AnalyticsGoogle Analytics Revolutionizes Advanced Segments

Google Analytics Revolutionizes Advanced Segments

Google Analytics has announced several changes to segmentation are starting to roll out. Updates include segmentation based on users (not visits), cohort analysis, six new segment templates, and a new interface. Here's a rundown of what's new.

Google Analytics has evolved again. The Analytics team has announced new changes to the advanced segmentation features. First and foremost, a new interface that simplifies the process of making a segment. Secondly, a slight – but important – change in how you can segment.


Image Credit: Justin Cutroni

The new interface seriously changes the process of selecting built-in advanced segments or creating a new segment. Similar to the new Admin area, the segmentation interface is less colorful, but more compartmentalized.


The change in advanced segments also brings with it a change to the reporting area. A new bar will appear instead of an advanced segments button.

The new bar contains a small button with a downward-facing arrow that opens the advanced segments interface. Icons representing each segment being applied appear to the right. The icons also contain donut graphs with label indicating the percentage of the population the segment represents.

At first blush, the interface appears to offer less options. But once you dig into it, you’ll find it actually contains more options for creating new segments than ever before.

Users, Not Visits

The biggest change from yesterday’s announcement isn’t actually the interface, but in how segments can be created. Previously, when you created an advanced segment, the segments were based on visits, not actual users. With this new change, segments are based on individual users.

What’s the Difference?

Your target audience typically contains various user personae. Each of those personae should receive different messaging.

For example, a product may appeal to cost-conscious consumers, early adopters, and committed fans of your product that always need to spend top-dollar on all your features and accessories. Each of these personae would spend differently. Therefore, in true marketing segmentation, you group various user groups together based on a common set of preferences and craft different messages to each segment.

In web analytics, segmentation by visits has typically comes down to three basic choices:

  • Acquisition method
  • On-site engagement (micro-conversions)
  • Goal completions (macro-conversions)

While these are quite useful for analyzing campaigns, it doesn’t speak to individuals or help you properly analyze long-term value of your user groups.

Grouping visitors based on clicks from an ad campaign might still yield a group all three of the above user groups. However, when your web analytics data is based on users, you can get a better idea of which users are coming back and can craft retargeting or return visit messaging appropriately.

You can also start performing true cohort analysis.

There is a limit when creating segments based on users. User segments can only look back over a 90-day period. The limit does not apply to traditional visit segments.

With the ability to track based on individual users comes the ability to track behaviors of users across multiple sessions. Sequence Segments will allow you to track users based on multiple visits based on their on-site behaviors and purchases. This will allow you to use Google Analytics to report a more accurate idea of long-term value of an online customer. It is especially powerful for sites with short sales cycles and multiple purchases.

Templates Make Things Faster

If you’ve been using advanced segments, you’re used to creating them from scratch. It doesn’t take long. Still, Google has simplified the process with six templates:

  • Demographics
  • Technology
  • Behavior
  • Date of First Visit
  • Traffic Sources
  • Ecommerce

You can combine configurations in multiple templates to build the perfect segment for your needs.

More Powerful Segments and Reporting

The filtering options include some great new features including date of first visit. This can be important for those who run campaigns but see a delay between the initial campaign and time of purchase.


Image Credit: Justin Cutroni

Using this field, you could see who initially came from a campaign, track their progress through multiple impressions of that campaign and how it ultimately leads to conversions.

This is the start of creating true cohorts, as Justin Cutroni so excellently describes. Check out his post for more great ideas on how to get the most of the new segments.

As is typically the case, these changes will be slowly rolling our to users over the next few months. Happy segmenting!


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