Web Analytics and Segmentation

This week with John Marshall and Avinash we are talking about Segmentation of data.  When looking at some of the default reports from Google Analytics and other tools, it is easy to get caught up in the numbers that are shown:

  • How many Visitors?
  • What is the Bounce Rate?
  • What is the Average Time on Site?
  • What is our Total Sales for the month?
  • etc. etc….

Here is the standard “Dashboard” from Google Analytics.  It is nice… but without any segmentation, we are looking at “faceless” numbers.  They tell us some basic things, but we are missing a big chunk of the story.

Let’s say we are looking at the common KPI of Visitors.  How many visitors came to my site?  Looking at the dashboard, we can see something that is like a bar graph going up and down.  We can see how many visitors came each day, each week, each month.    This simple graph below shows visits per month.

Somewhat useful, but kind of boring.  It is just aggregated data that doesn’t tell us much of anything except that we had a bunch of visitors month after month, and it went up and down.

This is where is gets really interesting.  By segmenting this, we can see how many visitors came each month by what source. Very cool!   Were they from organic search? PPC? Affiliates? YouTube? Facebook? Stumbleupon?  Where did they come from?  By segmenting this simple graph, it now becomes alive and tells a story.  We go from the above boring graph to this more interesting one.

Now we are getting somewhere.  Here I can see that my “Search” segment was growing at a decent pace (nice job SEO guys) until October, when it took a precipitous drop. What the heck?!!  Oh, wait, that is when Google changed their search algorithm in a big way and my SEO guys dropped the ball.

What else?  Affiliates traffic rose at a steady pace through the summer, then started to drop a bit in the fall.   “I’d better talk to the Director of Affliate Marketing to see what changed towards the end of the year… ”

The value of segmenting your data can not be underestimated.  By segmenting, you bring your data to life with actionable insights.

In Google Analytics, you can create custom segments, or use some of the default ones.  To set them up, you go to your main dashboard, and down on the left bottom under “My Customizations” you click on “Advanced Segments.”  Then to see the default ones the GA team created, you click on “Default Segments.”  Some that I’ve set up are shown below.

The great thing with the segmentation tool in GA is that you can set up these custom segments that query for specific things much in the same way you would set up an SQL query in a database, except much easier. Query by “contains” “exactly” “greater than” “equals” etc.

One that I’m excited about is iPhone visitors… it will be interesting to watch that metric as mobile traffic continues to grow.  You can then dig deeper into your site and see what pages bounced your iPhone users and perhaps make adjustments to those pages.  Maybe the graphics were too large, maybe there was some flash content, etc.

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