How to Create and Use a Segment in Google Analytics

Once you have mastered the basics of Google Analytics, it’s time to move on to more advanced topics, such as (advanced) segments.
Marketers love to ‘slice’ and ‘dice’ their potential customers and customers. Do we get more visits from Texas, or from Oklahoma? Who converts better, visitors from Facebook or from YouTube? And, is our advertising on Google AdWords performing as well as our SEO? segments can help answer these and many other marketing questions. Let’s get started!

Watch the Video

This vs. That: the Basic Questions of Segments

I’ll assume you’ve already installed Google Analytics on your website, and have watched our basic video on Google Analytics. Before you dive into Google Analytics, I recommend that you first brainstorm the marketing questions in advance. A segment, in a nutshell, is a way to look at just one sliver or ‘segment’ of your potential customers or web visitors.

a segment = a (sub)group of your web visitors

people from Oklahoma

people from Texas

people who come to your website from AdWords

people who buy something on your website

the sky is the limit!

For example, how do people from Oklahoma compare with people from Texas in how they behave on the website? Or, gosh, I’d really like to look at user behavior for JUST my web visitors who come from YouTube. Segments can help you “see” this data!

Here are your steps:

  1. Define the ‘sliver’ or ‘segment‘ that you want to look at. (e.g., people from Oklahoma, people who originate on YouTube, or even people who actually bought something in your eCommerce store).
  2. Figure out if there is a pre-built segment or if you need to create a custom segment.
    1. If custom, you need to create it.
  3. Turn ‘on’ the segment, and then proceed to look at other data such as the landing page, bounce rate, or conversions.
  4. Remember you can turn on more than one segment, so you can make comparisons – such as people from Oklahoma vs. people from Texas, people from YouTube vs. people from Facebook etc.

To read the Google help files on Segments, go here and here. (Note that segments used to be called advanced segments, but Google dropped the advanced – go figure).  You can watch an official (though outdated) video, here.

Pre-Built Segments

Fortunately, for many cases you do NOT have to build a custom segment. Instead, you can use a pre-built segment. Here’s how to find and activate them.

  • Click on the segments tab (it’s pretty hidden), so here’s a screenshot:

Segment in Google Analytics


  • On the left, click on SYSTEM to find the pre-built segments (I often “star” the ones I like and use the most, by the way). For example, select “Mobile Traffic” to view only traffic that comes from mobile devices.  (Remember: you can use the HELP files (hidden under the three dots at the top right, to ask Google to define the pre-built segments).
  • Once it’s activated, use the downward Chevron to “remove” the “All users” default segment.
  • Now you can scroll around Google Analytics, looking at ONLY “Mobile Traffic.”
  • If you want to compare “Mobile Traffic” to something else (e.g., “Tablet and Desktop Traffic”), then click back up to segments, go to SYSTEM and click to activate “Tablet and Desktop.” You can now scroll around Google Analytics and compare one segment to another. For example, go to Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages and you can compare the landing pages of your different segments. Or you can compare the “bounce rate” among your segments, etc.

Assuming you have goals and/or eCommerce turned on, one pre-built segment is very useful. It’s called “Converters,” and this means that you are looking ONLY at people who did something you wanted like registered on your site or bought something.

Custom Segments

Let’s assume you want to know something more unique, for example, you want to compare your Facebook traffic to your YouTube traffic. You can do that, but you need to create a custom segment. Here are the steps to do so.

  1. Click on the Segments tab (again, it’s a bit hidden – see the screenshot above).
  2. Click the red NEW SEGMENT button on the middle left.
  3. Work through the left hand side column, to identify the parameters that you want – in this case, Traffic Sources, Source, Contains or
  4. Name your segment, accordingly.

You can turn on just one (e.g., view ONLY your Facebook traffic) or both (view your Facebook traffic vs. your YouTube traffic). Among the really interesting things to look at are conversions. Which traffic is bouncing less, and converting more? What does this tell you about the relative value of a visit from Facebook vs. a visit from YouTube?

With custom segments, the sky is the limit – you can compare anything to anything. Just remember to create a marketing question – in advance – and translate that marketing question into a segment, and the translate the data from that segment into an action item (such as spend more time on YouTube than on Facebook, in this example).


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About Jason McDonald

Jason McDonald is a top-rated San Francisco SEO Consultant. His consulting services include search engine optimization consulting, social media marketing consulting, and Google AdWords consulting. Jason's motto as a consultant is that he doesn't do SEO 'for you' but rather he does SEO 'with you.' That goes as well for his social media marketing consultant activities and Google AdWords consultant services. Besides serving clients in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jason consults with clients in Silicon Valley (San Jose), Oakland and other cities throughout the Bay Area. Beyond the Bay Area, Jason is available as an SEO consultant, Social Media Consultant, and as an expert witness in litigation involving social media marketing, search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising.