I’m going to share a custom segment that I came up with that has been both fun and useful to apply to our clients’ web analytics data.
One of the best reasons to segment web analytics data is to answer a business question, so let’s start with a few business questions that this segmenting trick might help answer:
I want to optimize the conversion rate for my segment of engaged, return visitors. Where should I focus my optimization budget?
I’m redesigning my Information Architecture. What sections/pages/resources do my loyal visitors find most valuable?
I’m building ad placements into my site design. What sections/pages/resources draw qualified return visitors?
I’m doing a “web content audit.” What types of content do my visitors like the best? Should I produce more or less of a given content type? Which types of content are sticky?
What products in my catalog are people considering, but not buying?
What are my Late Stage prospects gravitating towards?
If you’re interested in answering questions like the above, or are just plain curious, here’s the advanced segment as I set it up in Google Analytics. It’s quite simple to do [click image to enlarge].
First, you have GA look for the dimension of “Visitor Type = Returning Visitor.” This excludes visits made by first-timers.
Second, use the dimension of “Source = direct.” This filters out all visits except those that come from the source of direct. “Direct” visits means that the user arrived at your site by typing your URL into their browser’s address bar or via browser bookmark.
Finally, add an (optional) third dimension “Page does not match exactly ‘/index.html’” or whatever your homepage URI is. This will exclude those who bookmark your homepage (as opposed to pages deeper in your site), or who memorize your domain name and arrive direct. If you believe you have useful tools or access to sticky content on your homepage, you may wish to skip this third step and include homepage in the custom segment.
Since most visitors don’t memorize very many URLs, you can safely assume that this data set will show you visitors who have returned to your site via bookmark. Bookmarks are a great measure of “sticky” content because browsers don’t bookmark pages unless they find them valuable. Further, most people won’t bookmark a page unless they plan to return to it again and again. If I like a site, I might memorize the domain name and return via a direct visit or a branded search, but if I believe I will use a piece of content on multiple occasions over time, I’ll bookmark it.
Once you’ve set up the custom segment, apply it to your reports and then navigate to the Top Content report. Here, you’ll see the descending list of pages that are valuable enough a) for visitors to return to and b) valuable enough to memorize the URL or use a bookmark. See the example [click image to enlarge] of the segment applied to FutureNowInc.com.
Because the page names are readable and intuitive, I get a very quick idea of what visitors find truly valuable about the site’s content. An opportunity might be to focus on converting traffic to our ever-popular “We We” Customer Focus Copy Calculator tool.
If your site is set up in named directory folders, it’s even easier to get a quick read on what things are most valued. For example, you can ignore file names and just note that the most directory popular is “/games/…”, the second-most popular is “/tools/…”, etc.
I hope this proves helpful as a means to further segment your data. But remember, don’t segment data just to be fancy; segment it to answer business questions or try to find new, actionable insight in your reports. If anyone has come up with a more elegant way to answer similar business questions, please let us know in the comments.