Google Updates Analytics With Improved User Segmentation, Sequence Filters

Google today introduced a number of new segmentation features for Google Analytics that should make it easier for users to isolate and analyze subsets of their visitors or app users. Previously, segments were always based on individual visits. While that can be a useful metric, it doesn’t give you any real insights into the behavior of returning visitors. Now, Analytics users have the option to create user segments that allow them to select all of the visits of a user who fits into a pre-defined segment (based on behavior or demographics).

This update now also allows Analytics users to perform cohort analysis. Google says this allows you to “analyze the long-term benefit of specific groups of customers (for example, customers who first visited within a specified timeframe).” Say you want to look at the analytics data for all the people who first visited your site in December and spent more than $100 on it during the holidays. Previously, that was very hard to do, but now it’s just a matter of a few clicks.

All of this, of course, is only possible because Analytics can now track users across multiple session. This now allows Analytics users to create certain metrics based on user behavior during a single or multiple sessions (say somebody who viewed two pages in a row or who abandoned a shopping cart). This, Google Analytics evangelist Justin Cutroni notes, is especially useful “when you need to see how two actions, either concurrent or separate, impact behavior.”

To make these new features a bit more accessible, Google rolled out a refreshed user interface that takes some cues from the “cards” look the company is already using across many of its other products. The new look, Google writes, is meant to highlight “segmentation as a critical analytics technique with better visibility and readability.”

These updates will slowly roll out to all users over the next few months.

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Google Analytics’ Real-Time Stats Now Feature Event Reports, Device Breakdown And Shortcuts

Google Analytics’ real-time feature is very useful for those who don’t need more specialized tools like Chartbeat or Woopra, but still want to get a basic overview of what’s happening on their site right now. Compared to the breadth of features Analytics offers, though, it’s still a very limited tool. Today, however, Google is making a few changes to Analytics’ real-time reports that make it a more powerful and easier to use service.

Analytics, for example, now also shows you a breakdown of how many of your current visitors are on a desktop, tablet or on their phone.

The main feature of this update, however, is the addition of event reports. Google Analytics’ event reporting takes a bit of extra work to set up and is also a major part of the new Universal Analytics feature the company launched as a public beta last week. This feature allows developers to create custom events for interactions that go beyond just loading a site, including downloads, video plays, ad clicks and other actions a developer might want to track on a site. Starting today, website owners can track these events in realtime, too. This, Google says, means “you can now not only see the top events as they occur but also filter on particular event categories (and actions).”

With this update, Analytics also introduces shortcuts for real-time segments, so if you just want to see what your U.S. visitors on smartphones are doing on the site right now, you can create this segment and easily recall it from the Google Analytics sidebar.

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The ability to create segments and filter your real-time data this way is obviously a major feature of Google Analytics, but the only way to really fully make sense out of this data is to compare it to your overall traffic. Today’s update adds the option to always see a breakdown of your overall traffic in the background, so you can put the data from your segments into the context of your site as a whole.