Advanced Segment, Custom Report, or Filtered Profile?

- February 10, 2011

I just love a good mystery, and to be candid, I love being the one who gets to solve it! Solving mysteries and putting together the proverbial pieces of the puzzle is a critical skill in the field of web analytics. You almost have to like the torture that comes with trying to figure out a problem, in a weird and demented way.

So when my industry colleague Matt asked me on Twitter to help him solve his Google Analytics quandary, I was ready in a nano-second.

You can read the full post here, but essentially, Matt needs to know what the best way to “isolate” page data would be. He has a sub-directory on his web site, which include pages, and needs to be able to create a segmented, sliced-up view(s) of that sub-directory, and needs to be able to view how each sub-directory’s pages are performing in relation to other sub-directory pages.

Creating a duplicate, filtered profile for all of this sub-directory’s traffic within the same Google Analytics account (using the same website domain) will create your isolated view of only those sub-directory pages. You will only see visits and page views that happened on those sub-directory pages. It’s good for looking at your sub-directory data in a silo, and you can compare the high-level data by using the profile overview screen (assuming you are planning on creating additional filtered profiles for the other sub-directories). You can also download the data offline and mash it up, either via the Google Analytics API or by simply downloading PDF or CSV files.

Creating an advanced segment that displays any pages that match your sub-directory name will show you any visits which included at least one page view on any one of the pages within that sub-directory. This definition – visits instead of pages from the previous paragraph – is an important differentiation. As commenter Amanda has already astutely observed, you will see other pages appear in your Content report section, because this segment will show you those other pages, as they were a part of these visitor’s sessions that viewed at least one page within your desired sub-directory. You can create an advanced segment for each sub-directory and compare up to three (plus the “All Visits” segment) at the same time, and get an on-the-fly look at your sub-directory data. However, if your date-range is long, you may encounter data-sampling (not the biggest issue in the world, but something to be aware of).

If you create a Custom Report, in your main profile and without any advanced segments applied, you will be tailoring an original view of your data. You can combine metrics from different reports, like visits, bounce rate, goal start and goal completion percentage, and revenue / ROI metrics (if you do Ecommerce). You can then match it up with the page dimension, and even set it up so that when you click on a page, the report will show you the keywords, or the source / medium combo, or the visitor country, or whatever drill-down dimension you want to see. Then, if you really want to get fancy, you can apply an advanced segment while you are looking at your custom report to show you visits that have viewed at least one of you desired sub-directory pages, and really get cooking! You can then apply a custom report and an advanced segment to multiple profiles from within the main profile (Click on the respective “manage” links), and apply it to any of the other profiles within your account.

So, what would I do? I would create a custom report with an advanced segment applied to it. You can also create a filtered profile if you wish, but I would suspect you would not use it as much as you would a custom report / advanced segment combo. I would also insist that your report is meaningful and that you can take action from it (e.g. knowing that a page’s $Index value is a lot lower than the site average would point you in that page’s direction to optimize / refine it). Pick metrics like Bounce Rate, $Index and Goal Conversion Rate that help you understand page performance, and ditch trivial ones like Avg. Time on Site or Exit Percentage.

Hope I helped out Matt and others in a similar situation!

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