How to Find Out Which Online Marketing Strategy Drives the Best Traffic

Do you participate in so many different types of online marketing strategies that when your boss asks you which one is the most effective, you don’t know what to say? Sure it’s easy to spot the top referring traffic source in Google Analytics, but you won’t be able to say what overall online marketing method is really working as a whole unless you want to start adding up different referral sources with a calculator and then cross reference them with goals, demographics, and other data.

This is where Google Analytics Advanced Segments come into play. Using these, you can create different segments for different groups of referral traffic – traffic from social media, article marketing, link building, directories, local search, guest posts, and so on. You can then see everything including demographics, conversions, and top content for each group of referral traffic and compare them against each other to know which ones are the best.

Also, one thing to note is the best thing about these Advanced Segments is that they are available for every website under your Google Analytics login. So if you own 10 websites, you only have to set the suggested Advanced Segments up once, and they will be available to you on each of your website profiles (plus those you have been granted access to by others). Plus they are retroactive – you can use them to analyze data from as far back as you have analytics data!

Creating an Advanced Segment

First off, let’s look at how to create an Advanced Segment in Google Analytics. These directions cover Google Analytics 5 (currently in Beta – if you haven’t switched to it yet, use the New Version link at the top of your Google Analytics).

1. Go into one of your website profiles.

I created all of my Advanced Segments under my main website’s profile, but as mentioned earlier, these segments will be available to you under any of your website profiles in Google Analytics.

2. Create a new custom segment.

To create an Advanced Segment, click on Advanced Segments and then click on the + New Custom Segment button.

Google Analytics new advanced segment

3. Name your segment.

Be sure to name your segment something that you will easily recognize. For example, if you want your segment to track social media traffic, you will want to call it Social Media or Social Media Marketing.

google analytics new advanced segment naming

4. Enter your segment’s dimensions.

Next, you will want to enter the dimensions for your segment. When you’re looking at traffic, the most commonly used dimensions include:

  • Source – this dimension will only show you traffic from a specific referral’s domain or subdomain. For example, to distinguish Google+ traffic from Google search traffic, use plus.google.com instead of just google.com as a Source in your Social Media segment.
  • Keywords – this dimension will only show you traffic that originated from search results based on a specific keyword or phrase.
  • Referral Path – this dimension will only show you traffic that originated from a specific page on a website. Instead of adding the domain.com of the referring URL, you would enter URL after the domain.com/. So if you have a link on domain.com/page-1/, you would enter /page-1/ as the Referral Path.

For this post, we’ll mostly be using the Source dimension which will let you see data based on visitors from specific traffic sources and referral URLs. To start the Social Media segment, leave the first dropdown set to Include, click on dimension, scroll down to find or type in Source, leave the next dropdown set to Containing, and enter facebook.com as the first referral URL’s root domain. Then click on Add ‘OR’ statement, click on dimension, and continue adding referral URL’s root or subdomains (examples of which can be found in the following Sample Segments). You can add up to 20 ‘OR’ statements per segment.

google analytics new advanced segment dimensions

5. Preview and Save Segment.

Once you have added as many dimensions as you can think of for your segment, click on the Preview Segment or Test Segment to make sure you are pulling in data. Click on Save Segment to finish. You can always edit your segments with new dimension data by going to Advanced Segments, browsing under Custom Segments, and clicking the edit link next to the segment you wish to modify.

Sample Segments for Traffic Comparisons

The following are common dimensions you will use when setting up Advanced Segments to measure your online marketing strategies and the traffic they drive to your website. Be sure to browse through your own analytics data to find other domains as there are many different niche / industry related sites that you may be using in your online marketing efforts that are driving visitors to your website.

Social Media

For the Social Media segment, you will be adding common social media networks to the Source dimension. Examples include the following root and subdomains. Enter these domains in the Source dimensions of your Social Media segment.

  • twitter.com
  • facebook.com
  • linkedin.com
  • plus.google.com
  • hootsuite.com – source for anyone managing their Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or other social accounts through the HootSuite application.
  • t.co – Twitter’s own URL shortening service.
  • paper.li – common news source for Twitter.
  • twitterfeed.com – common news source for Twitter.
  • ht.ly – shortening service previously used by HootSuite.
  • summify.com – common news source for Twitter.

Social Bookmarking

For the Social Bookmarking segment, you will be adding common social bookmarking networks to the Source dimension. Examples include the following root and subdomains. Enter these domains in the Source dimensions of your Social Bookmarking segment.

  • stumbleupon.com
  • digg.com
  • reddit.com
  • delicious.com
  • bizsugar.com
  • sphinn.com
  • diigo.com

Video Marketing

For the Video Marketing segment, you will be adding common video hosting networks to the Source dimension. Examples include the following root and subdomains. Enter these domains in the Source dimensions of your Video Marketing segment.

  • youtube.com
  • vimeo.com
  • dailymotion.com
  • metacafe.com
  • ustream.tv
  • viddler.com
  • hulu.com

Article Marketing

For the Social Media segment, you will be adding common article marketing directories to the Source dimension. Examples include the following root and subdomains. Enter these domains in the Source dimensions of your Article Marketing segment.

  • knol.google.com
  • ehow.com
  • squidoo.com
  • ezinearticles.com
  • hubpages.com
  • examiner.com
  • articlesbase.com
  • associatedcontent.com
  • buzzle.com
  • suite101.com
  • goarticles.com
  • helium.com

Email Marketing

For the Email Marketing segment, you will be adding common web-based email providers to the Source dimension. Examples include the following root and subdomains. Enter these domains in the Source dimensions of your Email Marketing segment.

  • mail.live.com
  • mail.yahoo.com
  • mail.aol.com
  • webmail.earthlink.net
  • secureserver.net
  • mail.yahoo.net
  • mail.google.com

To find additional web-based email providers, go to your Traffic Sources > Sources > Referrals, use the dropdown at the bottom to change the Show rows from 10 to 500, and do Ctrl+F for mail on the page.

Link Building

If you have done link building for your website and wondered if those do anything but contribute to your overall search rankings, you don’t have to wonder any more. If you (or your SEO agency) have kept track of the domains your links were built upon, use those domains in the Source dimension of a Link Building segment.

Keywords

If you have been focusing your online marketing efforts on a particular set of keywords, you can create a segment based on those chosen keywords using the Keyword dimension. Mine looks like this…

google analytics new advanced segment keywords

Be sure to note that I used Exactly matching in the second dropdown instead of Contains. This is up to you, but I wanted to see results in this segment that are an exact match to the keyword phrases I am targeting. You can even do two segments – one for keyword based phrases and one for branded phrases to see if your keywords vs. brand name brings better traffic when doing comparisons.

Directories

If you (or your SEO agency) have listed your website under general, industry-related, or other directories, you can enter those domains in the Source dimension of a Directory segment to see which directory listings are driving the most (and best) traffic to your website.

Local Search

For the Local Search segment, you will be adding common local search websites to the Source dimension. Examples include the following root and subdomains. Enter these domains in the Source dimensions of your Local Search segment.

  • maps.google.com
  • local.yahoo.com
  • yellowbook.com
  • superpages.com
  • yellowpages.com
  • citysearch.com
  • merchantcircle.com
  • insiderpages.com
  • yelp.com

Guest Posts

If you have been utilizing guest posting as a way to build authority through blogging, then you can enter those domains in the Source dimensions of a Guest Post segment to see which guest posts have driven the most (and best) traffic to your website.

If you happen to do more than guest post on a domain (such as you guest post on the blog and also make comments on posts by other authors as well) but you only want to see the traffic that arrived to your site as a result of the guest posts, instead of using the Source dimension with the blog’s root domain, use the Referral Path dimension instead.

To demonstrate the difference, let’s say I wanted to measure my guest post on Customer Testimonials (http://blog.kissmetrics.com/customer-testimonials/) in a Guest Post segment. I could enter blog.kissmetrics.com as the Source or /customer-testimonials/ as the Referral Path.

Google Analytics new advanced segment source referral path dimension

If, however, you write on a blog regularly, or write a lot of guest posts regularly, you can see how doing the referral path could get tedious. In my case, I can always enter blog.kissmetrics.com as the Source and then click on it under Traffic Sources > Sources > Referrals to see individual links under this domain which send traffic to my site.

Blog Commenting

If you regularly comment on a blog to gain traffic from the blog’s visitors and other commenters, you can enter those blogs’ domains in the Source dimensions of a Blog Commenting segment to see which blogs drive the most (and best) traffic to your website.

Forums

If you regularly post on forums and have a forum signature with the URL to your website, you can enter those forums’ domains in the Source dimensions of a Forum Marketing segment to see which forums drive the most (and best) traffic to your website.

RSS

While some RSS readers such as Google Reader do not show as a traffic referral, others do. Here are some that you can track to see how many clicks you receive from your RSS feed. Enter these domains in the Source dimensions of your RSS segment.

  • netvibes.com
  • feedly.com
  • feedburner.com
  • feedproxy.com
  • pageflakes.com

Note that these visitors may also include clicks from other bloggers who link to your website in their blog posts when read through one of the above RSS readers.

Another RSS measurement to consider is if you list your RSS feed on RSS submission sites and blog directories (there’s a huge list of them on TopRankBlog). You can enter those directories’ domains as the Source dimensions of an RSS Marketing segment to see which ones drive the most (and best) traffic to your website.

Analyzing Your Advanced Segments

Now that you’ve created your Advanced Segments, you will want to start analyzing the data to see the difference between these segments and the traffic they bring. To view an individual segment, go to your Advanced Segments > Custom Segments, then check the segment you want to view and click on the Apply button.

google analytics new advanced segment viewing

Now you can see all of your data throughout Google Analytics based on the dimensions you set in each segment.

Comparing Data Across Multiple Segments

To compare the different traffic each online marketing strategy brings in terms of their analytics numbers, simply check more than one segment under Custom Segments. You can view up to four custom segments at one time.

google analytics new advanced segment viewing multiple segments

This will allow you to compare your analytics data between strategies easily. Be sure to note the following to determine which online marketing strategies are driving not only the most, but the best traffic to your website.

Bounce Rate – Does one group of traffic visit multiple pages of your site per visit? Does one group of traffic leave without viewing anything but the landing page? Find out by selecting your custom segment(s) and looking under the Visitors > Overview. Learn more about bounce rate to be sure that you are interpreting this data correctly.

Average Time on Site – Does one group of traffic leave your site faster than another one? If the traffic from one group of referrers isn’t staying on for more than a minute, you may be focusing your efforts on the wrong types of sites or keywords! Find out by selecting your custom segment(s) and looking under the Visitors > Overview.

Demographics – Do you want your traffic to come mostly from a particular country? Which group of traffic brings in your targeted audience? Find out by selecting your custom segment(s) and looking under Visitors > Demographics > Location.

google analytics new advanced segment viewing demographics

Top Referrals – Want to know which site is driving the most traffic in each area of your online marketing? Find out quickly by selecting your custom segment(s) and looking under Traffic Sources > Sources > Referrals.

google analytics new advanced segment viewing traffic source referrals

If you are viewing your keyword segment(s), you will need to look under Traffic Sources > Sources > Search > Organic to find similar data on which keyword is bringing the most traffic.

Conversions – Want to figure out the ROI of your online marketing strategies and the traffic they drive? Set up goals in Google Analytics (see where you can do this in point #8 of awesome things you can do in Google Analytics), select your custom segment(s), and look under Conversions > Goals > Overview to see which groups of traffic are leading to the most conversions on your website!

google analytics new advanced segment viewing conversions

If your business collects leads or sells products/services on your website, this is probably the most important area to look when determining which group of traffic is the best for your website and your business.

Have you used Google Analytics Advanced Segments to find out the best traffic sources for your website? Has it helped you optimize your online marketing campaign? Please let us know in the comments below!

About the Author: Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, blogger, and social media enthusiast. Her blog Kikolani focuses on blog marketing, including social networking strategies and blogging tips.

  1. Good one….

  2. Definetly the true power of analytics comes out when segmentation takes place.

    I like to add 3 tabs to my segments to group metrics by acquisition, conversion and fidelization. That way i can see how each of the segments performs in those 3 categories.

  3. Great post… I love segmenting data to discover niche results for content development.

  4. wow.. huge artice… very useful, I love advanced segments and filters. in the end, the traffic source quality depends on the type of business. I think anyone agrees that IM, SEM, SEO, CRO and all that’s related to online goes better on twitter than FB… so you have to see what works best gor your business

    • Exactly – each business will probably find that one strategy works better than another, and once you know what that is, you can really capitalize on it!

  5. Another great article, Kristi. You always seems to amaze me with your ability to be everywhere.

    Thanks for sharing this informative article.

  6. Yeap, it’s huge article, but complex and that is good

  7. Awesome work, Kristi.

    I was kicking myself for not having set this up sooner, but being able to see the past data made my shame-filled self kicks completely unnecessary.

    I’m really starting to love the new Analytics set up. Thanks!

  8. Most Social referers are already setup under new Analytics.
    Just dig under “Multi-Channel Funnels”

  9. I didn’t even know these “advanced segments” existed! Thank you!

  10. Good post. The only problem I have is with Google’s demographic data. I wish Google Analytics would offer up some age and gender data that they have tucked away on their backend so that I could improve my campaign targeting capabilities. If I could target at an age and gender level and combine that data with my zip, city, state, or country data, it’s so much more valuable. I currently do this in Yahoo Web Analytics (because they offer age, gender, and online interest data) but it would be a nice to have in GA also since I use both solutions.

  11. I learned some new ideas from this article. I was looking for more link building ideas and I got some here but noticed you have another set of articles on that so will hop over there.

  12. wow great post defining your best traffic is important

  13. Gabriel Anderson Jan 26, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Tremendously informative many thanks, I’m sure your trusty followers may very well want even more articles of this nature continue the great work.

  14. Neeraj Dhiman Mar 09, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    Hi,

    This is really a piece of quality writing, and I found answers of my many questions…by reading this article I have improved a lot in my social media marketing skills…& this is key resource…I have bookmarked this blog…and also updated on facebook, stumbleupon,twitter, digg..and on many other social networking webistes..!!
    Regards
    Neeraj

  15. I’m hoping one day Google will offer a Ph.d. in Analytics and Webmaster. If I signed up I might get to know what I’m doing in those tools sometime after my thesis is due, I figure…

  16. Wow…thats another greatpost form Kristie.. so far, I have never use google analytics to optimize the interests of my blog traffic.

  17. I had this one bookmarked for a while now – great stuff Kristi!

    One thing I noticed was the ability to also share segments which is pretty cool. I wonder if there is a segment repository out there? Might be a fun thing for the folks at KissMetrics to run with.

    Thanks as alway.

    Dave

  18. One of the best strategies to drive traffic is to consistently write content of good value. Open the page for blog comments and leave discussions running.

    Shaun Kwong

  19. Kristi!!!

    Again you are rocking… Before i read this post i did’nt know how to find the good performing strategy.

    Great stuff.

  20. Very informative

  21. I read many posts regarding ans
    try accordingly to make few
    bucks.
    Your blog posts are very helpful
    to me.Thx

  22. Hello Kristi,
    Thank-you so much for this very clear guide, I always thought google analytics could be more useful but did not have a clue how to tailor it to my needs and thought it would take ages. I followed your instructions step by step very quickly and also found your suggestions for categories a good list of things to work on!

  23. OMG.

    How did I not find this godsend earlier?

    And shouldn’t this info kind of be “front-and-center” provided when you sign-up for Google Analytics?

    lol.

    Either way, Kristi — I really, really appreciate this. Thank you.

  24. This is what I have been looking for many days. Really good work!

  25. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I’ve truly enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. After all I’ll be subscribing to your feed
    and I hope you write again soon!

  26. Hi there! This post couldn’t be written much better! Looking at this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He always kept preaching about this. I will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he’s going to
    have a very good read. Thanks for sharing!

  27. Great stuff– segmentation is something thats somewhat new to me and this article broke it down in a clear manner! Thanks!

  28. Spot on with this write-up, I really believe that this
    web site needs much more attention. I’ll probably be back again to read more, thanks for the info!

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