Sunday, 9 January 2011

Custom Segments in Google Analytics

For starters, I want to thank you, my fellow bloggers, for coming to my blog.  Without you, I would not be able to start using the blog for it’s main purpose; showing how Google Analytics can be used to it’s full potential to gain insight.

Why do I say it is thanks to you that I can start this, well, when I started, I had zero data.  Without you coming to the blog, I would still have no data; and without data, I could not show examples using Google Analytics. 

Custom Segments - the ability to create rules to divide your traffic into groups to give a more insightful view of your customer’s behavior.  This is a powerful tool Google Analytics gives you absolutely free, which the majority of high end tools charges extra to have.  Many web analysts will tell you that this is the most powerful tool, which I have a hard time to say.  In my opinion, this is an overstatement.  This is a powerful tool and is an absolute essential tool to drive insight, but is it more powerful than custom variables, custom events, or even the basic Google Analytics code; I cannot say that.  I believe that you will need each of these to drive incredible insight.  Without one, the others values would be drastically decreased. 

Regardless, Google Analytics gives this tool to use at our disposal and it would be a crying shame to let this powerful ability to go to waste.  Straight from the box, Google Analytics gives you several segments possible; All Visits (default), New Visitors, Returning Visitors, Paid Search Traffic, Non Paid Search Traffic, Search Traffic, Direct Traffic, Referral Traffic, Visits with Conversion, Mobile Traffic, and Non-Bounce Traffic. 

But what does this actually mean, how can these segments give me any more insight than what I am already seeing?  Let’s give an example, your boss comes to you and asks “How many new visitors does the site get and what are they doing?”  How would you get this information?  GA does tell you how many new / returning visitors come, but how about what are they doing?  The only way of answering this question is to segment the visitors from new and returning. 

Custom Segments ensures that you are only look at the data that meets the rules you set for it.  Think of all the data for your site as a huge circle, this is the pure data.  Then think that a portion of this circle is your new visitors and the rest are returning.  By segmenting the visitors to show only new visitors, we are looking at just this portion of the data, (everything but the yellow part). 
So how can we create a custom report just for your site; on the left hand nav, click the advanced segments link.

On this page, you can manage your custom links or create a new custom segment.  For now, let’s look at creating a new custom segment.

On this page, you will notice several sections, each made as simple as possible by Google Analytics to allow the non techies to understand.  To create the custom segment you will need to:

2 – 4 is your way of finding the dimension (the name value [green]) or Metric (number value [blue])
  1. Give the segment a name.  You cannot add the segment or even test it until a name is given.  I believe you should give the segment a name first; just get it done at out of the way.
  2. Or you can search the dimensions by category
  3. You could type in the dimension / metric name in and Google Analytics will find what you are looking for. 
  4. Or you can search the metric by category.
  5. Which either way you find your particular dimension / metric, you will drag and drop the box just left of the condition (step 8) where you will create the segment.
  6. Step 8, the condition.  Instead of using Regex (remember, I said Google Analytics made this so easy, a non-techie could easily do this), you choose the written equivalent (matches exactly, contains, does not contain, etc.) 
  7. Step 9 is the value that is combined with the dimension / metric and the condition.  For example, you could have “Medium” matches exactly “yahoo”.  What this will do, for my blog, is look at all visits that came from the campaign medium of yahoo (or all visits from the yahoo group web analytics).
  8. Before finalizing, click on test your segment.  If you get 0 visits, you may have written the segment wrong and should retry again.
  9. The last step before creating the segment is selecting which other profiles you would like to add this segment to besides the current profile you are in. 

PRESTO, you have created a custom segment. What insights can you now get?  But wait, now you have to enable the segments.  When you click on segments (top right corner), you have two options, default segments and custom segments.  Google Analytics defaults to All visits. Click on the segments you would like to look at (if you click on more than two segments that are not all visits, all visits automatically gets added).

 Lets have a look at what you can get from custom variables.  In the following example, I have three segments selected:

The segments I added are all visits, visits that came from yahoo web analytics group and those that came from my twitter account.  As you can tell, visits from the yahoo web analytics group came to the site in greater numbers than twitter, and visitors from yahoo spent more time on the site than the visitors from twitter.  But twitter visitors consumed more pages per visit and had a much lower bounce rate.  So looking at the high level, which one won… well, you really cannot tell from this.  I would say that having a low bounce rate means nothing for a blog, and people can read at all different speeds.  For my blog, what I need to look at is custom events; which group was more engaged with the blog.

Now we are getting somewhere for my blog.  The most engaged visitors came from yahoo web analytics group while twitter was more engaged when involving other websites (but only by one click).  Actually, twitter only engaged with other websites, nothing else.  This shows that visitors coming from yahoo are more likely to engaged with the blog than with twitter.  So should I focus squarely on yahoo and forget twitter…. Well no.  While Yahoo has thousands of members, I currently only have about 13 followers.  The amount of visitors I can reach on twitter is limited, but hopefully this will be fixed as the days go on.

Now what does this mean?  The simple answer is, as this gives you insight, each site is completely unique and the techniques that will work for one site, may not work for another.  Look at your own site and ask yourself "what does my site live for?"  "What makes a visitor an 'exception' visitor".  When you decide what this is, look at what this visitors are doing; what can you do to get more visitors into that category?

But we can look at different segments custom segments: Visitors that clicked a link, visitors that came between X time, visitors from the US, visitors not from US.  We can make the segments more difficult and say I want to look at only visitors that came from US between 10am – 12pm that clicked a link and came from yahoo.  But creating these segments are completely dependant on the site that you look after.  The possibilities of different segments you could create is endless (literally, I am not exaggerating).

For myself, the following are best:
  • Visitors that came from yahoo web group (based on my campaign code)
  • Visitors that came from Twitter
  • Visitors that came from Linkedin
  • Visitors that clicked on a link that goes to another blog (event tracking)
  • Visitors that clicked on a link that goes to another website (event Tracking)
  • Visitors that clicked on any link (event tracking)
  • Visitors that came to the site between 9am – 1pm (Custom Traffic)
  • Visitors that came from US
  • Visitors that did not come from US
  • And a new one that I am about to implement is Visitors that scrolled x% (event tracking).  I will talk about this custom event during my next blog post.

I hope this helped you understand a little bit about custom segments.  I will delve more in on this as I see needed.

What do you think of Custom Segments?  How many of you are using it on your blogs?  How are you utilizing it?  Do you believe it is the most powerful tool in Google Analytics?  If not, what do you believe is?

Till next time, keep on analyzing.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Top Analysts Currently in the Business - Part 2

Eric T Peterson

While I consider Avinash the biggest, most well known Analyst right now, there is NO ONE that has done more for the industry than Eric T Peterson. I think of Eric as the Godfather of Web Analytics (without the mob of hitmans of course… at least I hope). If you currently do not know Eric, you will soon realize there are three more books to read, three websites and a new twitter account to follow.

Eric has been in the industry for over ten years, founder of Web Analytics Demystified, founder of the Yahoo Group - Web Analytics, author of three best selling web analytic books (two of which you can download for free), blogger for Web Analytics Demystified, and created the most widely used tool for measuring twitter – the Twitalyzer.

OH, and lets not forget, he is also one of the founders of the Analysis Exchange, a project that helps non profit organizations to get professional analysis of their site through the assistance of a qualified Mentor and student. If you have not already signed up for an account, please do so; no matter which section you fall in (organization, mentor or student), the benefits are too great (which you can read here).

I remember listening to a podcast by Beyond Web Analytics, episode 12 (if you have not listen to this, please go to their site and download it) when they had Eric T Peterson on. One of the questions they asked him was “Why are you giving away two of the most widely read books in Web Analytics when people are still willing to pay for a copy” (not actually quoted). His response (shortened) “My wife and I managed the sales of Web Analytics Demystified. We made the amount of money that was appropriate for the books but people still wanted it. There was still not enough education for the industry. We talked about giving away the books, but I did not have the power to do so for the second book since it was an O ‘Reilly Book.” (still not an actual quote) This episode is nearly an hour long, but it will be one of the best hours you will spend.

With everything just mentioned, which I am sure is still just the tip of what Eric T. Peterson has done for the industry, especially giving away 2 of his books for free, is there any question why I call him the Godfather of Web Analytics?


Probably the only name in my list that will be questioned, but I will stand firm behind my choice here. I thought long and hard behind this choice and have concluded that this is the only choice based around my criteria: Must have at least an influence in one of the following 1) Google Analytics 2) SiteCatalyst 3) Web Analytics in general and must have the fourth quality 4) Easy access to have an influence on the web analytic community.

Avinash and Eric were easy to pick out, with Adam being my clear winner for SiteCatalyst. But when it came for the Google Analytics expert, I was trying to decide between Nick or Brian Clifton (author of two Google Analytics books). Nick and Brian both proved their GA prowess and either could have made my fourth slot. But finally, I went with Nick since people can easily access the data he provides through the internet, without having to go out and buying a book. I thought this was essential since we are discussing Web Analytics – we can easily measure how many Unique Visitors are reading our blogs and how effective – can we safely say how many people read the book?  We are talking about online stats, not offline.

With Nick, I consider him the Robin from the Dynamic Duo due to his work on the Web Analytics TV. His work answering questions with Avinash on the Web Analytics TV are essential for anyone wanting to get more from Google Analytics. Not only are these episodes filled with goodies of knowledge, they are an absolute pleasure to watch. They could not have chosen to better matched analysts for this project. I hope that this will continue for years to come.

Second, Nick’s work with the Google Analytics API guaranteed this slot. The API answers the more in-depth question that you have about your site than the Web UI could. If you have any questions about what I mean about this, watch a few episodes and you will learn that “If you want to get this answer, you could do this using the API ….” Nick has more experience using the API than anyone else in the industry.

With a combination of expertise in the API and the actual tool, I consider him the leading figure in GA.

What do you believe about the four I have chosen?  As I know there are lots of well known analysts out there that I did not mention (such as Rudi Shumpert), I felt that these four are leading the front in bring Web Analytics to the general public. While I will not go into detail, I will add a link to their blog on the side nav.  If I have missed any, please let me know and I will add them to the list.

Next time, I am going to show a few tricks using GA that I have been using.

Till next time, keep analyzing.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Top Analyst Currently in the Business Part 1

*NOTE* The information described below are completely my own opinion and should not be taken any more than just that.  I have never had the opportunity / privilege to meet or talk directly to any of these analysts, but I would jump for the opportunity if it arises.

When talking about top web analysts in the world, four names come to mind before anyone: Avinash Kaushik, Adam Greco, Eric T Peterson and Nick Mihailovski.


I consider Avinash the pope of the web analyst world; no matter what tool you are using (UNICA, GA, Omniture, ..) people will stop to listen to what he has to say.  I believe my love for the industry is directly related to the enthusiasm he portrays in his blogs, books and videos.  One of my favourite saying describing how good an analyst is, an analytical ninja, came directly from Avinash.

Avinash has written two books, “Web Analytics: Hour a day” and “Web Analytics 2.0” which I recommend anyone to read.  While there is no university degree for web analytics, I consider these as textbooks that you do not sell at the end of the semester; you will reference back to these books during your career.  And do not forget about his blog: he always has pearls of wisdom that may not be in his book; do not worry, you only have 5 years to catch up on

Like I mentioned, Avinash speaks about Web Analytics in general without focusing on a particular tool; but starting around 2009, he does use GA as his tool of reference.  But we should give him a break since he is co-founder of Analytics Evangelist for Google, the tool is great and is one of the widely used tools (doesn’t hurt being free too).  The wisdom he divulges will only benefit your own career; so why are you waiting, bookmark his blog and start reading….well, after you finish reading this post.

While I may not have had the chance to meet Avinash, I have known people who have; they had nothing but great things to say about him.  Some of the words that constantly came up were humble, passionate and one of their greatest moments.  Hopefully I will get a chance in the near future to talk to him, or even interview him for this blog!!!


For Adam Greco – he is kinda like Wayne Gretzky; widely known, respected in a specific field (Omniture) and most people will stop to listen. Adam (best known as The Omni Man) originally worked for Omniture as a consultant but moved on.  Even though he is not with Omniture, he still gets the insides on the newest products and assists in making the product better; which will only benefit the industry. If you are using SiteCatalyst, this is a blog you must read, not should, you MUST!  There is no one better than Adam when involving SiteCatalyst.  I would like to write more about Adam, but as of now, he has not written any book or posted any videos that I know of. Once again, if I ever get a chance to talk to Adam, I will ensure that I put it up on this blog!

Next post, we will talk about Eric T Peterson a Nick Mihailovski.  Additionally, I have added what I believe to be must read blogs / forums on the side. 

Till next time.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

The Analysis Exchange

The Analysis Exchange was created to help three distinct groups: Organizations, Students, and Mentors. Analysis Exchange is under the Web Analytics Demystified name and really pushed forward by Eric T Peterson. I could spend all day talking about Eric T Peterson and how much he has done for the world of Web Analytics, but I will let you find out by reading his own blog and website. Additionally, you can read two of the must read books, written by Eric Peterson, for free: Web Analytics Demystified / The Big Book of KPI’s.

Back about the Analysis Exchange, I mentioned this will help all three types of membership joining. To join, you only have to meet a few requirements:

  • Organization - you must be non-profit.
  • Mentor – Have at least 2 years worth of experience and willing to assist students
  • Student – Must have a passion to learn web analytics
  • All three – Willingness to ensure the project will be a success
  • All three – Will give an honest rating after the project is completed.


Organization: Opportunity to have a professional web analyst analyze the data for free. This is the essential point of the Analysis Exchange, giving the organization a chance to better their site through actual analysis without having to spend hundreds of dollars which they could not justify spending through a business case. During the project, the organization has three jobs: Explain the project, have the initial meeting with the student / mentor, and participate in the final presentation.

Student: Until the Analysis Exchange, it was impossible to gain actual experience; No university degree, night classes, etc. Companies wanting to hire a web analyst would not even look at a candidate unless they had a couple years experience. This left a huge dilemma; potential Analysis Ninja (Avinash, thank you for creating this term.) could be lost forever just because they were never given a chance to break into the field. Students are given a chance to analyze actual data, getting the practice which they will later put on their CV to get a web analyst job.

Mentor: This is the glue that will hold the project together; kinda like the captain of a ship. We may not be behind the wheel of the boat, but the entire crew depends on the captain to ensure we are steered in the right direction. While the student does the actual analysis, presentation and the majority of the work, the mentor is there to answer any question, assist in the project and give advice when needed. There is talk about prizes given to the best mentors within the analysis exchange (and is actually put in as a benefit of being a mentor), but this is not the reason I joined; I believe the bigger benefit is being missed. I joined because I love my job and I want to continue my own education in this field. Every day, there is something new to learn and this gives me a chance to see what other organizations are doing; how are they using the analysis tools? What questions are they asking? Does the student look at the data in a completely different way than me? Just like the student is learning, I believe we are always improving our prowess.

Finally, and most importantly, the benefit that everyone gets is knowing they helped a worthy cause. Is there anything better than that?

I beg everyone that is reading this blog, if you are currently not out promoting this good organization, please do. If you want to get into web analytics, join as a student. If you are a non profit organization that has not already joined the analysis exchange, please join as an organization. And if you have been in the business for a while and have not joined as a mentor, please join as a mentor. Become the captain.

Have you joined the Analysis Exchange?  Have you completed a project?  Please comment about your experience so others know how great the Analysis Exchange is.
Next time, I want to talk about the famous analysts currently in the business; the blogs / books you should be reading.