We want visitors to our websites, and getting more web traffic than usual is generally good news. That exciting moment when you check your analytics and see the high traffic levels you’ve always wanted can be wonderful… but not when it turns out to be a flash in the pan.
We’ve had a couple of experiences with unusually high levels of web traffic:
- The time FreshPlans, our lab site, was featured in the Google Doodle
- The times when loads of visitors come to see a light-hearted post about a social media trick, plus the follow-up post about that
The first time the social media post got a load of visitors, it was large numbers of people from India over a February weekend. The second time was large numbers of people from Brazil on a Monday in May. Why did these posts suddenly strike a chord with people in those countries? I have no idea.
Our Intelligence report in Google Analytics shows that our Brazilian Monday brought a lot more visitors than these posts usually receive, though:
A post may easily receive traffic that is 200% higher than the average or 31% lower, but those posts that got 6,000 or 4,000% of their usual traffic are outside of the normal limits.
We’ve already determined that this is non-converting traffic which doesn’t have any ongoing effects on our website or our company, but there are some consequences for us: namely, it interferes with our data. When you get sports, which is to say data way outside the normal range, it makes it hard to work with your data over time. We use analytics data to determine what kinds of strategies are working and how the website is performing, and a lot of web traffic that’s outside the normal parameters can mask our actionable data.
If this were a physical business rather than a web site, we’d be looking at occasions when a flash mob decided to stage a dance routine in our office, or perhaps when a rumor went around that Miley Cyrus was planning to drop by. No additional sales, no new customers, but we’d probably have to get the cleaners in.
The web traffic equivalent of having your office cleaned is using segments in Google Analytics. Logically enough, this lets you look at a particular segment of your web traffic.
Just click on your Google Analytics dashboard where you see the words “All Sessions” and you’ll be able to choose the segments of your traffic you want to look at.
Some segments are built in; you can always choose to look just at your converting traffic or your paid search traffic. You can also import segments from Google’s Gallery. But you can also create custom segments. For example, we have a client who likes to know when the Office of the President visits the website, so we created that segment. you can create a segment that cleans out the web traffic that’s interfering with your analysis.
To create a new segment, just click on “Create New Segment.”
You will be presented with a lot of options:
Determine what your excess web traffic has in common, choose the demographics or behavior or source that you need to filter out, and use the drop down menu of conditions (“contains,” “is equal to,” “does not contain,” and so forth) to configure your segment. You can get very specific with your segment; check out the gallery to see some great examples. You can also Preview and Test, using the buttons at the bottom of the screen. This will help you determine whether the segment you’ve created will do what you want it to do.
Once you’ve defined your segment, click Save. Then you can choose your segment, click Apply, and work with analytics only for the web traffic you want to work with.
Remember, next year when you’re looking at your year-over-year data, to apply the filter again in order to get comparable numbers.