In the Interest of Accuracy – How I Segment in Google Analytics

I spend a lot of time in Google Analytics and thinking about it. I am a firm believer in the need to create custom segments. The big question then becomes with so many different ways to slice and dice the data, how should I segment?

To begin, I always filter out my company traffic to the best of my ability. Typically, this reduces my site traffic by 33%. There is no need to inflate traffic for me and all it does (I don’t sell advertising) is depress my conversion rates. Within this 33% is a filter to include only US traffic as that is my market of interest.

From a website perspective, I’ve zeroed in on 9 KPI’s equally divided across the three phases of the marketing funnel. Depending on which channel is driving the traffic there could be anywhere from two to seven KPI’s per.

Key to my measurement is determining the source of traffic to the website.

There are four primary sources:  Campaign, Referral, Found and Sought compared against All Traffic.

This is a modification of Google’s stock reports of: Referral, Search and Direct compared against All Visits.

Why the need to customize?

I’ve already noted that I filter out network traffic and reduce to US based traffic, and this is the difference from Google’s All Visits and my All Traffic, which accounts for a 33% reduction in traffic.

The next area most misrepresented is Search. If you look at the search terms that brought traffic to your site, you will find many searched based on your company or brand names – they were navigating via search. Google counts these within Search, because they originated from a search engine. The reality is that these people already knew who you were and were trying to find your site specifically. They are really an addition to Google’s “Direct”.

What I do is extract those who visited via search using company keywords and add those to “Direct” which equals my “Seek”, and then those who visit via search not using company keywords become my “Found.” The difference being they found my site while not seeking my company via search.

When I ran the 2012 numbers Google’s “Search” was 215,452, but my “Found” was only 46,582.

Further, Google’s “Direct” was 34,203, but my “Seek” was 126,480.

Google doesn’t have a standard report for all Campaign traffic, but I find that to be very important as it is typical to be supporting these initiatives with reasonably significant resources.

Finally, “Referral” traffic is always important. This is traffic that derives from a link another site has posted to your site. I’m not 100% or even 50% certain what is happening in this sector as the standard Google report indicates 27,594 and my custom segment is 6,190. I need to explore this more closely to determine if the advanced segment is failing or if something else is happening.

Having done all this, I feel that the reporting is zeroing in on a more accurate assessment of the traffic coming to my site.

Creating Advanced Segments

I found the Google API documentation is a great way to fully understand what  dimensions and metrics are available for you.

Related to the custom segments I mention above are Medium, Source, and Campaign.

In brief:

  • Medium, know that organic means arrived via search, referral if not by search, and (none) if traffic came direct to your  site.
  • Source is more direct, it either includes the domain of the source or if there is no referrer (direct).
  • Campaign either uses the campaign name from the UTM code or it indicate (not set).
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