Google Analytics Cross Segmentation: Something You Should Know

Google Analytics has a great feature called Cross Segmentation. Using this feature you can ‘drill down’ into your data to gain more insight. However, there is one thing that all GA users should know. Sometimes cross segmenting data does not produce the desired result.


I’m a big fan of bounce rate. I think it’s a vital metric that explains a lot about the online sales channel. One things I like to do is measure the bounce rate for marketing campaigns. Using bounce rate I can tell if the marketing message that drove a visitor to the site matches the message shown to the visitor when they land on the site. Nothing revolutionary here…

I start with the Content Optimization > Navigational Analysis > Entrance Bounce Rate report. Here it is in all it’s glory:


To get the data I want, the bounce rate for a specific page coming from a specific source, I need to cross segment the above report. Usually there is a special landing page (or multiple landing pages) for the campaign, but in this case we’ll look at /blog/index.php. Cross segmenting row 1 in the above report yields:

Boune Rate: Cross Segmented

See how the report columns have changed? We can no longer see the bounce rate. We only see the visits, pageviews, conversion rate and revenue per visit. Honestly, I don’t need that data, I really need to know the bounce rate for each source. Unfortunately I can’t get that data using the cross segmentation feature.

Another Example

Here’s the Marketing Optimization > Visitor Segment Performance > Referring Source report.

** Please Note: I initially posed the wrong image above. The image should contain referrals from Web Analytics Demystified. If it shows data from StumbleUpon then you may be viewing a cached image. Sorry. Now, back to our story. **
Thanks Eric for all the traffic :) Let’s cross segment row #1 by ‘Content’ and see what happens:

Referring Source: Cross Segmented

You may think that we’re segmenting by the content on my site, but we’re not. This isn’t the same content from the ‘Top Content’ report. What we see here are the pages on Eric’s site where people clicked on links to my site. How can I be sure? All the pages on my site start with ‘/blog/’.

So why is this happening? It’s just the way that GA is storing data. It’s not a bug, it’s just the way that GA works. Don’t worry, there is a work around :)

The Solution

The solution comes down to two things: planning and knowledge. Know the exact metrics you need for your analysis and make sure Google Analytics can deliver them. If you can not cross segment a report to produce the desired data, then try creating an additional profile (using filters).

Here’s how I get around the bounce rate issue above. I use a filtered profile to generate the bounce rate. I create a new profile and apply an include filter based on the campaign, medium or source, that I want to analyze. When the filter is applied to the profile then all the reports in that profile will be specific to the campaign, medium or source, specified in the filter. Obviously this is practically impossible if you are doing an analysis on the fly, or if you need to filter on a piece of data that is unknown when you set up GA.

As a rule, I always create specific profiles for major marketing campaigns. Here’s an example of the filter I might use:

Campaign Name Filter

The above filter only includes data coming from a single campaign named ‘Important-Campaign’. That means that the the data in the Entrance Bounce Rates report is only for the ‘Important-Campaign’. I’m essentially cross segmenting when Google Analytics processes the profile data.


I truly believe that GA can provide most of the metrics you will need for a thorough analysis. However, you must plan ahead. As the above example shows there are some anomolies, but they can be mitigated with a logical plan for analysis.

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    1. says

      Justin: No problem, but what are you thanking me for! Your top referrer above looks like StumbleUpon, not me. By my read, I only sent you two visits … for which I am ashamed! We need to work more closely together, to be sure. Will you be at the WebGuild event next week?

      Your fan!

    2. says

      Hi Eric,

      Thanks for pointing out an error! I used the wrong image in that location. Folks from your site are actually subscribing at about 5.5%!

      Based on this, and Robbin’s post re: The Building of Context, I think we have a very similar audience. Now, if I could only get more people to finish your conversion process :)

      I won’t be at WebGuild next week, but I just got approval for EMetrics in May.



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