Segmentation : Advanced Segments vs Profile Filters

> complementary features for segmenting your website data

Profile Filters :

Profile Filters are applied to data coming into your account, that is to new data only : they do not affect historical data and it is not possible to reprocess data you already have by using a Profile Filter. This data-cleansing role allows you to considering the removal of “noise”.

Don’t forget to always keep a set of intact raw data : keep your original profile and apply filters only to duplicate profiles in your account. That way you’ll avoid loosing your original data if you make a mistake in applying a new Filter – you always have an untouched profile to fall back on.

NB : Profiles Filters are not the same as Table Filters, which are to be used when you wish to filter advanced criteria on a table, knowing that the simple “table search” applies only to the first dimension column. Note that in Table Filters dimensions are color-codded in green whereas metrics are color-codded in blue :


Examples of useful Profile Filters :

  • Excluding certain known visitors such as your internal traffic
  • Segmenting by Campaign, Medium or Referrers Source
  • Segmenting by content to see data only for a particular section or sub-directory of your site
  • Renaming page with Search and Replace filter : if your page URLs contain a “id=17″ that stands for the books section of your site, you can make you reports easier to read with replacing that parameter with a human-readable URI such as “/books/”

NB : order matters when applying several filters to a Profile ! By default the filters are applied to the incoming data in the order in which they were created. You can easily modify that order in your Profile Setting > Filters > Assign Filter Order : select filters and move them up or down using the dedicated buttons.

Create a Profile Filter :

You can choose between predefined filters that allow you to quickly and easily accomplish the most common filtering tasks, and custom filters for more advanced manipulation of data.

Log into your GA (you need Admin access) and go to Admin  section : on the Profile you want to apply a filter choose Filters, and then click the + New Filter  button :

Custom Profile Filter

  1. Choose method to apply filter to Profile : Create new filter or Apply existing filter
  2. Name filter
  3. Choose filter type : predefined or custom
  4. Fill-in filters parameters accordingly
  5. Choose case sensitivity
  6. Save filter

Advanced Segments :

Advanced Segments allow you to segment your data within your reports, leaving your data untouched and changing a report’s view of the data at the visit level.

Defaults Advanced Segments :

GA includes a number of pre-built Adv. Seg. for you to use – names are self-explanatory :

  • All Visitors
  • New Visitors
  • Returning Visitors
  • Paid Search Traffic
  • Non-paid Search Traffic
  • Search Traffic
  • Direct Traffic
  • Referral Traffic
  • Visits with Conversions
  • Visits with Transactions
  • Mobile Traffic
  • Non-bounce Visits

Currently you can select up to 4 segments to apply simultaneously.

Creating Custom Advanced Segments :

The real power of Advanced Segments is the feature to create your own segments according to your particular needs and audience.

To start creating your custom AS click on Advanced Segments  on any GA report, and then choose + New Custom Segment  on the right par of the box. Then simply fill-in the fields to compose your segment :

Custom Segment American Customers

  1. Name your segments.
  2. Select type : Include / Exclude.
  3. Choose the metrics (in blue) or dimensions (in green) of your segment, whether in “OR” and/or “AND statements.
  4. For each statement select a value type for metrics (Greater than, Equals, Less than) and a match type for dimensions (Exactly Matching, Matching RegEx, Begins with, Ends with, Containing).
  5. Select the Profile(s) on which you want the segment to be applied.
  6. You can Preview Segment  or Test Segment  to make sure you’ve entered the right parameters.
  7. Click Save Segment.

Here are a few ex. of custom AS for you to explore :

  • Segmenting Visitors from Customers via visits with transactions
  • Segmenting branded search visits via keywords
  • Grouping visits from a geographic region via Country/Territory

Choosing Profile Filters vs Advances Segments :

Take a little time to figure out what solution better matches your segmentation needs before choosing between Profile Filters and Advanced Segments.

  • Visit Level vs Pageview Level > Whenever you apply an advanced segment to your data, the report view is modified at the visit level. Profile filters on the other hand modify the incoming data at the pageview level.
  • Future vs Past > Profile Filters affect only future data, so you can’t apply them to historical data. If you already collected important amounts of data you can apply Advanced Segments to distinguish patterns or certain segments.
  • Long Run vs Short Run > Advanced segments bring you instantaneous results, you can easily use them for a one time analysis.
  • Conditional Segments vs “Static” Filters > Profile filters don’t make use of any conditional characters, only static text string matches can be included. Advanced segments offer much more flexibility since you can incorporate text and conditional characters.
  • Admin vs Reading User roles > Any person who has access to a Google Analytics profile / account is able to create advanced segments in her account and no other person is able to delete the advanced segments a particular user creates. Only people with Admin rights will be allowed to create or delete Profile Filters.
  • Per user basis vs Per Profile basis > Segments can be shared with other reports and users ; GA profile filters are connected to a particular profile and it is easy to apply them to more than one profile from the Google Analytics account page.
Comparing Advanced Segments and Profile Filters

Clever recap for Advanced Segments vs Profiles Filters properties by Brian Clifton

Conclusion :

Whether with Profiles Filters, Advanced Segments or even Advanced Table Filters, segmenting your data is essential – so simply don’t even think about skipping it : every single website, small or big, static or dynamic, with or without e-commerce, needs you to understand who your visitors are and what their expectations about your site are !

Why do users coming from Europe convert more than others ? How many time is spend on your support section compared to the rest of your site ? What is the quality of your traffic ? These all are questions segmentation can help you find answers for as long as you work on defining effective segmentation to provide yourself or your team with powerful insights that will lead to better comprehension of your audience and in consequence lead to highlighting actionable levers.

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