How to Set Up and Use Google Analytics Custom Segments for School Marketing

Google Analytics is one of the most potent tools school marketers have, outside of your marketing channels themselves. It allows you to see how people are behaving and engaging on your website and whether they come from your PPC campaigns or another source.

One of the only downfalls of Google Analytics is that sometimes there’s actually too much data to sort through to see what exactly it is you’re looking for quickly. That’s where Google Analytics Custom Segments are helpful.

What Are Google Analytics Custom Segments?

Segments are simply subsets of your user data in Google Analytics. All Users would be all the data Google Analytics collected during your specified timeframe. An example of a segment might be women in the 30-45 age range. Another segment might be men in the 35-44 and 45-54 age bracket. Segments allow you to view and compare data for up to four segments at a time.

How Are Google Analytics Custom Segments Used?

Segments are important because they help you see how different segments of your audience are engaging on your website. The visitors to your website may behave differently because they are looking for different things from your website.

Segments may also help you identify bugs or problems on your site. For example, you may find one browser or device based on the segmentation of those user groups.

Some school marketers use segments to view trends in your data. Isolating particular user groups may help you identify specific trends within those groups.

Google Analytics segments are also useful for refining your targeting with audience targeting and remarketing.

For example, you can create a segment of users who visited a landing page on your site but never converted. Then, you can set up remarketing within Google Ads to target this group with a specific message.

You can target any segment of users based on their behavior, such as users who:

  • Visited certain pages
  • Fit a certain demographic (i.e. gender, age, location, etc.)
  • Visited from a particular source (i.e. social media)
  • Visited a certain number of pages on your site
  • Stayed on the site for a certain amount of time
  • Triggered X event

How to Set Up Google Analytics Custom Segments

There are basically two types of Google Analytics segments: system and custom.

System Segments

System segments are provided in a list format. All you have to do is select the pre-designed segments.

You can see the pre-set segments by clicking on +Add Segment from within Audience, Acquisition or Behavior (left column). Once you click on +Add Segment, Google Analytics will automatically bring up the list of All Segments. There are 22 different pre-set segments you can choose from.

You can add up to 3 new segments at a time (All Users is a default segment that will always be included in the data report).

Custom Segments

Things really get interesting when you start using custom segments. To create a custom segment, click on the red button +New Segment button on the upper left. Once you select the red button, you have many options to choose from.

  • Demographics

    • Age
    • Gender
    • Language
    • Affinity Category (reach)
    • In-Market Segment
    • Other Category
    • Location
  • Technology

    • Operating
    • Operating System Version
    • Browser
    • Browser Version
    • Screen Resolution
    • Device Category
    • Mobile (Including Tablet)
    • Mobile Device Branding
    • Mobile Device Model
  • Behavior

    • Sessions
    • Days Since Last Session
    • Transactions
    • Session Duration
  • Date of First Session

  • Traffic Sources

    • Campaign
    • Medium
    • Source
    • Keyword
  • Advanced Conditions

  • Advanced Sequences

Advanced Google Analytics Segments: Conditions and Sequences

Advanced segments are custom segments you design based on AND/OR rules so you can get more specific. Technically, you can view users based on actions they’ve take on your website. You can even get so specific you can view segments based on the order they completed the steps.

There are literally endless conditions and sequences you can set up, so the best way to proceed with advanced segments is to start with simple ones so you can see how they function and help you gather the data you need.

Examples of Google Analytics Custom Segments

There are so many options available for building custom segments, it can be a little overwhelming to figure out how you want to use the data to get the insights you need.

  1. Personas

You can use your target persona criteria to create a segment. This allows you to view insights about your persona and compare with All Users as well as other personas you have built. The type of data you can gather include the type of content your target persona is reading, what devices they use to access your site, days and times during the week they are most active, etc. This data will help you understand how effectively you are targeting your audiences, engaging with them and gather information about their conversions.

  1. Actual conversions

The idea behind actual conversions is to separate the number of conversions that might be fraudulent – such as from web bots and crawlers – from actual conversions from visitors. When setting up a custom segment, under the “Conditions” list, set the goal completions to one and the session duration per user to zero. This will exclude the conversions without a session, giving you a better picture of the number of actual conversions on your site.

Read more:  10 Key Conversion Metrics You Should Be Tracking in Google Analytics

  1. Behavior

The advantage of segmenting behavior is to analyze user behavior over time. It tracks details, such as:

  • The number of users’ visits
  • Transactions
  • Session duration
  • Number of days since the last session

This information will help you make adjustments to your marketing campaigns to improve their performance. It will help you to know what will work for your audience and help improve your retention rate.

  1. Bounced sessions

This segment will help you identify visitors who leave your website after landing on a page, without clicking to another page. This will help you determine what you can do to lower your bounce rate.

  1. Organic search conversions

The purpose of SEO is to drive traffic to your website using organic search techniques. Segmenting the organic conversion helps you determine what is working in terms of your SEO strategy as well as what you should focus on to have the best chance of gaining conversions.

  1. Traffic source analysis

Understanding where your website traffic is coming from can help you understand where your inquiries are coming from, allowing you to focus on those channels.

  1. Device type

When you segment your users by device type, you are able to understand the type of device used to access your website. Google Analytics tracks desktop, mobile device or tablet devices. For example, if you find the time on your site is lower for mobile users than desktop, you can do a deep assessment on why that might be happening. Perhaps your site needs to be optimized better for mobile users.

  1. Enriched audiences

Did you know you can create custom segments by uploading your own data to their dashboard? This is a powerful feature allowing you to create an enriched audience using first-party data and stacking it on top of behavior data. You can use this feature to build audiences that indicate potential parents with a high probability of enrolling their student in your school.

  1. Local traffic

With the exception of international students, most independent schools recruit within their local community. Encouraging and tracking local traffic is a great opportunity to determine how well your school is prepared to capitalize on “micro-moments” to better work with potential parents. By tracking local traffic, you can gather information about what your target market is viewing and resonating with.

  1. New users

Understanding the rate of new users compared with returning users helps school marketers see the results of your outreach by seeing new visitors to different pages. This segment helps you see if your blog posts are working correctly to target the top of the funnel (new users) or bottom of the funnel (returning users).

The new users segment will give you the opportunity to conduct a deeper analysis on your posts and landing pages.

  1. Sequences

Sequence segments allow you to understand how users move between different pages as well as identifying what other actions they take when they move between different pages. For example, you could segment to see people who move from your homepage to your Admissions page.

Once you’ve ran the report for that segment, you can drill into what else these visitors did while on your site. This helps you see how people, especially prospective parents, engage with your website and helps you discover key engagement pathways.

  1. Completed Goals

Consider setting up a custom segment that identifies visitors who have completed one or more of your specified Google Analytics Goals. For example, if you are able to see that it typically takes a user 5 minutes to complete a desired action and they visit, on average, 5 pages then you know you have an engaged audience and you can expect them to view an average of 5 pages per session. From there, you can determine the 10 most important pages you want users to visit, and then you can work on directing their flow. Your copywriting needs to help visitors move through the flow to help them take the next step in the funnel.

Read more: Easy, Step-By-Step Guide to Setting Up Google Analytics Goals for Schools

  1. Unique Visitors

A Unique Visitors segment will help you determine how well certain parts of your site are attracting prospective parents. For example, if part of your outreach strategy includes a blog (which I recommend), you can use the Unique Visitors segment to identify users who have visited your blog and then visited other parts of your site. This will help you determine whether your blog is actually attracting visitors to your site that are interested in your school. You can then check out other behavior patterns like Page Titles to determine what topics are the most popular and start to refine your content strategy based on the topics of interest to your target audience.

  1. Page Depth

This Google Analytics segment allows you to track the user journey that was taken by visitors who are interested in your website but didn’t convert or complete a desired goal. You can use this segment report to identify landing pages that need refinement.

How to Share Your Google Analytics Custom Segments

You can share your Google Analytics custom segments with other people. This is especially helpful if you work with a team. Previously, you could share templates you set up, but if you made changes, other team members would not be able to see your changes.

Now, you can create a custom segment and share it with everybody who has access to the reporting view. This means when you change your segment, it will automatically update for everyone you’ve shared it with.

Here’s how to share your custom segments.

  1. Open the segment panel and select “Custom > Edit” for the segment you want to share.
  2. Click “Change” in the upper right corner.
  3. You can now select the collaboration option you want to use.
  4. You can then select the segment you want to share.

That’s it! It’s that easy to share your Google Analytics custom segments.

Are you ready to use segments to break down your Google Analytics data and find new insights? Your website is vital to your school marketing program, so it’s in your best interest to gather as much relevant information as possible so you can make informed decisions when developing your marketing strategy.

Do you use Google Analytics Custom Segments? If so, which ones have you found to be helpful? Please share your experience with the rest of the school marketing community…

About the author 

Brendan Schneider

Hey, I’m Brendan, and this is my blog. After 28 years working in private, independent schools in mostly admissions, enrollment, marketing, communications, and fundraising roles, I decided to make SchneiderB Media my full-time job, where I help schools get more inquiries through my Fractional Digital Marketer program. I also started the MarCom Society, a membership created expressly to help, support, and train marketing and communications professionals at schools.

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