Segments allow us to break up our reports into subsets so we can focus on specific data within the report, for example, we could break up our report so it only shows us data from a specific country or we could create multiple segments and compare the results. They allow us to zone in on certain groups of users that we have a particular interest in, from there we can use the data to improve our business. The great thing about segments are that we can add and remove them whenever we like.
How to create a segment
Creating a segment within Google Analytics is nice and easy.
First, go to any report (apart from Real-time) and click on ‘+ Add Segment’, active segments apply to all views to it doesn’t matter which report we create them in.
Next click on ‘+ NEW SEGMENT’ this will open up a ton of filter options that we can apply to our custom segment. As we apply our filters we’ll see the summary to the right update to reflect the number of users that our chosen selections currently apply to, if we make our custom segment too specific it may not apply to any of our current users so this automatic summary update is a very handy feature to have.
You’ll notice that some filters allow us to create an expression from a drop-down choice menu such as ‘Contains’ or ‘Start with’, this gives us even more control over what data we want our segment to include. When we click into the blank text box next to the expression it will auto-populate with possible choices or we if we prefer we can type in our own value such, an example of this would be to use the ‘Contains’ expression with a value of ‘en-us’ which will apply a filter to only include American speaking users.
There are so many filter options that it’s unlikely we’ll ever use all of them but the options are there if we need them. If we’re unsure of what a certain filter is Google does a great job of explaining what each one is by hovering your mouse over the ‘?’ next to the filter name.
Once we’re happy with our segment we can give it a name and click ‘Save’, this will then apply the segment automatically to our reports. Active segments crossover to all of our reports so every report we view now will have that segment view applied.
Removing an active segment
The great thing about segments is that they can be turned on and off whenever we want and won’t affect our saved view settings, unlike filters that we’ve applied to an actual view which are permanent. To remove a segment we need to click the little downward-facing arrow next to the specific segment block and click ‘Remove’ from the drop-down choices. When we remove all active segments Google will automatically resort back to the default view of showing all user data.
Note: Removing a segment will not permanently delete it, we can activate it again by clicking back on the ‘+ Add Segment’ block and choosing it from the list.
Using segments to compare data
Google Analytics allows us to activate up to 4 segments at a time allowing us to compare specific data to one another. Adding multiple segments is easy, all you need to do is click on the ‘+ Add Segment’, tick the segments you want to activate and click ‘Apply’. If a segment you wish to activate isn’t in the list this means that it has not yet been created so you will have to create the segment first.
Below shows 2 active segments that I created, one to show US users and the other to show GB users, as you can see from the comparison I receive a lot more US users. If my target market was for people who live in Great Britain I will probably want to start taking some actions to reach out to the Great British market more.
If we add the maximum of 4 segments we’ll have 4 individual sets of data showing on the same report side by side. If we want to toggle certain segments on or off we can either add or remove them and the reports will automatically update to reflect the new data.
Segments are a great way to break up our reports to only show data on the users that we are interested in. They are extremely customizable and can be switched on and off as we please giving us the flexibility to view custom reports on the fly. Segments can help us answer specific questions on our users and we can be as specific as we like to really drill down and extract the information we require. Businesses will use segments to craft their content and better understand their users to maximise conversions, for example, if we are targeting teenagers we may wish to create a segment that allows us to see how many 18-24 year old are accessing our website through a mobile device. This data may have an impact on how we choose to market our products, where we choose to advertise and how we display our website on mobile devices.
The best way to understand how segments work is to have a play around with them yourself. They can be added and deleted as you wish and won’t make any permanent changes to your configured views so you don’t have to worry about making any potentially damaging changes to your reports. It’s very interesting to take an even closer look into who your visitors are and how they are using your website, you never know what you might discover!