little bit about using custom segments in Google Analytics, while it may seem a bit intimidating if you have never used Google Analytics before, my hope in this article will shed some light regarding how important and how easy custom segments are to set up and use.

As stated on Google itself a segment is, “A Subset of your Analytics Data” that is non-destructive of analytics data. The most basic concept of this is that a segment is ultimately filtered data that meets certain criteria, like a saved search result per se. This is important as it allows analytics users to break down their analytics data to meet the criteria about their users that they want to view. Why segments are referred to as being non-destructive it is because they do not remove any data from your Google Analytics view, unlike filters which remove data entirely. To elaborate, I will go over some pretty cool things a segment can do and how to set one up.

Using a Custom Segment in Google Analytics

Using segments are super easy and will save you tons of time narrowing your data in Google Analytics! Every Overview page in your Reports Tab will allow you add and remove segments at your discretion. A great place to see this in action is on the main audience overview page, which is normally the first page you are brought to in your reports.

Google Analytics Segments Overview

This will bring up all your segments and the ability to create, import, share, and apply your segments.

Google Analytics Segments Dashboard

Here you can create new segments, import segments, and share the segments you created. There are a lot of great pre-made segments from developers in the gallery which can save you a great deal of time with setup. This is also where you will create new segments which I will explain in the next section. In the final section, I will explain the importance of sharing your segments.

Here are the grouping of segments you can use. Google Analytics has a lot of premade system segments which are quite useful. Also, you can favorite any segment by clicking the star next to the checkbox in the segments area, which will populate your Starred tab. All custom segments you create can be found in the Custom tab. When hovering over a segment, it will give you details about the nature of the segment and what kind of data it will sort. Click the checkbox to add it to dashboard report.

You must click ‘Apply’ for your segments to Properly Filter Data in your dashboard! Once you have applied your segments, your dashboard will reload, with a dataset of your selected Segments. You now have a side by side comparison of datasets. Here is an example of All Traffic versus Organic Traffic.

Viewing Google Analytics Data in Multiple Segments

Setting up a Custom Segment in Google Anlytics

Now that you have seen where you can create a new segment, let’s build one! For this example, we are going to build a segment that shows data only for users using Macintosh Operating Systems. So I will click ‘Choose segment from list’, then click; ‘NEW SEGMENT’.

Now, I am brought into the segment editor. Here I will give the segment a name; ‘Mac Users’. For the filter criteria, I will click on ‘Technology’, and for ‘Operating System’ I will enter; ‘Macintosh’. In this instance, Google Analytics was smart enough to auto-complete this field and has many built in auto complete fields at your disposal. Now all I have to do is click ‘save’ and my custom made segment is now available!

Create new Custom Segment in Google Analytics

Some Cool Things You can do with Google Analytics Segments

Now that you have seen the most basic implementation of a segment, I will give you a couple practices that are super useful when using segments.

  • Segments can be used to separate hostnames and subdomains in your dashboard. Perhaps you are using more than one URL for a particular dashboard, or your URL has multiple subdomains, like a mobile domain for example.Custom Google Analytics Segments for Multiple Domain Names

    This is an example of setting up a custom segment for report on the subdomain; ‘mobile.glowhorn.com’.

  • Custom segments can be used for reporting on various mediums and traffic sources, like from email campaigns and newsletters. This is very useful if you are using an email campaign service like MailChimp to see the email traffic being generated. If you would like to know more about MailChimp, we have a great tutorial on how to create effective email campaigns in MailChimp.
    See our MailChimp TutorialNewsletter Segment in Google Analytics

    This is a custom segment for an email campaign with a source of ‘Newsletter’.

  • Segments are crucial when you plan to expand your business into new markets. By using custom segments you can quickly sort your data and pinpoint the metrics you need to learn about your user base in the desired emerging marketplace.Demographics Segment in Google Analytics

    Here is an example custom segment to show traffic from users from Canada.

  • Custom segments can even be used for spam filtering! While it is ideal that you perform spam filtering in the view’s filter property, it is also possible to create segments to filter out spamming robots. Spam robots create inauthentic traffic and can give you inaccurate reports. If you do not plan on creating a filter for this in the very least you should create a spam filtering segment.Filter Spam in Google Analytics Segment

    An example configuration of a spam filtering segment.

Some Important Things to Know about Google Analytics Segments

While segments are powerful and useful, there are a few key things you, the Google Analytics user must know when using custom segments.

  • You must share custom segments if you want other users to access them! All custom segments are by default only viewable by their creator. To grant access to other users, you can share your segment. Click the down arrow on your segment, which will pull up a dropdown that will allow you to share.Share Google Analytics Segments

    This will bring up a confirmation modal that will give you the link to share this segment, or to paste the link in an IM or email.

    Confirmation Dialog

  • Segments do not permanently filter your data. As their nature is non-destructive, segments are used for quick reporting. Should you need to have certain data removed from your view altogether, setting up a filter in your view is a more appropriate solution.
  • You can only apply 4 segments at a time. This is a default setting in Google Analytics and cannot be changed.
  • Segments can only be applied to a maximum data range of 90 days. Being that Google Analytics collects large sums of data, segments can only be applied to limited time periods, as the resources needed to conducts larger time ranges are simply not available.
  • Adwords cost data cannot be set up in segments. Unfortunately, Adwords cost data is not compatible with segments.

Final Thoughts on Google Analytics Segments

Google Analytics Reporting should be an absolutely vital aspect of your business plan, and with custom segments, you can produce quick and effective reports to focus on your internet user base. Here at Glowhorn, Analytics are a principle aspect of our services and are ever increasing our capabilities to provide the best reporting to our clients.