GA4 Advanced Segments: Make Comparisons More Useful

Let’s talk about segments in GA4. But, wait—for the most part, there aren’t segments in the Reports section of GA4, where we’d expect to see them. Comparisons are close, but the capabilities are a far cry from what we had in Universal Analytics. 

In both Universal Analytics (UA) and GA4, a “segment” is a subset of your Analytics data, either users, sessions, or interactions in a session. In Universal Analytics, you can define a segment based on any number of characteristics—demographics, user behavior, and more—and save it. You can then view just about any report in Universal Analytics through the lens of that segment, and compare it to another segment, or all website data.

In GA4, segments are only available in Explorations, not the Reporting section where the most common reports are found. Explorations feel like a place to investigate, not a place to monitor regular website metrics. 

In the Reports section of GA4, we have “comparisons” available, but they are really limited. You can’t save your comparison settings, so you have to recreate your settings every time, which is pretty tedious. 

There is a workaround for adding functionality similar to Universal Analytics’s segments in GA4. After creating and saving an audience, you can use that in any comparison in GA4. In the video and the steps below, we’ll show how. 

Make Segment-Like Comparisons in GA4

As an example, let’s create a “segment” of users who started their session on one of the blog pages.

  1. Create an audience 

    1. Go to Admin in GA4’s left-hand menu. Under the Property column, select “Audiences”.
    2. Click on “New audience”. 
    3. Under “Start from scratch” click on “Create a custom audience”.
    4. To the right of “Include Users when:”, you’ll see a person icon. Click on that to select another scope option: “Within the same session”. Our audience will include this user if all conditions are met within the same session.
    5. Click on “add new” and then search for “landing page”. Select the row “Page / screen – session-scoped – landing page + query string”. 
    6. Click on “Add filter”. Select the condition “contains”, if it’s not already shown, and type “/blog/”. Click Apply.
    7. On the right of your screen, increase the membership duration from 30 days to the maximum limit. 
    8. At the top of the screen, rename your audience from “Untitled audience” to “Users who landed on the blog.”
    9. Click “Save”. 
  2. Use the Audience in a Comparison

    1. To use the audience, return to a report, such as the Acquisition > Traffic Acquisition report. 
    2. At the top of the report, click “Add comparison”. Under Include, select “Audience name” and under Dimension value, select “Users who landed on the blog”.
    3. Click “Apply”. You’ll see the Traffic Acquisition report with “All Users” compared to “Users who landed on the blog”.

Note: Audiences start collecting data only after they’re created. When you create an audience, from this point forward, users will get added to this audience. But it doesn’t work retroactively, the way that segments did in Universal Analytics. Right now, no one is in your audience, but from this point forward, GA4 will add users to this audience if they meet the criteria.

GA4 Comparisons FAQs

What is the difference between segments and comparisons in GA4?

Segments allow you to view data for sessions/users that share common characteristics like geographical location or device type, while comparisons allow you to analyze different segments side by side. Segments are good for collecting sessions/users into groups you’re interested in, and comparisons are good for evaluating how those groups match up. Segments are only available in the Explorations section of GA4.

Where can you add comparisons in Google Analytics 4?

You can add comparisons to any page in the Reports section of GA4. On desktop, at the top of each report, there will be a button to “Add comparison” followed by a plus sign.

What are the limitations of comparisons in GA4?

There are several limitations of GA4’s comparisons. The most similar feature to comparisons in Universal Analytics is/was segments, which offered more options for customizing the data you can filter. You also cannot save previously configured comparisons, meaning that every time you want to add a comparison to a report you need to select the specific parameters. You can work around this fact by creating predefined audiences that you can select within the comparison builder, per our instructions above.

It turns out you can have your cake and eat it too! By setting up Audiences in GA4, we can save segment-like conditions and then use them in comparisons in the main Reports section of GA4. We hope this helps you feel more at home with GA4 reports, more like the old days with good ol’ Universal Analytics.

Feeling stumped in GA4? We help teams use marketing analytics data to build better marketing programs and grow businesses. Reach out to discuss an analytics project or training.

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