Maximizing Google Analytics Segments for Audience Insights

Maximizing Google Analytics Segments for Audience Insights

To successfully execute any business, you need to understand customer behavior. You need to understand what choices your customer is making and why they are making said choices. 

How do we do this in the digital world? With the vast amount of information available on every subject, pinpointing what makes people do whatever they do can be challenging. That’s where Google Analytics comes into play. 

Google Analytics is a useful web platform that tracks and reports web traffic and enables you to analyze and gain a deeper understanding of your customers.

“The Google Analytics segmentation feature can be a treasure trove of information about users of certain characteristics, but it can also be a time consuming black hole, or worse, lead you to discount entire portions of your audience because they’re seemingly not qualified – or they don’t match your ‘customer personas’”

In this presentation on Inbound 2020, Karen Hopper opens the door to Google Analytics and helps your gain insight into how to operate the platform successfully. The presentation primarily focuses on evaluating user behavior (not user characteristics) – that can help you illuminate behavior patterns across demographics and varying income levels. 

Karen also enunciates a couple of tips and tricks that you can use to design and personalize experiments based on findings to grow your business with new audiences. 

Supercharge Google Analytics for the Best Results

Karen Hopper, Senior Data Strategist at M+R, shared tips on how to supercharge your audience insights. She divides the main idea into the following three components:

  1. The basics of segmentation in Google Analytics
  2. The segments in action
  3. Building the hypotheses and testing

Let’s look at each of these ideas one by one:

Segmentation is Google Analytics – The Basics

Google Analytics is a complex platform, which may intimidate you at one point or the other. That is precisely why you need to familiarize yourself with the basics of segmentation. Here are a few pointers from Karen that will help.

All About Segments

Confused about what segments are precisely and how to use them? Let’s do a quick rewind of our segments knowledge and learn everything you should know about it.

  • Segments are not personas; the ultimate goal behind utilizing segments should not be to create the ideal customer. Make sure that you prepare the audience persona separately.
  • The core purpose of segments is to help you build a model persona that you can keep in mind when marketing your product.
  • Segments can give you insights into what caused certain behaviors amongst audiences and how/why audiences respond differently to the same product.
  • The differences that segments help you discover are essential because they can help you generate test ideas, improve your marketing, and earn new business.
  • The most useful segments are the ones defined by behavior and the ones that allow you an insight into why customers make a particular choice.
  • You can segment on different things. This includes demographics (age and gender), technology, behavior (events, sections, products), traffic sources, eCommerce, and purchase details.
  • Advanced segments also allow you to segment across sequences and almost any other dimension or metric, including custom.

Where To Start

Karen advises you to start with any questions that you might have about your audience. This can be “What is the demographic of my email audience, and are there any differences in conversion by device?” or “Do more younger users visit the site on their phones, and do they convert at the same rate as older users?” or even “Is there a difference in conversion rate between sources?”

Karen says that all of these questions (and more) can be answered with Google Analytics and can be used as a template for future use!


Segments in Action – How To Put it All Together

For this section, Karen shared two examples from her own experience to gauge the process of putting segments into actions. The key behind sorting it all out is to make observations that can be turned into compelling hypotheses.

For example, observing if the business in question was able to reach different audiences Karen then pointed out the following steps that must be followed to make adequate observations:

  1. Determine how you can identify users from specific sources.
  2. Utilize the “Custom” option on the segment builder to identify where users begin their session or what particular page they view during the visit.
  3. This is an optional step, but you can also add a filter to identify only users who completed a purchase, which will essentially help you to identify differences in purchasing patterns, including order value and device usage.

How to Build a Hypothesis and Put it To Testing?

Karen enunciates the key to formulate a hypothesis in her presentation. She also shares a template that can be used to build upon any hypotheses:

Changing _______ to _______ will impact _________ because _____________. (include all important elements)


According to Karen, a well-crafted hypothesis is very important as it will always lead to learning even if the test itself is unsuccessful. The hypothesis will also help you identify the precise test variables and make the entire job of executing segments so much easier!

The Key to Google Analytics – An Overview

Karen summarized the crux of her talk by giving a comprehensive summary of all the aspects discussed. Let’s have a look:

Step 1 – Discovery

Karen emphasizes that the first step, which is discovery, is essential. You must Investigate and ask questions about your audience to begin with. Then, you must make observations supplemented with data based on what you know about your marketing and your audiences, using segments.

Step 2 – Research

Secondly, you must carry out your research! This is an important part of any project, including the ones on Google Analytics.

You must learn more about why people behave in general and use that to further inform and fully develop your hypotheses and generate ideas for improving performance.

Step 3 – Prioritize Your Ideas

Once you have multiple ideas within your grasp, you can rank your ideas based on the potential for the highest impact. This can be done either in terms of lift or audience size. After that, you can begin testing.

Step 4 – Document and Repeat

You can now correctly validate your hypotheses, build on what works, and go back to the observation and ideation stage as necessary!

Karen concludes her presentation with the following words of wisdom: “by narrowing your focus to answer specific questions about your audience, you’ll never fall down the Google Analytics rabbit hole again!”


Important Tips from the Q/A Session:

Often, the best tips are given during the question and answer session. We’ve shortlisted the most important tips from the Q & A session.

Let’s have a look at these important tips:

  1. If you want to learn more about Google Analytics, you should utilize Google itself to learn more. In that regard, Google Analytics Academy is an incredible source to seek help and guidance.
  2. Google’s data is collected through Google Ads – personally, identifiable information can’t be collected, but they have all information other than that. So make use of that information to understand your audience better and plan your strategies according to the data you receive.
  3. However, at the same time, you must remember that Google Analytics will never be 100% accurate, so never use it as an absolute source of all your databases. Instead, keep it as one of the ‘closest to accurate’ option but do refer to other sources as well, if and when required.
  4. Once you’ve developed your hypothesis, you should go and create a test using other data (A/B test data) from other platforms for better performance. This would also help you understand your audience insights better.
  5. Segments can be used to consider data from the past. This can be crucial to understanding your audience as it allows you to view and compare past and present behaviors. Often, it can help you notice a pattern and predict future behaviors as well. The best part is that Google goes as back in the past as you want it to.
  6. So if you want to start with past data to analyze and plan your strategy, it is advisable to start with behavior-based data. This is because demographic data will be limited for you to build a hypothesis upon.
  7. Also, remember that you can always utilize previous segments for a new market. Sometimes, it can work wonders for you.
  8. Use industry-based segments if you are using Google Analytics for B2B projects. That would give you a higher conversion rate.
  9. You can also dial in on one segment of people across multiple reports.
  10. Set up goals in Google Analytics to maximize observation sufficiency.
  11. Read up on resources such as books (The Choice Factory, as recommended by Karen) to better understand human behavior.
  12. Google Analytics gives data, not insights! Your insights come from your own inferences and understanding of the data.
  13. For organic social strategy on Google Analytics, you must use UTM codes – otherwise, the platform can’t do much for you.
  14. Mess around with Analytics by making different segments! (Don’t touch the admin panel though, that can break your account, according to Karen.)

The Key Takeaway

The key takeaway here is that regardless of how daunting Google Analytics seems to be, it can be navigated properly and put to good use. Once you familiarize yourself with the complexities, you can easily look beyond the intimidating aspects and better understand your audiences.

We hope these tricks shared by Karen were useful and that you can now confidently make your way through Google Analytics!