I think we can all agree that Google Analytics (GA) is totally rad. You get a wealth of website traffic data for the low, low cost of free. But sometimes the standard reports don't cut it, and in my opinion, if you're not using advanced segments, you're not using Google Analytics to it's full potential.

Advanced segments basically function as filters. They allow you to focus on specific types of traffic for deeper analysis. GA comes with a bunch of default segments built in, you can access them by clicking the Advanced Segments button on any of the standard reports.

Advanced Segments 1

As you can see the basic segments cover things like traffic source, traffic with conversions, mobile traffic and non-bounced traffic. All of these can be extremely useful, but the real power of advanced segments comes when you start to build your own.

Out of all the default segments, I've found Non-bounce Visits to the most useful. It cuts out a lot of junk and lets you see what those quality visitors are really up to.

To get started building your own segments, just click the New Custom Segment button in the bottom right corner of the Advanced Segments menu. This will present a new screen with options to include or exclude a huge list of metrics and dimensions.

Advanced Segments 2

Advanced Segments 3

Regular Expressions

Before we go any further, I'd like to cover a few basic functions of Regular Expressions (RegEx). In some cases, you would be able to build the segments I'm going to discuss without using RegEx, but it typically makes things quicker and cleaner. For example, if you wanted to make all social media traffic sources, you could do so by inputting 20 or so statements in your segment, or you could write one Regular Expression to match them all at once – more on this later.

Here are a few of the basic RegEx characters that you'll need to know:

  • Pipe (|) – functions as "or", e.g., Google|Bing matches Google or Bing.
  • Period (.) – functions as a wildcard and can match any character, so 123.567 matches 1234567, 123a567, 123:567, etc.
  • Backslash (\) – removes the RegEx function of the next character. You'll most commonly see this used in conjunction with a period for matching URLs and IP addresses, so facebook\.com would match facebook.com but not facebook-com.
  • Carrot (^) – indicates the beginning of a matching string.
  • Dollar Sign ($) – indicates the end of a matching string, e.g., example\.com would match example.com, help.example.com and example.com/blog, but ^example\.com$ would only match example.com

RegEx can be frustratingly complicated, so I'll stop there. If you're interested in learning more, you can dive into some more detailed functions in this RegEx guide for SEO. The last thing I'll mention is that Regular Expressions are greedy. They are going to match as much as they can unless you tell them otherwise, so keep a tight leash on what you're trying to match.

On To The Good Stuff

Without any further delay, here are the nine Advanced Segments you can't live without.

Branded Keywords

Advanced Segments 4

We're starting off pretty easy here. To see only your branded keywords, select Include, Keyword, Matching RegExp and then enter your company name, any common misspellings of your company name or any other branded phrases that might be used to find your site in a search engine. Make sure you separate each word or phrase with a pipe. In this example, I used pronto|prontomarketing|monsoon.

Non-branded Keywords

Advanced Segments 5

Things get a little more complicated here. You'll need to include organic traffic and then exclude the same branded phrases from the segment we created above and exclude (not provided) them since these visits contain branded and non-branded keywords. Make sure you have an AND statement between including organic and excluding keywords.

Only (not provided)
Having trouble figuring out what your (not provided) keywords might be? Click the link above to automatically add this segment to your GA account. Focusing only on your (not provided) keywords in the Landing Pages report can help you determine how many of these were branded searches and how many were non-branded.

Keyword Length
Sometimes there are hidden opportunities in your keywords that you don't notice when you're looking at a list of hundreds of phrases. Is there a long-tail phrase that converts better than your head terms? Narrowing down your keywords by the number of words in them can help you find these gems. Click the links below to add these segments to your account.

Note: Here's the RegEx for matching 3 Word Keywords: ^\s*[^\s]+(\s+[^\s]+){2}\s*$ The most important part to focus on is the number in the curly brackets { }. This number should be one less than the number of words you want to match. So if you wanted to match 7 Word Keywords, the RegEx would be ^\s*[^\s]+(\s+[^\s]+){6}\s*$

Page Depth
Page Depth counts the number of pages viewed in a visit, and it's a very good indication of visit quality. Building this segment is going to take two steps. First, we need to build a custom report that will allow us to compare Goal Completions with Page Depth. Enter some of your primary goals as metrics and select Page Depth as your dimension.

Advanced Segments 6

Take a look through the report and try to determine at which Page Depth most of your conversions happen. In my case, 80% of goal completions occurred with a Page Depth of 4 or higher. So those who viewed 4 or more pages during their visit were much more likely to convert than those who viewed fewer than 4 pages.

We can now take this information to build our segment. Essentially, we want to focus on those high quality visits with 4 or more page views so we can see where they are coming from, what pages they enter on and how they behave once they are on the site. To create this segment, you'll need to enter this information:

Advanced Segments 7

That Regular Expression matches any number from 4 to 99. If your research from the custom report shows that most of your conversions occur at a different Page Depth, say six or higher, you would edit the RegEx to read as follows: ^([6-9])|([1-9][\d])$ This would then match any number from 6 to 99.

Social Media Traffic
Google Analytics has a full-blown social media section now, but I occasionally find that this still isn't detailed enough for me. So a quick segment can filter down to only social media sources and allow you to manipulate the data to your heart's desire. Click the link above to add it to your GA account. Here's the full RegEx that I use:

facebook\.com|twitter\.com|linkedin|del\.icio\.us|delicious\.com|technorati|digg\.com| hootsuite|stumbleupon|myspace|bit\.ly|tr\.im|tinyurl|ow\.ly|reddit|plus\.google\.com|youtube|flickr|pinterest\.com|^t\.co$|tweetdeck

Take a look through your traffic sources and make sure I haven't missed any social networks that are sending visitors to your site.

Go Experiment!

Now get out there and have some fun! Experiment with using multiple segments at once. Non-branded Keywords with Page Depth sounds like it might yield some interesting results. Once you start feeling comfortable, try making your own segments. Got a video on your site? Set up Event Tracking and then create a segment that only includes visits with a video plays.

The possibilities are endless!

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy Use Google Analytics to Develop Social Media Strategy

Tim Kelsey

Tim Kelsey is the SEO & Social Media Manager at Pronto Marketing, a web presence management agency. When he isn't digging through mountains of analytics data, Tim spends his time searching for the perfect carnitas burrito.

The Pronto Marketing Blog

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6 Responses to “9 Google Analytics Advanced Segments You Can't Live Without”

  1. hyderali says:

    Fantastic post tim!

    Really liked the way you shared the benefits of advanced segments in analytics. My bad, haven't used any of the above features. You are right, regex are sometimes very complicating but you've explained it very simply.


    • Tim Kelsey says:

      Glad you enjoyed the article! Google Analytics is a really powerful tool – sometimes you just need to know where to look. :)

  2. Nice. Love this.

    I can think of another segment that's a variation on page depth — visits that start with a blog post and that remain on the blog vs. those that drive to the 'static' site (or, I suppose, blog pages if the blog platform is being used for the entire site). This would enable quick measurement of posts that are intended to drive people to this type of action, and generally how effectively a blog program drives product or service exploration.

    Good stuff – thanks for the post, Tim.

  3. RobertKCole says:

    Well Done.

    One suggestion – you probably want to exclude (not provided) from the two-word keyword report.


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