Why you should use advanced segments in Google Analytics

Are you looking for a quick way to find precious information that will help you grow your online business? Then read on, segments is the tool you need!

Why Total Visits are not enough

By default, all the metric we see in Google Analytics are aggregated data or “totals” : total visits, total visitors, total conversions, average time on site,etc. Aggregated metrics are great to tell how your website is performing in general, but aren’t very helpful when it comes to know if your  strategies are delivering the results you want or if a particular place of your funnel is weak.  To answer those questions, you have to use segments.

What are segments and How Can They Help You?

Segments are a subsets of visits that we are interested in and want to analyse and visualize separately.

More than often, those interesting visits are not frequent as the rest of the visits.  Only 1% of the visit will end up buying something, 5 to 10% will end up subscribing to our email list, etc. If you don’t use segments the metrics you will see will describe the behaviour and profile of the other visits (the 99% of people who didn’t purchase) but will do a poor job in describing the visits you are interested in.

Using only aggregated metrics can be misleading

Let’s pretend you just published new squeeze page, that offers a pdf download in exchange of an e-mail address. To promote your squeeze page, you place a banner ad the bottom of your every blog pages. You set your goals, start tracking your page and your conversion rate is only 2%. You ask yourself, how can it be so low?

The first thing to know is that the conversion rate at 2% is the aggregated version of this metrics.  It represent the total number of conversions divided by the total number of sessions, regardless if the visitor has viewed your squeeze page or not.

If you create a segment to isolate only the visits where your squeeze page was viewed at least once, let’s call this segment “Squeeze Page Viewers”, you now realize the conversion rate is 45%, which is pretty good. You also realize that this segment represent only 4.5% of you total visits, which means that your squeeze page is NOT viewed by 95.5 % of the visits

As you see in this example, the problem is not that the squeeze page does not convert but by the fact that 95.5% of your visit will never reach it.

With this new information, you decide to move the link to your squeeze page from the bottom to the top, you also include links to your squeeze page in your within your articles text, and create an (annoying) pop-up.

Boom! Your conversion rate is now to the roof! You double your sales, your business is growing and you now spend your days sipping tropical juices in a beachfront villa.

As you see in this example lots (if not all) of interesting insights are invisible at the aggregated (default) level. To find them we have to use and segments and that’s what we are going to do.

How to Create and use Advanced Segments

To  use or create a segment you need to click on the icon + Add Segment in the very top of any report.

Add a segment

After clicking, you will see the default segments available in Google Analytics.



Among those here my favorites :

Mobile Users : The portion of visitors that are viewing your site with a mobile device is constantly increasing, so it is essential to make sure our website is converting at the same rate for mobile user than desktop user.  If not, make your site mobile friendly or say goodbye to the chance of converting a big piece of visitors.

New visitors : We don’t have a second chance to make a first good impression. Pay a close attention to what new visitors are doing: where they are coming from, the landing page they are entering and where are they are leaving. If you find a popular landing page with a high bounced rate, ask yourself what can you change to engaged the new visitor to do something else in this page, and turn them eventually into a buyer.

Converters : Want to know what’s the difference between people who convert vs those who don’t? Applying this segment and you will quickly know. One big caveat. The name of this segment is misleading. It really should be “sessions where a conversion took place“. This segment will only show you the sessions where a conversion was recorded, but not subsequent sessions made by the converters. It’s possible to create a true Converter User segment, and that’s what we will do in a minute.

Create your own segments

You can also create your custom segments with the powerful tool available in Google Analytics. Remember, a segment is a subset of visit that you are interested in. To select those visits you not to create filter rules that will select them.  Those filters can be made either at the session level or at the user level.

Sessions and users

Session level segments are used to learn what is happen in specific sessions.  New user segment, will shows you what happens during the first visit of your viewer.  The sales pages viewer segment, will show you all the sessions where your sales page was viewed at least once, etc.

The limit of session level segment is that you cannot use filtering rules that are applied to previous session.  If you want to see this week visits made by people having opted-in the previous week, out-of-the-box session level segment will not do it. You will have to either create custom dimension or use user level segment.

At user level you are selecting visits according the user behaviour during a 90 days time windows. Such behaviour can be : has converted in the past 90 days, has viewed your check out page but didn’t complete the transaction, has made a comment in the past 90 days, etc.

Another example of user levels segments is cohort analysis, a powerful tool to understand long-term impact of your acquisition or some specific campaigns – like product launches or evergreen funnels.

True Converter Segment

To create a True Converter Segment, click on new segment

Select Advanced and click on Condition.

In the filter drop down menu chose user and make sure ‘include’ is selected (otherwise you will see the visit of the non-converters).


Then add the condition Goal Completions > 0.  If you are interested in a particular goal, select if Goal X Completions instead – where X is the Goal id you want to track.


Click save. you are done.

The True converter segment will show you all the visit of the people who have converted during a period. GA will return you all the visit before, after and during the conversion.

The are multiple ways to create and use segments. The more you use them, the more insights you will get out of your analytics.  Please let me know in the comments, what are your favorite segments, and how you use them. Thanks