How to boost your insights with Google Analytics sequence segments

Updated: May 6, 2018

Google Analytics releases lots of powerful features each year and for most of us it's hard to keep up with them and to understand all the opportunities for better insights.


That is why I am writing this post, to introduce Segments with sequential conditions in Google Analytics. They uncover better and quicker insights on the performance of your website.


In Google Analytics, there are two types of advanced segments:

- Conditions: segments of your users/ sessions according to single or multi-type conditions;

- Sequences: segments of your users/ sessions according to sequences.


In other words, the main difference between the two is that Conditions allows you to filter secondary dimensions, while Sequences allows you filter secondary dimensions AND establish which comes first.


Why use Sequence Segments


To find out more insights about your conversions, the obvious ways are often the most misleading. Let's see some examples:

  1. Is your new page driving more lead forms?

  2. Is the banner on the home page driving more sign ups?

We tend to naturally:

  • Build Goals to track conversions

  • Build Events in Google Analytics to find out the answers.



What if I told you these two methods are misleading? Yes, they are. And I can explain you why.


Why are Goals and Events not accurate?


If you only look at goals, you don't know which page they refer to. There is not way to attribute the goal to a page. It’s because goal numbers go with session dimensions, things that apply equally to all of a user’s activity during a session – such as source or campaign or device. Pages and events are hit dimensions, things that apply only to part of a session.


For example: If a session had 3 page hits and only 1 goal completion, but Google Analytics built a table with 1 goal completion for each page hit, then we’d end up with 3 goal completions for the session! Google Analytics doesn’t build tables that way.


As for Events, they are also not reliable in finding out which page caused the conversion. Events tell you how many times the conversion happened for your new form (or sign up for example) and they can tell you which pages were involved. It's like putting a net on the sea (sessions) and catching all sorts of fishes (events).


In this report you ask for sessions with conversions with a "Sessions with conversion" segment. The banner was clicked for 0.69% of sessions! This is great to know.

But you still didn't get the answer you wanted, because you didn't ask the right question.


And the question is: was the new page visited BEFORE the goal completion (banner clicked)?

If the page was visited AFTER the banner was clicked, it clearly didn't contribute to the conversion.



How to use Sequence Segments


Now we know what the question is and let's move on to find the right answer with sequential segments. Using our metaphor of the fish and the net, sequence segments say: "show me the steps and conditions before and after the fishes were caught". You specify conditions for each step and the order of them and identify exactly which page was viewed BEFORE the conversion.


In Goals> Overview you can now see the conversion rate is 100%, not 0.69%. This is because my banner is on the home page and I have filtered the sequence for Home page sessions only. It makes sense! People are on the home page and click the banner.



However, if you compare the sequence segment with a segment "Sessions with conversions" you'll find 15 conversion for the Sequence segment vs 17 for the "Sessions with conversions".

This means that 2 of the 17 conversions didn't match the sequence.


Try using sequence segment also for other reports, maybe a device split! Go to Audience>device to see how many conversions happened on Desktop, Mobile and Tablet.


Then go to Acquisition>All Traffic>Channels to see which channel brought you the most conversions that matches your sequence:



Note: this segment is telling you that sessions that visited the Home page, at some point within their visit also clicked on the banner. What it's not saying is whether users were visiting the Home FIRST and SECOND they clicked to the banner.


But you can fix this with Sequence too. Just choose in the segment "First user interaction" instead of the default "Any user interaction".



This setting is telling the segment to give you data on which users clicked the banner after the visited the Home page first.


We can now compare the Any User Interaction data with First User Interaction data:



You see we got now 14 conversions instead of 15. One conversion didn't match the sequence. In other words, 14 users had the first interaction with the home page and THEN clicked the banner (=conversion).



Conclusion


Sequence segments allow you to ask more precise questions and get more accurate answers about the performance of your website.

You can get the data to see cause>effects scenarios, which pages users visited that caused a conversions, whether they visited this page first or they visited it during their session.

Use sequence segments to identify issues too. When you see you don't get as many conversions as you expected for the new page you published, now you can identify and isolate that very page and work on it to improve it.


Happy analysing!

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