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Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011 at 8:36 am

Use Google Custom Segments to Know Potential Buyers

By Brendan Regan
February 23rd, 2011

The other day, FutureNow’s Natalie Hart posted on the topic of seeing visitors through the metrics, and it was a good reminder that behind all those dashboards, charts, and trend lines is a gold mine of insight about the real people that you’re marketing to and trying to convert.

Today’s post is about how to use one of Google Analytics’s (GA) advanced features to see through the metrics and know approximately how many potential buyers your marketing initiatives are bringing to your site. In other words, of your total traffic, how many are “convert-able,” and how many aren’t interested in what you have to offer?

Since nearly every marketing organization invests money in bringing traffic to their website, it follows that spending money to bring disqualified traffic to a site (traffic that has no/low intent to convert) is a waste of resources.

On the other side of the coin, investing money to bring more high-quality, qualified traffic to a well-optimized website is a recipe for high ROI on your marketing spend.

So, how do you measure how much of your site traffic is good traffic, that you have a chance of converting? It’s not an exact science, but you can use segmentation to get a rough idea on how effective your marketing is at bringing good prospects.

Let’s walk through the creation of a Custom Segment in Google Analytics as a way to know your potential buyers. These are some of the steps we take in our OnTarget process for creating custom segments to find actionable insights in web analytics data that go beyond mere best practices:

Step 1: Pop open the Advanced Segments box in Google Analytics. Then, click the link that says “Create a new advanced segment.” GA has some really nice, pre-assembled, Advanced Segments for you that you should explore at another time. Click on thumbnail for a visual aid.

Step 2: A blank form for creating a Custom Segment is a fun drag-and-drop interface. You can drag any applicable dimension or metric from the left menu over to the right side of the screen to create your segment on the fly. You can test segments before you save, name them whatever you want, and choose which profile(s) they can be applied to. Click on the second thumbnail for another visual.

Step 3: Ultimately, the metrics and thresholds you use to determine a ‘qualified visit’ is up to you and your business model. If you make money from serving ads, your idea of a qualified visit may be very different than a business that sells enterprise software or electric guitars. We’ll give you some basic guidelines, though.

google analytics custom segment 3a. One metric you should use is “Time on Site.” It’s pretty hard for someone to convert in only a few seconds, so a truly qualified visitor who’s interested in what you offer will be on the site for a decent amount of time. In the example, we’re being extremely generous by saying that any visit that lasts longer than 2 seconds is “qualified.” You may wish to require visits to be longer in order to count as qualified.

3b. Another metric to consider is “Pageviews.” Most sites need more than 1 pageview for a conversion to occur, so we’re saying (in the example) that any visit that is greater than 1 page view is qualified. Again, we’re being quite generous, and you may wish to be more strict.

3c. You should also look at your entrance keywords (keywords that prospects search on before they click through to your landing pages) to see if any of them are bringing disqualified traffic. In the example, our client sells receptacles where you can dispose of cigarettes. While a keyword “cigarette receptacle” shows qualified buying intent, the keyword “cigarette butt” shows very little buying intent. So, use the Dimension of “Keyword” if you have keywords that ‘disqualify’ a visit. Enter the naughty keywords in the box, and use the condition “Does not match exactly.” This will count only visits that DON’T begin from that keyword. NOTE: If you have multiple disqualifying keywords, you can use the “does not match regular expression” Condition and separate the keywords with a pipe symbol, e.g. “cigarette butt|cigarette butts|deals on cigarette cartons”.

3d. After you’ve entered your desired Metrics and Dimensions, you can test the segment to see how it behaves. If you’re satisfied that it’s realistic, name the segment something useful, and save it. You can now apply this custom segment to many, many GA reports!

Step 4: Apply your shiny, new custom segment to your Visitors report along with the default All Visits segment. You’ll see visitors and “site engagement” metrics in aggregate as well as in the context of qualified visitors. In the example client site, according to our business definition of “qualified,” only 43% of their traffic is of high enough quality to be considered qualified…ouch!

4b. Now, go look at your conversion rate, either in a goal report or in the eCommerce report section. In the example client’s reports, we see the silver lining: Qualified visitors convert at a 130% higher rate than the ‘all visits’ conversion rate. The good traffic converts pretty well, so if the client can attract more qualified visitors, they’ll make more money. AND, if they cut down on the bad traffic they’re bringing to the site, their ROI on their marketing spend will go up. In essence, they’ll make even more money!

I hope you find this useful. Again, it’s not an exact science, but it’s a great way to use data to get a feel for traffic quality. And, the visual reports can be very compelling if you need to make a case to upper management for more targeted marketing efforts. Just show them how much more money they make off of Qualified Traffic, and they’ll want to do something about it. If you can help them solve the problem, maybe there will be a raise in it for you too! Excited about getting more conversion rate optimization “bang” for your “buck,” but still want some personalized guidance from an expert? Feel free to contact us and find out how we can help.

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Comments (6)

  1. Data among International Websites compared to the United States may depend on what types of products or services your customers are checking. Is their a significant comparison based on Companies or Universities that we can narrow down and find what are case studies that may help better increase traffic to the website?

  2. I have created simple segments and compared them. I created an organic search segment and ran it against a paid search segment to see what keywords are bringing lots of high value organic traffic which I can in turn drop from my pay-per-click list.

  3. This was very focusing for me, i followed your guidelines and eliminated 2 pages which had been driving un-convert-able clients to my site.

  4. Good post – I’ve used advanced segments a lot before, but minaly to look at regional differences and referrals from distinct sources.
    That said, I’ve never made the connection between separating out visitors by ‘time on site’ as they’ll be more likely to convert.
    A good tip that I’ll use in the future.

  5. Superb post! However i tried your advice and couldn’t remove any noncovertable pages at our site

  6. Thanks for the tip, I was however not able to improve the conversion rate anything, the change was not significant enough.

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