The basic Google Analytics interface, as most SEO experts know, is simple enough to use — and that is a credit to the search-engine giant for offering such a platform free of charge. However, there are limitations that become apparent unless one knows how to use the system in an advanced manner.
Here is one example.
As you will see at the top left-hand corner of this post, I have listed an example screenshot of a slice of Analytics data for this website. Those who are Internet-marketing veterans will recognize the information — visits, average time on site, bounce rate, and so on.
While this screen provides a tremendous amount of useful information, it is becoming increasing irrelevant as the online-marketing sector continues to grow at an ever-increasing rate. Years ago, before I realized the potential of the Advanced Segments, I would merely sort all of the referring websites in various descending orders based on the metric I was analyzing at the moment (time on site, bounce rate, etc.). If I had wanted to group sites together, I would download the data into Microsoft Excel and then combine related lines (social media, Google, etc.) and calculate weighted averages. In short, it was time consuming — especially if, like me, you came into SEM and online marketing from an area like journalism, in which people like me are, shall we say, not very math-inclined.
However, Google Analytics’ Advanced Segments makes all of this analysis much easier. Here’s how to use it. First, click on this item in the left-hand toolbar:
Inside this interface, the options are (almost) limitless. It just depends on the business and marketing needs of your website. For example, say that you want to group all traffic from social-media websites together:
As I have pictured, drag the source box from the menu to the main window and enter “matches exactly” for “facebook.com.” Repeat on a new line for every domain that you want to track — Twitter, LinkedIn, and so on. The beauty of this tracking mechanism is that it combines all subdomains within the given domain. Traffic, for example, from both “facebook.com” (the website) and “m.facebook.com” (the mobile website) is automatically included. After you have listed all social-media networks on individual lines, you can name the segment and save it for later analysis and review. This way, you can analyze, with just a click, all of the data that I described from only social-media networks. This methods saves a lot of time.
In addition, you can segment in other ways — like all traffic to a particular page. Of course, you probably know that every good website today needs a blog (for myriad reasons that I have described elsewhere). You can set Advanced Segments to track traffic only to that particular page. Here’s a personal example. I’ve got a hobby website named “Buffy the Vampire Slayer Online” at which I blog about the show and sell merchandise via affiliate marketing as another source of revenue. (Yes, I’ve been a fan of the show since I first saw the program when I was in college. You gotta problem with that? As I wrote in a prior post on popular blogs — the key to making money online is to create a specialized niche in a crowded market by writing about what you know. And I know “Buffy” in addition to SEO.)
Now, you probably also know that the marketing tactics of a blog specifically — in contrast to a website generally — are different. In just one example, successful Internet-marketing for blogs entails more social-media marketing while the main pages of a website will depend more on SEO and SEM themselves. So, as a result, I created a Google Advanced Segment just for traffic coming to the “Buffy blog” part of my BtVS website for more-accurate analysis:
The thing to remember, whether you like vampire slayers or not, is that your website is dependent upon niches — regardless of your sector. There are numerous variables that can be tracked in Google Analytics’ Advanced Segments. If your business targets multiple languages, you might want to segment visitors who speak, say, French and German to see who “converts” into customers more often. If your website sells an online game, you might want to segment based on technical aspects like monitor size and Internet browser to get data on the same aspects. Think about your market, and then adjust as is logical and necessary.
Samuel J. Scott, a former journalist in Boston turned Internet marketer in Israel, is the founder and publisher of My SEO Software and Director of Digital Marketing and Communications and SEO Team Leader at The Cline Group. You can follow him at Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. His views here and elsewhere do not necessarily reflect those of his company and clients.