Whether you are doing your own SEO or hire someone to do it for you, sometimes it can be difficult to measure performance in Google Analytics. In the beginning of a SEO campaign, it is very difficult to measure performance because SEO is a long-term strategy that can take anywhere from 3-6 months to start seeing real results. Nonetheless, it is important for you to track and measure performance over the duration of the campaign; however, before you can do that, you need to know how to Segment your data for SEO in Google Analytics properly.

How to View Segments in Google Analytics

A segment is a subset of your Analytics data. For example, you see that 1,000 people visited your website last month, but you want to see specifically how many of them came from Google organic search. The combination of source, Google, and medium, organic, is a subset of your data, thus allowing you to create a Segment to gain insight from that online channel. When you first login to your Google Analytics account, the first view you see is from All Sessions. This set of data includes all of your site visitors. If you click on the All Sessions tab, you will notice that a large menu with a list of segments drops down. Google Analytics All Sessions Segment You may not see some of the segments I have in my account in your account because I’ve created Advanced (custom) segments that I use for specific goals I’m trying to reach in a campaign.  

Using Filters Vs. Segments

Before you can start segmenting data for SEO in Google Analytics, you have to first understand which traffic sources are relevant to SEO. You can first start by which Medium to use for our SEO analysis. Generally, the two primary mediums one would use for SEO are:
  • Organic
  • Referral
If you have access to a Google Analytics account, you can view a breakdown of your traffic by source and medium by navigating to Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium. Your screen will look similar to the screen shot below: Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 2.28.51 PM The Source/Medium dimension column lists a breakdown of every source and medium driving traffic to your website. If we only want to view the three mediums that were listed above, you can change the Primary dimension by clicking the blue medium link listed above the data table. Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 2.36.30 PM Once the primary dimension has been changed to medium, you can create a filter that excludes all mediums except the ones you want to view. To do this, click the advanced link next to the search bar on the top right of the data table and exclude every medium you see in the table except for organic and referral. Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 2.44.22 PM After you press Apply, you should see a view like this: Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 2.46.54 PM Now you see that organic traffic to the website I’m analyzing drove 6,942 visits and website/social referrals drove 4,490 visits. That’s pretty cool, but now what if you want to see more?   Using filters allows you to view specific dimension values and see metrics like Sessions, % New sessions, New Users, Bounce Rate, etc… but it limits you from being able to view your data in other dimensions. So, instead of using a filter every time you want to view your organic traffic and limiting yourself to one dimension at a time, you use a Segment.   Dimensions describe characteristics of your users, their sessions and actions. A few examples of a dimension include City, Source/Medium, Age, Gender, Interests, etc.   How to View the Organic Traffic Segment Viewing the Organic Traffic segment is easy. Fortunately, Google already provides you with that segment by default. To select the Organic Traffic segment, simply click where it says All Sessions again to view the drop down menu listing your segments. Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 3.12.22 PM Next, deselect the All Sessions box and scroll down until you see Organic Traffic. Now, select Organic Traffic and press Apply. Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 3.12.33 PM Once you have done this, you will see that the data has changed. Now, go back to Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium, and you will notice that the list of dimension values have changed as well. Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 3.16.12 PM Now you can view other dimensions. Let’s test it out:  
  • Expand audience menu and click Mobile.
  • Select Overview.
Now you can see a breakdown of the Device Categories used to find your website through organic search. Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 3.21.01 PM This is the first step to using Segments for SEO, but simply viewing organic traffic isn’t enough. The Organic Traffic segment doesn’t include referral traffic, so in this case you will want to create an Advanced Segment. An advanced segment is simply a custom segment that you create.  

Creating an Advanced Segment

  Creating advanced segments can get pretty complicated and deep, but the one you will create for SEO doesn’t require much customization. First start by opening the list of segments again. Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 3.58.58 PM Click the red New Segment button. Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 3.59.25 PM Name your segment Organic and Referral Traffic. Using specific naming conventions will help you tremendously down the line.   Now follow these steps: Click Conditions. Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 4.06.38 PM  
  • Change the dropdown selection from Ad Content to Medium. Then, type in organic.
  • Once you have it set to Medium contains Organic, press OR on the right.
  • Once you see the second row for your next condition, change the selection to Medium again and type referral in the empty field.
Your screen should look like this: Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 4.12.14 PM   Click the blue Save button and now you are done.   This is the first step to using Google Analytics for SEO. Now you know how to view Segments and create custom segments. Part 2 of this series will go over more advanced audience segmentation and analysis to help you understand how to better measure the performance of your SEO campaign and make data-driven decisions.