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Back-To-Basics: The Power of Exclusion

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

I have a friend who owns a store in my neighborhood. He decided to run a 50%-off special on a site that specializes in one-day promotions to its members. His goal was to get wider exposure for his store and gain some new customers. If you look at the graph, you can see that the day that the promotion ran, traffic to his site spiked. Traffic then dropped off to normal the next day, but this was expected given the nature of this particular campaign.

The store owner was happy to see the spike in traffic, but he wanted to learn more. So he did something clever and created an advanced segment. But instead of creating an advanced segment for traffic from just the promotional site, he did the exact opposite. He created a segment that excluded all the promotional traffic.

Why? It’s a great example of what I call the power of exclusion. More about that in a minute, but first let’s look at how you would create a segment that excludes traffic from a specific site.

First, click the Advanced Segments drop down and click “Create a new advanced segment”.

From the menu on the left, drag Source into the working area. Select the condition “Does not contain”. Enter the name of the site from which you want to exclude traffic, for example “example.com”. Then name and save the segment.

To apply the segment, click the Advanced Segments drop down again and select your newly created segment. (You’ll see it under Custom Segments.) In this case, I named this segment “exclude promo site”.

Take a look at the graph below and you’ll see why this was a smart idea. The blue line is all traffic. The orange line is all traffic except traffic from the promotional site. Notice something interesting? That’s right. The orange line also shows a spike, even though it doesn’t include any referrals from the promo site.

This is the power of exclusion: If you want to find out how effective something is -- whether it’s a traffic source, a promo, or a campaign -- try excluding its influence from your data. You might be surprised at what you find.

So, why is there a traffic spike in the “exclude promo site” segment? Tune in next week and find out. In the meantime, watch this short video tutorial to re-acquaint yourself with advanced segments.


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