Local Businesses need a local segment in Google Analytics

The vast majority of businesses in the United States are small businesses, and the majority of those businesses can only do business with their local market. Businesses like a plumber, a restaurant, a coffee shop, a small clothing boutique... they all have a website that's viewable to the entire planet, but unless that person is going to walk themselves into their shop, that visitor in Europe or China really is of no importance.

So why is it that when they look at their Google Analytics reports, they get excited about seeing their traffic reports, yet that traffic is often from all over the globe?

What those businesses need to do is to create a Local Segment in their Google Analytics report. In using Google Analytics, this is one of the most important things that a local-focused business can do to improve their understanding of their traffic reports.

What is a Segment and Segmentation?

Segments and segmentation within Google Analytics is the ability to limit data to a "segment" of your total that matches a set of requirements that you define, and if desired, to compare different segments to each other. Google defines segments as:

A segment is a subset of your Analytics data. For example, of your entire set of users, one segment might be users from a particular country or city. Another segment might be users who purchase a particular line of products or who visit a specific part of your site.
Segments let you isolate and analyze those subsets of data so you can examine and respond to the component trends in your business.

Within Analytics, segments can be based on criteria, such as a browser, location, source, etc, they can be conditional such as people that came from Twitter and landed on a specific page, or they can also be based on sequences such as a people that saw a specific page and (immediately) did something else that you specify. All of the traffic to your website is still being captured for analysis, but you're limiting (temporarily) your view of the data to only the traffic that meets your criteria.

The combinations of segments are endless, as are the insights that can be gained by mastering them.

Why a local segment?

Returning to our original premise, the local-focused small business, chances are their your websites are attracting traffic from all over the globe, much of it worthless to you as a business owner. You might be trying to calculate your goal conversion rate for people walking into your Boston store due to your website, but traffic from Europe, Asia, India, or even just California might be skewing your sense of your website's successfulness.

So let's segment it out! Let's create a segment that's only composed of traffic from people within a specific area or areas, people that could actuall walk into your establishment. While yes, it's possible that the person searching your website from California could be planning a trip to Boston and wants to visit your restaurant... for argument's sake, let's ignore them for now.

How to create a local segment

Start by seeing a list of your local cities and towns as they're displaying in Google Analytics. While you can do by State, the city/town list is the most granular and flexible, especially if your traffic overlaps multiple States.

Step 1: identify your local cities and towns

You can find your list of cities and towns (and their traffic) by going to Audience > Location, and then right below the map, toggling the Primary Dimension to be City. If you prefer, you can also limit the map to a Country by simply clicking on it in the map to dive deeper.

You might want to keep this list open in a new window while you complete the steps below.

Step 2: click to add a new segment

Near the top of the page, above the charts and graphs in the right column of the screen, you'll see a Circle followed by some text that likely says All Users. All Users is the default segment that you're viewing all the time, and you probably didn't realize what it was. You're using segments (all) and didn't even realize it.

So now we're going to click the box next to that segment that says +Add Segment, and then we're going to click the red button that you'll see that says +New Segment.

Step 3: customize the criteria for that segment

The first thing we're going to do is to give the segment a name in the field near the top of the segment creation. Since I usually work with lots of clients' analytics, I set them up like [client name] - description, but you can do it however you'd like. Just make sure you describe it clearly for yourself.

From there we're going to start adding criteria. In this case we're going to go to the last field on the Demographics tab, change the location field to be City, use "is one of" so we can specify multiple cities, and begin selecting. To use "is one of", you need to hit return at the end of each entry, and Google will automatically provide you with a default list of your top options here. If you start typing an entry, Google will also attempt to auto-complete. Add as many as you'd like/need to this field, and you'll see the Summary update in the far right column showing you the percentage of sessions that fall within the segment you're creating.

Step 4: save

The blue button. Make sure to click on it. Your segment has now been saved to your profile for use.

Using your local segment

Once a segment has been created you can view any of your reports and custom dashboards within the limiting factors of your segment.

To use the segment, go to any report page within Analytics. Click on the All Users segment up at the top of the page and a drop screen will show, displaying all of your segments. Use the checkbox to check/un-check the segments you'd like to use (un-check All Users and check your new local segment). Scroll down a little bit and hit the blue button that says Apply.

Viola! You're now seeing only the traffic that matters to you!