Segments in GA4

March 21, 2022 - Written by

Segments are one of the legacies of Universal Analytics which, in part, will also be featured in GA4.

Obviously the GA4 segments present some differentiations if compared to what has been done so far in GA3. The main characteristics of the custom segments and how to use them in Google Analytics 4 will be listed below.

What are the segments?

For the uninitiated, segments are subsets of data included in the reference property. Segments are paramount in data analysis, as aggregate values ​​hardly lead to anything useful in terms of improvement.

It is therefore necessary to “dig” in depth to be able to extrapolate the so-called “hidden gems”, that is, data that can be transformed into actionable insights and be subject to conversion rate optimization or performance improvement.

For example, it could be much more useful to analyze the behavior of users who come from organic or paid media: we could analyze the main landing pages at SEO level or improve your keyword advertising strategy, etc. All analysis that fail if we stop at the overall figures.

Differences between the segments of Universal Analytics and GA4

As mentioned at the beginning, GA4 segments have some differences with their predecessors and they can be summarized in 2 main points:

  • In Universal Analytics, segments are applied to almost all reports in the interface. In GA4, segments only apply to a single report – and its sub-tabs – of the Explore section. If you want to reuse the same segment in a new Explore report, the segment must be recreated from scratch.
  • In Universal Analytics you can create session and / or user segments. GA4 allows you to create segments at user, session and event level.

However, the possibility of setting up an importable audience in Google Ads starting from a segment and the retroactivity, in the analysis phase, of the segment remain unchanged.

The segments’ type in Google Analytics 4

As previously reported, in GA4 segments can be of three types:

  • User Segment: User Segments allow you to create a group of users who meet certain specified criteria. A user segment includes user behavior during generated sessions. For example, the simple “Purchase” or “File Download” segment involves the inclusion of users who have generated these actions at any time during their site / app journey
  • Session Segment: Session type segments include all events that have been fired in a session
  • Event Segment: Event segments include only user-generated events that match what is reported in the segment

More difficult to explain than to create them: so let’s use an example.

Example of segments in GA4

A user generates two sessions: in the first, he displays the home page, logs in and then displays the High-Tech product listing; in the second session the user accesses from the landing page dedicated to gaming pc, displays the product detail with sku XY1234 and inserts it in the wishlist.

Graphically, a journey similar to the following can be mapped.

GA4 Segments’ set up

User Segment: the request is to segment users who have entered at least one product in the wishlist. In this case, all the events that match the condition in the user’s journey are included in the newly created segment.

Session Segment: in this case the segment will contain only the events related to the second session, as the add to wishlist event was generated only in the latter.

Event Segment: The event type segment contains only the event specified in the creation criteria and no other events are counted. This is a completely new feature compared to Universal Analytics!

How to create segments in GA4

First of all, we need to distinguish the segments from the comparisons: the latter are in fact present in all GA4 reports, but do not fall into the segments category!

As mentioned earlier, the segments are currently only found in the Explore section.

The question now arises: how are segments created in GA4?

  • First you need to access the Explore section and then select a type of exploration of interest.
  • Then just click on the “+” button in the Segments section to open the layer dedicated to the segments. In this section you can choose between Custom and Suggested Segments.
  1. The Custom Segments are divided into the three categories described above and are not completely free, i.e. they can be built according to the analysis’ needs
  2. The Suggested Segments, on the other hand, are segments already created inside GA4 that can refer to e-commerce, travel, general, predictive, etc.
  • By clicking on one of the first three types, a screen like the one below will appear
  1. Name of the segment
  2. Group of Conditions (inclusion / exclusion)
  3. (optional) Segment-based audience creation and / 0 segment-based custom event creation
  4. Preview of the created segment

Example of segment creation in GA4

Using the Demo Account made available by Google, below you find a simple example for creating a segment.

Request: Evaluating the number of sessions in which a Google-branded product was viewed and a purchase subsequently generated.

In this segment, of type session, the view_item event with specification of the item_name parameter and the purchase event have been included.

However, there are other elements within the interface that allow you to further refine the creation of segments, namely:

Condition Scoping in GA4

Condition scoping is activated by clicking on the button at the top right in the groups of conditions specified in the segment.

The available options (in the screenshot above at the user level, therefore complete) are of three types:

  • Across all sessions: in this case the events specified in the condition group can occur during all the sessions generated by the user in the analyzed time period (e.g. login in the first session and add_to_cart in the second)
  • Within the same session: the events specified in the condition group must occur within the same session (e.g. view_item and add_to_cart)
  • Within the same event: the specified events must occur in a single event (e.g. login and page_view = / reserved-area)

Sequencing in GA4

First, sequencing is only active for user-type segments.

Sequencing in GA4 can be seen as a very powerful feature in terms of targeting and targeted analysis, but it also presents several pitfalls, mainly due to the type of construction of the segment itself.

In the screenshot above, in fact, the main elements relating to the creation of a segment are shown:

  1. Condition Scoping at the overall sequence level (all the condition groups present in the different steps will be guided by this condition scoping)
  2. Time Constraint, i.e. the possibility of setting a time limit relating to the actions specified in the sequence
  3. Followed (direct / indirect), it is possible to specify whether the action described in the sequence / condition must directly or indirectly follow the previous one

Exclusion in GA4 segments

Google Analytics 4 offers the possibility to exclude users or sessions in temporary or permanent mode, while if the segment is at the event level, the exclusion will be permanent.

What is the difference between the two types of exclusion?

  • Temporary exclusion: the user or session is excluded from the segment if the condition is satisfied within the time frame indicated in the membership field
  • Permanent Banned: The user or session is permanently banned if the condition has occurred at least once

Warning: each segment can have a single exclusion group (made up of multiple sequences and / or condition groups)

Limitations in the Segments of GA4

The segments are also subject to limitations and more precisely:

  • Max 10 segments per exploration
  • Max 4 segments applied for a single exploration
  • The segment data can be sampled. The sample size used is 100,000,000 lines.
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