Using custom segments to gain reader insight

Chip Oglesby bio photo By Chip Oglesby

Charleston South Carolina

While it is easy to look an overall “All Visits” metric in website analytics, it actually does not reveal the true intent of readers. In most newsrooms and on most blogs, people are given copies of the most popular stories of the day or week and then go about their business. But the most popular stories of the week might not be most popular among your most dedicated group of readers.

Typical Segmentations

Below are a list of regular segmentations that you might see in most analytic programs. Of these three, I consider direct traffic to be the best indicator of what readers really want when viewing your site. If managed properly, the other two segments should convert to direct traffic or an advanced segment of traffic.

Direct Traffic:

Direct Traffic are people who perform one of two actions. 1. They type in a website everyday or 2. they have the site bookmarked to visit us. Direct Traffic is good because it means that your site is a household name with this reader. We’ve made an influence on them and they’ve made your site part of their daily routine.

Search Traffic

This segment includes traffic from all search engines, but mainly from They have used a variety of keywords to reach your site, the main being a variation of your brand name. If your SEO needs improvement not all stories will return results when searched in Google. So this list includes people who may have been searching for your brand and then further when on to read stories on your site. Consider these people to be “flirts but not lovers.” If they were to convert on your site, they would move into one of the other segments of traffic.

Referral Traffic

This segment includes traffic from sites that have linked to articles or to your site in general. Sometimes this is helpful because it gives you a better idea of whether you are meeting your current readers needs.

Creating Custom Segmentations

Creating custom segmentations in your analytics program will allow you to move beyond the standard package of segments that Google Analytics or Omniture offers. It allows you to get down to the meat of your traffic and really start gaining insights! These are a few of my favorite segments:

Email Campaigns

This includes readers who come to your site through the daily emails that readers have subscribed to. It means that they’ve moved beyond the “direct traffic” level and have chosen to opt-in to reading your stories. You could consider them a more dedicated group of readers.

RSS Subscribers

RSS subscribers are considered by some to be the “holy grail” for web traffic. Since they’ve opted to have your sites content pushed to them, they are sometimes considered the most engaged.

Social Media

This traffic includes visitors from facebook, twitter, digg and reddit. They may be fans of your site but they’re not quite to the commitment point of direct traffic or email campaign readers. They may have a general interest in your site but spend the majority of their time on other sites. Consider this type of traffic a “drive by viewer.”

Returning Traffic

Returning traffic is comprised of visitors who regularly visit your website. Consider this segment to be your “regulars” at a local bar.

Stories Forwarded by Emails

This segment (hopefully) are stories that people have sent to their friends. This also includes constant contact emails that people have forwarded to friends and family and then that traffic has viewed a story on your site. Consider this segment as a “gawker.”

Geographic traffic

If you run a local news website that covers different cities or counties in your state, you should be segmenting your traffic to see what readers from your key areas are looking at. This can help influence stories you write about for their area.


These are some of the most important segments of traffic to your website. It does not include all of the segments on your website though. It should give you a better understanding of who views what and why it may be important to them. Hopefully this will help with story planning going forward. It’s also only one piece of the puzzle!

What do you consider to be some of the most important segments on your site?