How to Use Advanced Segments in Google Analytics — Plus Examples for Nonprofits


Google’s Digital Marketing Evangelist Avinash Kaushik said it best: All data in aggregate is crap. Harsh, but true. The data in Google Analytics can provide tremendous value to us, but if we’re not segmenting it properly, we can’t possibly be taking full advantage of all the insights those data have to offer us. This is where advanced segments in Google Analytics come into play.

What we talk about when we talk about advanced segments

Your nonprofit has multiple target audiences: You have donors, volunteers, and those who benefit from your programs and resources. You probably even have college students scouring your website for job and internship opportunities.
All of these people behave differently on your website and engage in different ways with your content. They are, after all, looking to satisfy different needs when they come to your site. Looking at all of your site data together in Google Analytics oversimplifies your audience’s behavior, making it nearly impossible for you to understand who is doing what, and when. Mayhem!
With segmentation in Google Analytics, we can say, “College students sign up to volunteer at the highest rates on Sunday”, instead of simply, “We get the most traffic on Sunday.” This becomes information we can use to inform strategy! We can send donation ask emails or bump up our advertising spends on weekends, when we know we’re most likely to convert volunteers.
By creating segments of users with similar characteristics, or of sessions with similar actions, we can glean better insights from Google Analytics data, and then use those insights to inform smarter marketing strategies. Here’s how to do it.

Creating segments in Google Analytics

Segments add a temporary filter to all reports in your Google Analytics account. They can be added and removed at any point to help segment by traffic source, user demographics, user behavior, and more.
To create segments, log into Google Analytics, navigate to your desired report (say, Acquisition Overview), and select + Add Segment at the top of the screen.

Google provides some pre-loaded options for segmenting Analytics data by demographics, behavior, traffic sources, and more. You can use one of the pre-filled options by selecting these from the System tab.

Or, you can select + New Segment and set your own conditions.

You can filter by user demographics, user technology, user behavior, date of first session, traffic source, or ecommerce. You can segment by other parameters, or any combination of the above, by setting your own custom conditions under Advanced.

Segmenting by user vs. segmenting by session

It’s important to understand and note the difference between segmenting data at the user level and segmenting data at the session level. Segmenting by user will show you all session data from users who meet the parameters you’ve set. Segmenting by sessions will show you data from sessions that meet the parameters you’ve set. Here’s a refresher on the difference between users and sessions in GA if you need one. 
For example, you can segment by users to see session-level and behavioral data for all users who completed a specific goal at some point.
Power Poetry, an online community for teen poets, might create a segment to see data only for users who added a poem to the site at some point in time. To do this, simply create a segment under Conditions with the following rule:

  • New Poem Added Goal Completions
  • per user
  • is greater than or equal to
  • 1

This tells Google: Only show us all data from users who have uploaded at least one poem. If a user has uploaded one poem over the course of 3 sessions, we’ll see data from all three sessions.
You can also apply a segment at the session level. Applying a segment for sessions will show data only from specific sessions that include the behaviors or parameters that you set. For example you can create a segment to only see data for sessions that came from social traffic, or from sessions that did not include a user registration.
Power Poetry might create a segment of all sessions that came from a paid campaign to analyze the onsite behavior of their campaign traffic, and to understand which digital actions their ads drove. You can create a segment under Traffic sources with the following settings:

  • Filter Sessions
  • Campaign exactly matches
  • June 2018 Social Campaign


This tells Google: Only show us data for sessions from the listed social campaign. If a user came to from email, and then from the campaign, and then from direct, we’ll only see data for the session from the campaign.

Advanced Google Analytics segmentation ideas

Through segments, we can slice our data to hone in on a specific subset of information. For instance, you can create segments to just look at users who have completed a specific goal, users who match a certain demographic, sessions that included a view of a specific page, or users from a certain city or region.


Segment by donors to analyze demographic, source, and behavioral data from your donors. Create a segment by going to Conditions → Filter Users → Include → Donations per user >1.

Which traffic sources do users come from? Which day of the week are donors most likely to be on-site? How old are donors? Diving deeper on who your donors are and how they engage with your organization online can help drive donor acquisition strategy forward.

College Students

We can take advantage of Google Analytics’ ISP data to create a segment that will show only users who access our site from a university campus. This can be extremely valuable for organizations who aim to serve or recruit college students. We can create this segment by going to Conditions → Service Provider → Matches regex college|university.
This will show us all data from users who accessed the site via a service provider that contains the words “college” or “university.”

We can use these data to inform us how students are finding our site online, what they’re doing on site, which content resonates most, and other insights that can help us continue to capture and convert this audience.

New vs. Returning Users

We can also use segments to better understand our new vs. returning users. Luckily, Google knows this is an important audience and pre-loads our Google Analytics accounts with these segments already created in the System tab. We can therefore quickly find — and easily apply — these valuable segments.

Once applied, we can dive deeper into how our new and returning users behave on site. Power Poetry may take a look at whether new or returning users are more likely to sign up as a poet and use that information to help optimize their conversion funnel. Or, they might look at the landing page report and place calls-to-action on the top landing pages for new visitors in an effort to drive new poet signups.
Once you’ve created segments for your organization’s target audiences, layer them onto a custom dashboard to take your reporting to the next level! Have questions or ideas about custom segments in GA? @ us.