Use Advanced Segments in GA to Discover SEO, Social Media and Ecommerce Insights
Google Analytics (GA) is a tool that, while very useful to basic users who just want a quick look at their site’s statistics, is meant for power users that can take advantage of all of GA’s hidden features. Advanced Segments is an example of that hidden power.
Advanced segments are a tool that few GA users take advantage of but one that can help you understand any change or troubleshoot any issue, including SEO problems.
But before we delve into using Advanced Segments, we first have to understand what they are and how they can help you better understand your SEO ups and downs.
What Are Advanced Segments?
Advanced Segments are simply filters for the content you’re looking at in Google Analytics. It’s a way to look at only a segment of your traffic that you define.
There are several segments pre-defined in GA including search traffic, referral traffic, direct traffic, etc. You can find these, as well as others, by simply clicking the “Advanced Segments” drop down in the upper right hand part of your Analytics report (upper left if you’re using the new version).
You can compare segments side-by-side by putting multiple segments in the same graph, and you can also see how well they are converting, what their bounce rate is and generally how well they are performing. So a simple way to use advanced segments is to produce easy-to-understand charts that show clients or others the best performing traffic.
Q: So how do you use advanced segments to hone in on your SEO issues?
A: Start with creating a new segment.
Setting Up an Advanced Segment for SEO traffic
Creating a new segment is very simple. Just click on the “Advanced Segments” drop down and then click the “Add New Advanced Segment” button to get started.
What you will find is a criteria “tree” with the different criteria connected by and/or statements.
Each criteria has a dimension (a variable tracked by Google Analytics), a condition and a value. To create a criteria, simply drag a dimension from the left-hand side of the screen to the slot, select your condition and then enter or select your value.
If you want to understand your SEO traffic better, drag the “Source” dimension to your first criteria, set the condition to “containing” and the value to “google.” That will show you all of the traffic that came to your site from Google.
You can include all of the search engines by using the regular expression, “google|yahoo|bing .” The “pipe’ character works as an “or” between the words. However, if you use the pipe character, you need to set the condition to “Matches Regular Expression” so Google Analytics can interpret it.
To test this, simply give the segment a name and then click “Test Segment.” You should see a number of visits beside the criteria’s line.
You can then hone your segment even further by eliminating non-organic results.
This can be done by clicking on the “Add ‘AND’ Statement” link, dragging “Mention” to the dimension slot, setting the condition to be “Matches Exactly” and then selecting “organic” from the value drop down. If you test the results again, you should find that you’ve reduced the number of results in the second criteria (unless you have no non-organic search visitors).
You can further refine the search by excluding keywords, such as keywords related to your brand, or include only certain keywords, to see how a particular keyword is performing. Simply drag “Keyword” to the dimension, choose your condition and choose the correct value for whatever you want to do. For example, if you wanted to look only at traffic that came from the keyword “windmill” you would set the condition to be “contains” (or “Matches Exactly”) and the value to be “windmill.”
This lets you include and exclude keywords as you see fit. Just remember, if you use pipes to include or exclude multiple keywords, be sure to set the condition to “Matches Regular Expression.”
Further Testing to Find SEO Problems
The learning curve with Advanced Segments can be a bit steep. However, once you do it a few times, it becomes second nature and the power that it offers you as a Google Analytics user is incredible.
However, the real power of Advanced Segments is in how it lets you play around. For example, using the above segment, you can try different keywords to see how traffic has changed, you can exclude any branded keywords you have to look at only non-branded queries and you can remove your best keywords to see if your performance with long-tail keywords is improving or declining.
Other Examples of Actionable Advanced Segments
However, SEO isn’t the only use for Advanced Segments, here are a few other ways that you can use these tools to improve your site’s peformance.
Social Network Monitoring –
If you use the “Source” dimension to track only inbound traffic from the social networking sites you’re actively involved with, you can see see easily how much traffic is coming from them and which ones are providing the best results. You can then focus your energy on the networks that your readers are actually using and cut out ones that are just wasting your time.
Twitter Traffic –
It can be difficult to track traffic from Twitter since much of it comes from 3rd party apps. However, the “Source” dimension isn’t just for domains, you can also put in keywords such as “tweetdeck” “hootsuite” and the popular URL shorteners. This way, you can look at all of the traffic coming into your site from Twitter and decide how much of an investment Twitter is worth to you moving forward.
Follow Your Buyers and Window Shoppers –
If you operate an ecommerce site and configure Google Analytics to track how much visitors spend, you can segment out the people who spend a lot of money from those who leave without buying anything at all. This lets you see which sources of traffic are delivering the highest returns and invest your time and money in building the inbound links that matter.
Find the Questions on Your Visitors’ Minds –
Finally, if you are curious as to what questions your visitors are asking to get to your site, you can set up an advanced segment to look only at the questions that people are asking. By using the “Keyword” dimension and looking at question words such as “Who,” “Can,” “Why,” etc. you can look at only in the inbound visitors who are asking questions of Google and, from there, you can answer them directly in future blog posts.
With Advanced Segments, you can build almost any test you want when it comes to analyzing SEO traffic. That makes it easy, through a bit of trial and error, to diagnose virtually any SEO problem.