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Top 15 Most Useful Advanced Segments in Google Analytics

Anna Lewis

by Anna Lewis on 2nd July 2012

Google LogoAdvanced segments in Google Analytics are one of the most valuable tools to anyone looking to understand their website performance better. If you’ve not used them before I recommend you check out my how to set up advanced segments guide first. This post includes some of my favourite segments, why they’re useful and a link so that you can use them in your Google Analytics account too.

Mobile Traffic Excluding Tablets

It’s useful to know how many people visiting your site are on their mobile phones and how many are using tablets. This helps you ascertain just how important it is to have mobile and tablet friendly sites and work out how performance and conversions differ across the devices.

This has been made slightly harder by an update at the end of May that grouped iPad and iPhone traffic in to one group: Operating System = iOS. Phone and tablet performance are very different and websites behave very differently so it’s good to separate these. I’ve looked at the screen resolution of iPads in Google Analytics and excluded them from this segment, meaning it should only show you mobile traffic, excluding tablets:

Keyword Length

Knowing what type of keywords are bringing the most traffic, the best interactions and the best conversion rate on your site is really insightful. I like to use the following four segments at the same time to compare the different keyword lengths alongside each other. Hat tip to Avinash for providing the code for these on his blog.

Not Provided

Losing keyword data has been a challenge for most Analytics users. There are ways to get round it, by looking at landing pages and guessing or by using Webmaster Tools data but the first thing I’d recommend doing when you want to see the impact of the lost data is to use these two segments:

Compare the two against each other to see whether they contain keywords you don’t know are actually valuable to your business, then think about using the other methods of analysis. Remember to check the content report, conversion report and even the audience information in order to understand the difference between these two types of users.

And think of it as a free custom variable from Google, telling you which of your users are logged in to Google’s services when coming to your site.

Author Stats

If you have a website or blog with multiple authors, you will sometimes want to know which authors posts have been read the most, or generated the most conversions. If you are using WordPress for your site then there is a nice easy way to do this, using Yoast’s Google Analytics plugin. This plugin easily sets up custom variables for you to measure author stats, just by ticking a few boxes, it’s probably the easiest way to get started with custom variables as it doesn’t require you to add any extra code.

The way I have this set up (using the above plugin) pulls the author stats in to custom variable Value 02 (found under Key 2). This segment here includes the authors name, so you will have to edit it to use your name instead of mine!

Converting Traffic Source Analysis

We all like to know where conversions have come from – how else can we increase the amount otherwise?! So here are some advanced segments that look at the converting visits from specific traffic sources:

For this social media traffic segment I have used the following regular expression match to catch the majority of social sites that send traffic:

facebook\.com|twitter\.com|linkedin|del\.icio\.us|delicious\.com|technorati|digg\.com| hootsuite|stumbleupon|netvibes|bloglines|faves\.com|aim\.com|friendfeed|blinklist|fark|furl|newsgator|prweb|msplinks|myspace|bit\.ly|tr\.im|cli\.gs|zi\.ma|poprl|tinyurl|ow\.ly|reddit|plus\.url\.google\.com|t\.co|m\.facebook\.com|tweetdeck|youtube|ycombinator|flickr|popurls|myspace|pinterest\.com

On Page Interaction Segments

Analysing on page interaction can really help you understand how users get on with your site and where you could make improvements to increase interactivity, user experience and conversions. Here are segments that use on page interaction metrics:

Traffic From…

Every website has multiple entrance methods, from as simple as direct, organic and referral only, to having multiple campaigns across paid ads, social media sites and email marketing. When analysing the performance of these, rather than sticking to the traffic source report the whole time, or relying on secondary dimensions and lots of extra clicking to see this data in the other reports, it’s often easiest to create an advanced segment for the traffic you want to measure or compare and then browse the reports at your leisure.

You can also add another requirement to the segments to only show visits from these sources that have converted (as above).

As everyone will be labelling their campaigns differently, I can’t provide you with the templates for this. It’s time for you to learn how to build your own and work out how best you can group your campaigns to analyse them effectively.

Extra Bonus Advanced Segments FTW!

Here are some traffic segments you might want to consider creating, depending on what makes a difference on your website:

  • Google+ Traffic (yes there might be some!!)
  • Y Combinator traffic
  • Email campaign traffic (group bad labelling)
  • Paid listings you have with sites like yell.com
  • Segment for target keywords
  • Desktop PC users – compare to phones – compare to tablets
  • Segment by subdomain / sub folder
  • Views of a particular page
  • Views of a particular page from a specific location (to highlight unnatural traffic)

I thinks the list of possible advanced segments you could use is endless, so you will have to decide what is most valuable to you.

Also, it is very important to use the data wisely; try and compare the data to another segment so you can judge performance against something else and make informed decisions about your most successful activities.

Any other favourites?

What other segments do you like to use? Please leave your ideas and links to your segment templates in the comments below to help others find inspiration and delve deeper into their data! Alternatively visit our Website Analytics Consulting page to learn more about our services.

Image source: Pernillarydmark
Anna Lewis

Anna Lewis

Our resident analytics specialist is Anna Lewis. Anna is unbelievably attuned to anything analytical and can fill you in on all the latest news, tips and advice to get ahead in this evolving market.

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  • DennisG 2nd July 2012

    Unfortunately, the advanced segments on keyword length is becoming less valuable to run, given the rise of the % of (not provided) data.

    Now days, I rather download Google webmaster central keyword data, and use excel formulas to analyze the keyword length.

    Reply to this comment

    • David 16th July 2013

      Pedantic… why bother with this cynical reply? Yes we all know about keywords being knocked out blah blah blah. But get with the spirit of the post, Anna actually is being very help full.

      Well done Anna, v like the mobile IOS filter. I couldnt figure this out on my self.

      Reply to this comment

  • Tim Kelsey 3rd July 2012

    Fantastic article! Just saved a bunch of those to my account! I also use segments for branded and non-branded keywords, but (not provided) kind of throws off non-branded, so maybe it should be non-branded keywords minus (not provided).

    We use Event Tracking to measure video plays on our site, so I have segments for Video Plays, Video Completions and Video Plays with Conversions – really handy when you’re trying to justify your video production budget.

    Reply to this comment

  • Pritesh Patel 3rd July 2012

    Great post again Anna

    Having worked with a few companies who completely boast and rely on their brand I also use the following segment:

    Used Brand in KW, viewed more than 3 pages and completed a goal.

    This is one which clients love to improve and one which is easy to focus on increasing.

    Another one is this new visitors who returned within 7 days:

    Days since last visit is less than 7 and count of visits is more than 2. As Avinash call it, try to reduce your ‘one night stands’.

    One more, I also segment IE6 users. I know I know, but being in the construction industry where lots of companies have out dated systems, it’s important to segment those out and see if there is a gradual fall of IE6 visits.

    You know what the side effect of using IE is don’t you? Death.

    Reply to this comment

  • Anna Lewis

    Anna Lewis 3rd July 2012

    @ Dennis – you have a very valid point, I often remove (not provided) from the keyword length segments to avoid skewing the data, should have included that above!
    Luckily, even if you only have 50% of the data to work with you can still get some good insights from the keyword length segments, but WMT is a good alternative.

    @ Tim – Thanks! Again, I agree with you on removing (not provided) from non brand segments, it’s so frustrating how it gets in the way, but without it in the segment you can guess a more accurate ratio of what the (not provided) brand and non brand split might be.
    Segments for Events are very useful when identifying successes and increase investment (and conversions!)

    Reply to this comment

  • Will 3rd July 2012

    Hey Anna!

    Thanks for the awesome article!

    Quick question though, for the “Social traffic that converts” segment, is there supposed to be a “\.com” that follows for each property.. for instance LinkedIn, Technorati and Hootsuite don’t have the trailing slash (\.com) immediately following.



    Reply to this comment

  • Anna Lewis

    Anna Lewis 3rd July 2012

    Thanks Pritesh, those are some good ideas!

    Hi Will, the \. is used when the segment uses regular expression match and needs to tell the programme that the dot character is not to be taken as a regular expression. The backslash should be used before any character in the string that is could be but is not a regex character.

    This segment varies between using the full referring string (t.co) and just the domain (linkedin) as some will have more than one possible ending.

    Hopefully I’ve explained that well enough? If you need to know a bit more about regular expressions I recommend this guide: http://www.blueglass.com/blog/regular-expressions-dont-use-ga-without-them/

    Reply to this comment

  • Will 4th July 2012

    Thank you for your more than thorough answer, Anna!

    Looks like I’ve got some more reading to do :)

    Reply to this comment

  • Jason Spiegel 5th July 2012

    Uhm.. with (not provided) climbing into the +40%, I don’t see a lot of value anymore to run the advanced segments around query length.

    Reply to this comment

  • Anna Lewis

    Anna Lewis 5th July 2012

    Hi Jason,

    I’d recommend you turn that analysis round – you have 60% of the data available to you. Why stop making the most of it now that some is missing? Surely we have to ensure that we’re making the most of everything we have since we’re losing more and more data.

    Don’t let Google get on top of you! Just exclude (not provided) and analyse that data separately.

    Here’s the updated segment for 2 word keywords, excluding (not provided) and (not set):


    Hope that helps!


    Reply to this comment

  • Chris Simmance

    Chris Simmance 6th July 2012

    Thanks Anna! Really helpful post and I look forward to learning more from you soon!

    Reply to this comment

  • Samantha Noble

    Samantha Noble 13th July 2012

    Another advanced segment that I find useful is looking at your brand and direct traffic grouped together. This helps you to really understand what visitors who are already aware of your brand do when they reach your site.

    Reply to this comment

  • Kieran Flanagan 19th July 2012

    Nice post, I agree with you on keyword length. Yes not provided is a pain, but if you have 60% of data to look at KW length is a really nice report. I use advanced segment to split up my traffic sources and look at those which convert, but this doesn’t give you the full picture, unless you are using multi channels in someway. Measuring social traffic that converts, means social needs to be the last click (outside of direct) and I don’t feel it reflects that well on certain traffic mediums. Social is often the first point of contact with another medium (often organic/PPC branded search) being the campaign to steal the conversion as it was. Well, maybe steal is wrong, but social isn’t given anything for it’s part in the conversion.

    It’s defo a “must” to split out your brand vs non brand. I find it really annoying when agencies report on the amount of search traffic they are driving for a client and have included all organic traffic. It’s nonsense to report traffic in that manner.

    Reply to this comment

  • Gary 21st August 2012

    Your mobile-only advanced segment does not work precisely. It still includes some tablet devices like Galaxy Tab etc.

    Reply to this comment

  • Cleo Kirkland 17th October 2012

    Hi Anna,

    Wonderful post. Haven’t seen a number of all-inclusive Advanced Segment posts in a while. For the mobile segment, was there any reason why you didn’t use the regular expression and pipe “|” them in? Also, there are a number of other operating systems that you left out. Was there any reason why you left them out? E.g. LG, nokia, iPhone, etc

    Reply to this comment

  • Tim 4th December 2012

    Excellent tip that’s helped me differentiate between iPhone and iPad. Your segmentation link didn’t work for me but I’ve worked it out myself – thanks :)

    Reply to this comment

  • Nir Sagiv 5th February 2013

    Great tips!
    Loved you’re ideas @Pritesh, especially the one about returning user.

    Reply to this comment

  • Patrick 13th February 2013

    Hi Anna,

    thanks for the very good tips.
    The segments on keyword length don’t work with me.
    When I enable segment 1 word, 2 words, 3 words and all visits, I see that 2 words is All visits minus the other ones.
    So there seems to be something wrong with the 2 words segment.

    Has someone noticed the same?



    Reply to this comment

  • Stephen Hamilton 9th September 2013

    Some of these are very handy, thanks!

    I think I’ll need to do a bit more reading to figure out exactly how to create the segment I am after (source=paid search, using tablet device only).

    The link in the comments to the article about regex looks useful too!

    Reply to this comment

  • Stephen Hamilton 16th September 2013

    Errr, I actually just tried looking at the link above re: Regex. That link is broken (blueglass.com). That may need to be removed or replaced.

    On a positive note, I have found some of these segments very useful already.

    Reply to this comment

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