This post explains how to avoid the 90-day date range limit when using Custom Segments in Google Analytics.
What is a Custom Segment?
Arguably, one of the most powerful features in Google Analytics is the ability to create reports based on segmented data.
Google Analytics provides a number of System Segments that allow you to filter the data within your reports. For example, the ‘Organic Traffic’ segment filters all reports to only visitors who clicked on an organic listing from a search engine.
Once you begin to appreciate the power of segmenting data, you will soon want to create your own Custom Segments to filter your reports on any of the data stored in Google Analytics.
For example, imagine that you have a business website that also includes a blog section. Your Bounce Rate shows that 83.2% of your visitors leave your site without taking any further action. You worry this may be affecting your site’s ability to generate leads or sales for the business.
It transpires that most of your visitors arrive via Social Media merely to read a blog post. After reading the article, they typically leave without viewing any other page or taking any further action on the site. These visitors may be the cause of the high Bounce Rate on your site.
Looking at Bounce Rate without segmenting blog visitors from those arriving via your home page or service/product pages, may give a false impression of your site’s ability to convert more-qualified traffic.
Custom Segments to the rescue
A Custom Segment allows you to go further than the simple filtering options offered by the built-in System Segments.
On this site, for example, I use a Custom Segment that filters visitors based on the following criteria:
Visitors matching these criteria are likely to be more qualified than those only visiting to read one of my blog posts.
With this Custom Segment applied, I am then able to view all of the reports in Google Analytics for visitors matching the above criteria. This feature can provide great insight into the behaviour of highly-qualified visitors likely to be looking for the services I provide.
Date Range Limits – Aaargh!
Unfortunately, using complex Custom Segments requires a lot of processing resources from Google. For that reason, they limit the date range when using Custom Segments to just 90 days. Even if you manually select a longer period, Google Analytics adjusts the date range to 90 days from the selected start date.
This 90-day limit can be incredibly frustrating. On sites with a relatively small volume of traffic, 90 days may not even provide enough data upon which to draw any reliable conclusions.
Data Studio to the rescue!
Data Studio is a powerful and free tool from Google that allows you to create reports based on any Google Analytics data. It also provides connectors to several other data sources, including Google Search console. This data can even be blended to create reports based on multiple data sources.
One of the options when creating a table or chart in Data Studio is the ability to apply a segment from Google Analytics. The report element is then filtered to only the data matching the criteria configured in the segment. Both System and Custom segments may be selected.
Applying a Custom Segment in Data Studio
Quite by chance, I noticed that the date range limits applied to Custom Segments in Google Analytics are not applied when creating reports in Data Studio. I’m not sure whether this is an oversight by the Google Analytics development team but, for now, at least, it works a treat!
You can see in the example below that when I apply an advanced Custom Segment in Google Analytics, the date range is restricted to 90 days, and the report shows only the total number of sessions within that period.
Date range restricted to 90 days in Google Analytics with Custom Segment applied
When I view the same data in Data Studio and with the same Custom Segment applied, I have no date range restriction and see the larger number of user sessions.
Date range unrestricted in Data Studio with the same Custom Segment applied
The lifting of this restriction makes Data Studio an even more powerful and flexible tool. It will allow you to produce insightful and actionable reports to improve your site and help your business or organisation achieve its goals.